It’s February, the time of year when Hallmark and the rest of pop culture tell us we’re supposed to seek, find, and celebrate love (and buy lots of stuff in the process).
I didn’t grow up as a lovey dovey person. In fact, I had issues with the L-word. When I used to watch Gilligan’s Island as a child, I couldn’t stand it when Thurston Howell, III, called his wife “Lovey.” Did she even have a real name? What a silly, unsubstantial label.
And when I stumbled into mindfulness after accidentally downloading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth onto my iPod close to a decade ago, I’m sure my spiritual awakening process was smoother since the word “love” didn’t get in the way. Eckhart talks about Presence and ego and Spirit and the Self. I’m totally cool with those semantics.
But those other spiritual teachers who throw “love” around all the time? Nope. I never could have heard the message from them. They were too woo woo for me, too airy fairy, too unsubstantial. I could easily embrace mindfulness meditation and the neuroscience behind it right from the get-go, but it took me longer than I’d like to admit before I was brave enough to dip my toe into Lovingkindness meditation.
How Sharon Salzberg Taught Me to Embrace the “L” Word
At a talk about her latest book Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection, world-renowned Lovingkindness meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg slapped me upside the head with her commentary on our society’s false assumptions about the word “love.”
Sharon observes that we have come to view the word “love” as being infused with sentimentality, or giving in, or “squishiness.” (I LOVE anyone who can use the word “squishiness” so effectively). And just as I have demonstrated in the previous sentence, we overuse and diminish the word. Again putting myself in the hot seat, I find myself “loving” a FB post or comment much more frequently than I “like” it.
But Sharon brings us back to the hardcore foundation of love. “Love is not a feeling, it’s an ability,” she explains, giving credit for the quote to the movie “Dan in Real Life.”
Sharon sees love as a power, a force unto itself, and an innate ability that resides in all of us. If we only think of love as a feeling, it’s limiting. She describes “felt love” as a commodity in someone else’s hands that could be given or taken away.
Real love, Sharon argues, is a powerful state of connection. All of us have it within ourselves to access that power, that ability.
When you put it that way, I’m all in, ready to embrace the “L” word with all of my heart and soul. Love as a super power!
I’m ready to carry it openly, wield it, and use it to protect myself, my family, my community, and the planet.
Love IS the answer.
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