On Love

It is curious that there is only one word for the most crucial emotion humans possess; that we have more words for mud than we do for love.

We use that one word to describe the passionate feelings that we have for a lover, the protective, nurturing, complete love that we have for our children, for the companionship of our pets, for the abiding friendship we have with our oldest and best friends, for our parents, for our siblings, for our neighbours... it's all the same word: love.  Love is also the word that many teachers, ancient and modern, have used to describe the sense of connectedness and unity that we feel within when we practice yoga; that transcendent joy that rises from the peace of practice, that deep feeling of love which might sometimes be elusive, but which is always present, always there, waiting to be touched.  It feels in those moments as though someone or something vast and undefined loves us absolutely and without caveat or restraint.  It feels as though we are nothing but love.

That love is all there is
Is all we know of love

So wrote Emily Dickinson with characteristic succinctness.  She is of course right: it is love that we seek and love is all we have to give anyone; all of the great poets and teachers have spoken of it from Jesus Christ to the Bhagavad Gita to the loving kindness practised in Buddhism to the Koran; love is the essence of being alive.

It's easy enough to love the people you treasure; to forgive them their mistakes as they forgive yours; to care more for their well-being than you care for your own.   Harder to love the recalcitrant, the difficult, the ones who don't live how we live, who don't communicate well, or worse still, the ones who have hurt us.

There is a Hafiz poem that I have been thinking about this Christmas in which he asks us to admit that all we want is to be loved; he describes how we ask everyone we meet, in so many ways, but without words, to love us and to think kindly of us.  Then he writes:

Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,

With that sweet moon

What every other eye in this world
Is dying to

There is a beautiful challenge in this poem: Hafiz is asking us if we can cease asking for what we need (love) and instead turn around and offer that very thing to others instead, to radiate it outwards rather than ask for it to be directed towards us.  Everyone of us has the capacity to fulfil that need in others; not just for our friends or our relatives, not just for the kind ones and the funny ones and the ones we like, but also for the grumpy ones, the mean ones, the rude ones, the unkind ones.  Their actions are only human and who can say that they have not themselves ever been grumpy, mean, rude and unkind. 

Buddha's last instruction was 'make of yourselves a light'  After all those years of wandering, learning at the feet of masters, meditating, teaching, being alive, he boiled it all down to this one small instruction: shine out your light to others; show your love to the world and don't be afraid.

As with all yoga practice, this is not a passive act; becoming 'the one who lives with a full moon in each eye' is challenging work, difficult; sometimes you open your heart and your heart gets squashed a little bit; that's where you need the courage to keep it open nonetheless - so many people close their hearts, but you don't have to.

This reminds me of a Roald Dahl quote that I have always liked, it's from The Twits:

'A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.'

Wouldn't it be nice if we all practised giving more love than we are looking to get; if we all made of ourselves a light; if we all had love shining out of our faces like sunbeams.  Mightn't that be a wonderful new year's resolution for each of us.  And isn't it funny that if we all did just that, then everyone one of us would have more love than we could ever have hoped for.

Happy New Year x


  1. And it is fantastic when you see love! I have seen it shining out of people, V.

  2. Me too - you know it when you see it and when you see it, it is nothing but good :)


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