“There is no Love greater than Love with no object. For then you, yourself, have become love, itself.” ~Rumi
I have spent most of my life as a professional, half of that in Asia: managing a division of a company, doing long-term meditation retreats, and establishing cottage industries for impoverished refugees.
A long-term relationship was impossible since Asian men marry Asian women; European men had European wives and Asian lovers.
Along the way I thought I could give more value to the world by remaining single than being married with children.
I met a woman working at the UN who had raised a family. She suggested another scenario: there is a man who would love to join me in this endeavor.
We could raise children who also want to make a difference, thus making a bigger difference. I just had to find him.
She introduced me to a man who did want to make a difference while living in remote areas—exactly what I enjoyed. However, he wanted a wife to live in a city to raise his children, someone of the same ethnicity.
When I returned in 1998 to live in the US after 18 years in Asia, I experienced reverse culture shock. How people lived their lives (working non-stop at a job they did not like), what their priorities were (money, stuff, and power) and especially how they related to each other (networking to sell stuff, or to find a better job), was antithetical to my way of life.
Eventually I met more spiritually based individuals. Their way of life was to trust in Spirit. So when I thought it might be time for a compatible relationship I listened to their suggestion: trust in Spirit, let Spirit bring him to you.
Living in a small town, I did not meet any men with similar altruistic goals. I looked at guys’ photos on a dating website. When I found face and personal statement that made me feel comfortable, I wrote him. Not one replied.
Out of the blue, someone wrote me. I remembered: trust in Spirit. His statement had a spiritual nature, he was well educated, successful, attentive, and generous; trust in Spirit.
Yet I discovered he didn’t really listen. He finagled to get money, where I was scrupulously honest. As time unveiled more incompatibility, I still trusted in Spirit.
Half a year later I found out he used my computer to send identical notes daily to dozens of women on the dating website, slept with half of those who responded, while maintaining what appeared to be a monogamous relationship with me. Trust in Spirit.
In the end he tried to ruin my profession, stalked me, and sued me five times in an attempt to get my house. I was the third girlfriend he sued; the first to stand up. Each of his lawsuits was dismissed. He was a serial predator. Trust in Spirit.
After a long period of self-reflection, I thought that I would feel happier in a dedicated relationship. I had learned about intentions and affirmations. After diligently writing my ideal scene, I tried the dating website again.
I eventually connected with a man whose statement was harmonious with mine. We started slowly and over a year built a caring relationship. I utilized what I’d learned in relationship workshops, private counseling with a spiritual psychologist, and books regarding being an adult in spirit-based relationships.
Yet, one year later, the day after I rented my house and moved in his at his request, it all blew up.
He believed that I was spiritual enough for the both of us so he didn’t have to be. His reaction to a misunderstanding was: “You can’t change enough to make me love you. You are a good person and have most of the great qualities I want in a woman, but you are missing a few. We can only be friends until I find that perfect woman.”
I moved out that moment.
Looking back, I see that I ignored intuitive misgivings, listening instead to beliefs that worked for friends.
It was a bit like believing in Santa Claus (because he was generous and kindhearted), while all along it was an illusion (albeit a pleasant one).
The friends who offered advice have loving long-term relationships. They work out misunderstandings a big-hearted way. Both partners help others. I rejoice in their happiness and love.
Yet, it hasn’t been so in my life. I have stopped wondering or caring why. Seven years ago after the last relationship ended in such a hurtful manner, I gave up looking.
Instead, love has found me. It arose from within. This love without object is tenderly nurtured so that it is now the glowing ember supporting my life.
Whenever this love is present, love is all around; it is no longer something coming from another person of any gender.
There are moments when I sense this presence that has no words to describe. It is not dependent on any other being, not even nature. It is complete, and needs no other to complete it.
It seems like life force itself. In those moments love is everywhere.
When those moments end, life is normal. Even after being in that warm bath of compassion, sometimes life is difficult. Sometimes I lose heart. And sometimes that glowing ember gets stronger and love is again ever present.
It is completely different from the love that is shared between two people which is often conditional and temporary. It is vastly different from the love that is projected onto someone we believe may be a partner.
There isn’t the intensity; it is more like gentle sunshine on a calm, quiet, warm day, when, without thought, you lift your face to the sun.
I have sensed it in other moments, when in the presence of wonderful Tibetan lamas. Thoughts slow, and a warm sensation begins in the heart that imperceptibly permeates one’s whole being. Eyes soften, the face melts, and body sensations almost disappear. It lasts for hours, sometimes days.
I have felt it around other people who are not famous cultivators of compassion. Simple people. Simpler than me. It doesn’t depend on witnessing kind actions. It just is there in their presence.
Having sought the emotion and other side effects that were believed to be love, I prefer the gentler, all pervasive presence of what seems to be love.
I am not saying there is only one kind of love, this love all around. Nor am I saying that other kinds of love are not enjoyable.
Some of us don’t find that one special love, soul mate, prince charming. Many keep trying and it just doesn’t happen.
There is another love that is complete, doesn’t depend on anyone, and everyone can experience it. Please don’t lose heart. Let it find you.
How do we open up to this kind of love? My favorite practices are the Buddhist practices Metta and Tonglen, spiced with the American Indian practice of walking in another’s moccasins.
Metta (loving-kindness) develops a deep sense of peace, happiness, health, and equanimity. When we foster it, we can then wish for our friends, families, and even strangers to experience the same. We can wish for that same sense of happiness for those to whom we feel anger, resentment, and irritation and for those who treat us with disdain.
Tonglen is taking on the suffering of others as our own, and giving them our peace, happiness, wellness, and equanimity. It is not a practice for the feint-hearted, but when it becomes familiar, these thoughts arise more frequently in difficult situations. They replace judging, criticism, blame and self-cherishing.
By walking in another’s moccasins, when someone’s actions upset us, we can see life as they see it. When we ask about their lives, their hurts, and their difficulties, compassionate understanding and empathy arise.
This can help us develop the wisdom to see each person we meet as a fellow human being who like us, can be confused, greedy, angry, or have negative emotions we haven’t even experienced. We see that person has wisdom we have not yet developed; see that person as a human who wants happiness just as we do, and doesn’t want pain.
Each and all these practices can develop a warm heart over time. Perhaps they are the kindling for love all around.
Photo by AlicePopkorn