Love as a Life Practice
Falling in love, finding your true love, meeting your soul mate. In many ways, our culture’s idea of romantic love aligns with a fated, pleasure soaked experience of enviable bliss. Romantic movies consistently reaffirm this image with stories of “meant to be” couples finally overcoming the obstacles that were keeping them apart.
And, then, just as their relationship starts, the movie ends.
I always thought I knew that love wasn’t like it was in the movies. I knew that relationships took work. But I have come to realize that I didn’t know what I thought I knew. I was holding beliefs about romantic love that were more reflective of the movies than I thought.
I thought love was certain. I thought it was hard work, but the kind of hard that doesn’t feel too hard. I thought that when you met the person you would commit to spending your life with that there would be no doubts. I thought deep love was about doing crazy and impulsive things and feeling big, powerful, earthshaking feelings.
The yogic practice of tapas can be defined as learning to live with our most compelling priorities in mind. As I have learned to hold my yoga practice as a constant priority, my understanding of love has slowly shifted alongside. I have come to see love as a practice that requires the same disciplined approach.
In meditation practice, we develop our ability to bring our awareness back to a point of focus. We can also use this skill in the practice of love by consistently committing to bring our attention back to how to best love and respect our partner or friend. The focus of the relationship shifts from, “How I am I feeling about this person?” to “How am I treating this person?” The experience of love shifts from an internal feeling to an external offering. Love becomes a choice, an action, and a way of life. Love becomes less what you feel or don’t feel and more about what you do.
I now think that love is less about certainty and more about commitment, that it can feel unbearably hard, and that this difficultly can fuel doubt. I see more love in the daily commitment to support another person in the messiness of life than in grandiose gestures, and I believe the greatest acts of love are not fueled by the feeling of love but rather a commitment to act with love even in the absence of feeling it.
Love is a choice we face each and every day. To act from a place of love in the face of emotions like fear, anger or jealousy requires a deep commitment to holding love as a priority – but like anything else, choosing love gets easier with practice.
Photo Credit: David R MacKenzie