My Integral Love Lab

So here we are again, February 14th, National Singles Awareness Day – I mean Valentine’s Day. For weeks approaching this day all thoughts turn to love. All the hoopla of this holiday is demonstrated on TV, internet, radio and every retail establishment by greeting cards, presents, flowers, love poems, romantic dinners, jewelry, and yada,yada, yada…

Well, these are things of love, aren’t they? That’s what Hallmark and Zales say anyway. Honestly though I would call these things “tokens of love,” or demonstrations of how we feel, but I can’t exactly say they are the activity of loving that I am desiring at this point in my life – sorry. Let me explain.

In many ways we are conditioned to view life through an exterior lens, meaning, “it’s out there somewhere,” thinking that we will find what we desire outside of ourselves. Many of us believe we came into this world with little. We grew up, went to schools and universities and moved out into the world to get filled by education, money, and relationships and of course love. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? We seek out people to love us, particularly that “special someone.”

I spent a lifetime listening to greeting cards, relationships, romantic movies, parents, friends and books telling me that love would come naturally. I believed that if I found the right person to love, or the right person to love me, naturally things would fall into place and my life would be complete.

Instead what I found in my life experience, was that if I loved someone, or they loved me, in the end it would hurt terribly. At times I experienced an emptiness, a “not enough” or a void, that was incomprehensible and equally frustrating. It’s was like finding love by Braille, reaching out into the unknown without eyes to see, stumbling over all the boxes of “not enoughs” searching for love that would connect me back to life, to joy.

Yet even with all the hurt, there was an ever-increasing desire and yearning to love in greater ways, to love fully and completely, and to be loved in the same way. My soul knew that with every betrayal, every suffering and humiliation in the name of love, new openings and channels were being etched in my heart; new passageways being carved so that I might experience an ever-deepening love that has no words. New cracks were being created so that the mystery of life and love could enter and exit moment by moment.

Today I know that love isn’t out there somewhere in the traditional sense, but rather it is in and all around me. On an innate level I know that within each of us is that desire to be love, to express the Infinite Power of love that flows through us, through those channels and cracks we all possess. In my most clear and authentic moments I know that love is not a commodity, a thing to be bartered, borrowed, given or taken away, but rather it is that process that moves through us in our attitudes, our words and our actions.

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.” –Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

So this Valentine’s Day I invite you into the activity of loving. I intend to “fall in love with loving.” I do this by taking the principles of divine love and rolling up my sleeves and creating a laboratory of loving, and in my laboratory I have four petri dishes, as it were.

In one, I follow those cracks in my heart, to the dark places, the unlived and unloved broken pieces inside that I have tucked away. I follow the threads of the “not enoughs” to the dark, shadowy places that have spurred me on to look outside myself. In my misdirection I thought there was someone out there to love me, who would then complete me. By falling in love with these shadowy places that have kept me from living fully and loving wastefully, as Bishop Spong would say, I come to know what I have rejected inside me, and therefore I am transformed into the love that is God. It is never exhausted and always expanding, and I find what I had always been searching for.

In the second petri dish, I practice falling in love with my body, sanctifying of my body – regardless of its shape and the story and messages running through my mind. I repeat the words of the Sufi poet Rumi. “This that we are now… created the body, cell by cell… the human body and the universe grew from this, not this from the universe and the human body.” The beauty of Rumi’s words reminds me that within the soft warmth of flesh, he sees eternity – and I can glimpse it, too. Or to be more contemporary, in the words of John Mayer, “my body is a wonderland.” So I better get on with the activity of kindness toward my physical form, inside and out, with what I eat, the activities I engage in and the rituals I employ to bless my holy physique.

In my third petri dish, if I look closely, I can see that those who I believe never loved me, or hurt me in the name of love, are navigating the same river as me. I just don’t always see this because I get stuck in my past hurts, my own wants and desires, my own worldview – which of course is the right one! But in my practice of “falling in love with love,” I notice we are just wearing different safety goggles in the laboratory. Mine are rose colored at times, or they are clouded with a dark film – all colored by my own experiences. The different lenses give me a vision of my life, but more importantly of how I view our life together. This kind of belonging that is born out of our differences becomes the glue in our connection. It frees us, it supports us and it listens from the heart – where the heart becomes the window refracting the light of love in an infinite number of ways, a kaleidoscope of “falling in love with love.”

And finally, in my last petri dish I have learned to walk by walking, to write by writing, and I have learned to love by loving. This petri dish is a call of commitment to our collective cosmic adventure in every endeavor. Have I loved and made peace with earth, have I nurtured her body in ways that are healing? Have I joined with others and extended the hand of  love in the world of politics, education and at work? Have we taken time to follow our collective passion in creating new learning opportunities and teachings for the world?

No matter how many times I may look to the outer world for love, or how far I may stray from the principles of loving, everyday I need to just get on with the business of life, because in my laboratory, life is for loving. So this Valentine’s Day, enter into the laboratory of “falling in love with loving” and instead of romantic candles for ambience, use a Bunsen burner to light the path to discover what’s growing in your own petri dishes, put them under the your own microscope and see a new world emerge, one that you live and love more fully –  and live it more abundantly.