Love takes practice. Love is an action verb that is skill based; our capacity to love is the source of our genius, the inspiration for our creativity, and the essence of what roots us to the earth. Seeing our relationships in terms of a practice of love drills is a helpful approach that can keep your heart open and willing to try again, even after the inevitable hurts that define human relating. Rilke said that ‘the ultimate, the last test and proof of our humanity, the work for which all other work is but preparation, is for one human being to love another.’ So in preparation for Valentine’s Day, commit to the truth that you were born to love and know that you have the capacity to love more skillfully, more courageously and with more tenacity than you ever imagined
Drill 1: “To be loved, be loveable.” – Ovid
The first skill in loving is to believe in your love-ability and then act in accordance. Kindness, generosity and all that is good in us comes from this place of feeling loveable. Sometimes just by adopting loveable behaviors, we increase our own perception of our own love-ability. Getting to our own love-ability can be a challenge for those of us who are filled with weighty old tapes that we are not worthy of our own love. Most of us have known a time when these kinds of messages hung over our heart like an axe poised to fall. Turning away from these old messages in ourselves is a contagious practice which benefits wider and wider circles of people. Like any practice, the more you look for what is good, the better you get at seeing it. Identifying the positive repetitively normalizes it.
Drill 2: “The greatest science in the world; in heaven and on earth; is love.” – Mother Theresa
Approach the loving relationships in your life as a cherished science experiment. Think of the universal requirements for success in any loving relationship and objectively evaluate how these are reflected in your own relationships. Is there enough communication shared to feel heard and hear your partner’s feelings? Are you having mostly positive thoughts about the intimacy and process in your relationship? Do you show up for the important, sad and celebratory moments of each other’s lives? These questions are most effective as guide posts. If you know where you want your relationship to go, then answering these questions with intention and action in each hour of our days is the active science of loving. It is a work in progress.
Drill 3: “Can there be a love which does not make demands on its object?” – Confucius
People die over broken hearts every day. Last week a beautiful young local girl killed herself over it. Suicide is not the only way that we die from a broken heart. There are many more slow, silent deaths around us as we refuse to love anyone again in a committed way for fear that we will be hurt. Someday there will be some scientific test that can measure the scar tissue in the heart. Just like every other muscle in our body, tears in our muscles repair, but not always in an orderly way. This explains why many of us live with a variety of body aches that transform over time, but never really go away. Living in our body demands that we work with our tightness and re-build our strength. Dealing with the pain of broken heartedness, which is pretty much guaranteed in loving humans, is no different. Really feeling the sadness and loneliness of where love doesn’t work can also live in us as deep appreciation for the people we practice loving.
Drill 4: “The day will come when, after harnessing the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of Love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” – Teilhard de Chardin
Here is a prophecy that feels optimistic. With our new mandate from the government on renewable energy sources, we may soon be charging our lives on the power of wind, sun and water. So maybe the time has come where we will harness the energy of love for what it is, our access to a fire that can warm us from the inside. Commit to building an ecology of love in your relationship that nurtures the fire of sustainable love. Choose the thoughts that ground you to your love. Communicate and self disclose what is most difficult to say and feed the fire with the truth of who you are. Show up in the small details as well as the important celebrations of living with someone, so that there is always a flow of time and energy between you. Bask in the rare, mysterious alchemy of making love to someone who loves all of you. This is a fire that can and does change the world.