Some personal thoughts about love and its relation to spiritual practice

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I haven’t been writing much of anything in the last two months. Well, I have actually, obsessively, but only of one thing. About love, the romantic kind, to be exact – about a single person even. But because romantic love usually comprises others, and people usually value their privacy, there’s a natural reluctance to publish things of that category. But if I am to write what I think, this is the only thing that there is for me to write. I just have to do it as discreetly as I can.

Stephen Chbosky once wrote in his novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” And at that time, a few years back, it seemed like a bunch of pretentious bullshit. Why wouldn’t someone accept all the love that’s given to them? It’s like saying, we only accept as much money as we think we’re worth – well hell no! If someone hands me a million dollars, I won’t think twice about it. But I took those words with me, don’t ask why, and at some point I started to realise the truth behind them.

We are all marooned in our own little worlds using crude language to communicate signals to other people, who may or who may not be, simple figments of our imagination. The imaginary component of our lives, what we take on faith alone, is much. If we can only recognise anything, which is first a part of ourselves, that means that the world will always be a total reflection of our own heart; the landscape of reality subtly shifting in accord to our mental landscape – while the world seemingly stays together like always.

So Stephen Chbosky was saying a multitude of things, but the most important being now, that love is simply not a bag of cash to be had from someone else; something that will save you once you manage to find it. And though I’ve known this intellectually already, this is something I’ve had to come face to face with very directly during these last two months.

I am in love. And she’s perfect. And it’s terrifying.

We’re talking about a girl, who’s so smart and passionate, that she could take on the world, if she wanted to. A girl so wise and caring beyond her years, that I can’t wait to know what she’s like when old and wrinkly. Someone so wonderfully odd and out of tune with the drab reality of bourgeois existence, that every moment with her is an inspiration. A girl with a sense of humour, that no matter how deep in the pit I am in, even her casual remarks make me explode in mirth.

But that simply makes it all the more harder, because the more things matter, the more losing them would hurt, and the more of a testament to your own failings would they prove to be. Or at least that’s what our ego will try to assure us of.

I used to believe the buddhist view of suffering, and I still do though less vehemently so, that it’s caused by three fundamental misunderstandings of our reality, which goes as following:

1) Everything will prove to be unsatisfactory.
2) Everything is impermanent.
3) There is no true, permanent self.

And the answer to this would be non-attachment. We must not attach ourselves to happiness, to impermanent things, and in the end we should realise, that there’s nothing to attach with, because our sense of self, as it is, is an illusion. We should simply flow through existence. And this is what I’ve been more or less practising for a couple of years now.

I’ve seen some very peaceful states. But I’m not sure if that’s everything there is.

Here comes the obvious question: how can romantic love, attaching yourself to another person, fit into this picture of non-attachment? Well, it doesn’t. But after hearing enough stories of monks, that have been practising their monastic disciplines for decades, simply to succumb to earthly ways the moment they disrobe, I’ve found it increasingly hard to believe, that all the required lessons of the human experience are found in monasticism alone.

Jonathan Haidt, an eminent moral psychologist paints a picture in his book, A Righteous Mind, that losing our individuality and experiencing unity, is a fundamental human desire resulting in many positive changes in one’s psyche. And the legendary psychologist, Viktor Frankl, famous for his experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz, even dares to argue in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that love is the highest aspiration of man.

I find these two views, asceticism (buddhists) as opposed to romantic love (the scientists), to be two sides of the same coin, as meditation is to the psychedelic experience. Meditation is slow and gradual, and it will provide insight, there’s no question about it; slowly it will corrode cracks onto the doors of perception in the span of years. But take psychedelics, or love, and in that moment, things will happen, and the doors are temporarily burst wide open; it may or it may not be pleasant.

During these two months I’ve visited both the sweetest ecstasies and the darkest pits of the human psyche, and I’ve witnessed many of these theoretical concepts firsthand.

I’ve felt the reverend gaze of the beloved painfully burn in me, because love like that has simply been a foreign object in my body. I’ve witnessed my mind whisper after seeing a happy picture of her: “Look how happy she’s without you. She doesn’t need you”. And in a moment of despair, when I’ve felt disgusting, I’ve come up with these intricate theories, how she can’t really love me back, how it obviously must either be pity, or maybe a girl like that simply doesn’t give up easily, not because of me, but because she herself is not a quitter.

I’ve also experienced what it’s like to have a mountain of weight dissipate from my chest after I’ve finally overcome my terror, achingly opened my mouth and finally voiced what’s in my heart – simply with words. But I’ve also witnessed those situations where one’s presence has conveyed everything there is to convey. Oh words and what a bittersweet relationship I have with them.

But I’ve also meditated on the vista of her face and witnessed the creation of life, felt the connection with the chain of evolution spanning from the primordial soup, experiencing something timeless so many have on their turn before me. I’ve seen stars and galaxies sparkle on her skin. Seen her as human, not an object, not a girl, but a being with an inner world completely as intricate and serious and far reaching as my own soul. And I’ve felt loved in my totality, completely naked and vulnerable.

So love seems to burst us open, like many spiritual practices do and maybe even more so, and I believe there can be tremendous value in the whole spectrum of experience that ensues. But just because something has spiritual potential or significance, just like certain entheogenic drugs, it doesn’t mean that you can buy your way to any kind of enlightenment. The potential is there, but we need to do the work before, while and after the experience to integrate it into the fabric of our lives.

So I don’t know what this post is, maybe an ascetics ode to something as hedonistic as love. Maybe an exercise for me to once again open the literary flood gates of my mind. Or a way to think clearly. But nevertheless I’m humbly grateful – sometimes a bit fucked up – but as soon as I get back to my sound mind again, grateful.

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