Many of us have been slowly acknowledging with much awe that relationships are actually not tricky, dramatic, or even predictable. Instead, they are spontaneous, free, and powerful. For some, this is an obvious fact. But, for most of us, this is still a question to answer with awareness: What is love? Just take a look around and you’ll see videos, movies, books, shows, ads, podcasts, webinars, articles (like this one, of course), and all kinds of materials regarding love and relationships.
We are obsessed with this type of information.
The fact is that this subject, as something apart from all these ideas (as well as others like sex and death), is actually not relevant to our education—at least it wasn’t in mine. We are accustomed to saying: if this is not X then it is Y, but it is something. We enjoy putting labels on things because it helps us to create security, the illusion that we have everything figured out.
But what are we actually looking for?
Meditation As a Mirror
During my first spiritual retreat, I had plenty of time to think (and think a bit more, just in case), although the actual purpose is to be watchful of your thoughts. Meditation is not about running away from your mind. It is about meeting yourself, as you never have before, and this includes inquiring about your definition of love.
As the meditations went on, I remembered exact details about my relationships with ex-partners, and even people from my teenage years pop up. At night, I also dreamed about this as if my mind were actually in a self-discovery process, just observing. I found out later that some of the other participants also had similar experiences.
It felt like I could see through a magnifying glass—the patterns and habits, the typical reactions, the current triggers, the beliefs, and the sabotage all became obvious. But at the same time, the willingness, openness, tenderness, and all that I felt was good and enhancing.
Meditation gives you clarity and with it, a rejuvenated passion for your own life. It helps you regain the energy to explore your own being with as much enthusiasm as if you were with your lover for the first time.
Meditation guides you to fall back in love with who you are.
One of the benefits of participating in a silent retreat or practicing on a daily basis— which I will be discussing more in upcoming posts—is getting in touch with areas of your being that you didn’t know about.
By this, I mean a change of perspective, the discovery of a refreshed view of reality and yourself, a shift in how you approach emotions, a readjustment of your attention. It does not mean that during a retreat you are going to be brainwashed by someone in particular, but yes, you are going to be brainwashed by your own self. This is the first benefit.
You start to question everything, inwardly. If this is not already your favorite practice —ahem, for me it is, as you can see—then it might become one because this curiosity may lead you to the exact things you’ve been looking for, as was my experience.
I had to stop and meditate on my love life for three reasons: a recent breakup, a discomfort about past relationships, and the fact that I was about to begin a brand new chapter in my journey (I left the city life and exchanged it for the beautiful Pacific Coast).
My mind and my whole self were getting more and more in tune with what was coming after all the questioning and remembering. Was I going to be able to face all this or would I just run away?
Is This Love?
All my references—I must admit without shame—came from movies, telenovelas (very popular in Latin America), my parents’ marriage, from my education at the Franciscan Catholic School, and literature. By the time I was a 19-year-old college student, I had already read the complete works of Shakespeare—so you can imagine one or two things about my inclinations on this theme (indeed, all drama). I surely had some ideas about love, which were beautiful because they were somebody else’s experience but not because they were the actual truth.
Moreover, I thought I knew what love was because I possessed this unbelievable amount of information about it.
Expansion of the Heart
During my hatha yoga practice, things got physical. I could feel a strong vibration going straight to the chest area. I felt a sudden connection between these sensations and what I’ve been questioning in my meditations. I was on to something…
I found that it’s okay to recognize that sometimes we don’t know everything. It’s okay to allow ourselves to feel vulnerable and lost, and even acknowledge the presence of a broken heart (I did). This means that we are starting to take care of ourselves instead of our thoughts.
It says that we are beginning to open up our hearts, and only with an open heart can we understand what love is. Only through the dark we may know the light. So, having some contrast is always useful.
At least, I felt this way. I’m only a beginner and I could taste the bliss of what meditation teaches me every time I do it. I have glimpses of my true nature, of true love. But all I can tell you about this stillness is that it is ineffable.
I can let you know the ways and share my process with you so you see that actual practice can give you results in many aspects of your life. For example, after listening to how my chest physically cracks open each time that I do yoga, I decided to set the intention in every practice and every meditation to do exactly that, open up my heart a bit more. Slowly, slowly…
But, most important, because when we share our experience and we question our ways, our habits, and especially our beliefs, we are expanding our awareness and growing in perception, and in doing so, we are helping others to do the same. We inspire those around us by living our own truth.
In my case, I was faced with issues that I needed to start resolving (it requires time and dedication to go along with the process), but I took the first step. I’m not saying that I’ve got everything figured out, but I’m on my way. Life is all about learning.
The Names of Love
During the retreat, as I was more and more aware of my emotions and thoughts, my mind followed like a nice pet. When feelings of anger or resentment came in, I could just recognize them and then let them go. My time alone was really paying off.
This new flow of things was taking me by surprise as everything around me started to become a giant net of connections and alignments.
On the eighth day of the retreat, we had a lecture on love given by Sahajananda, for which I was feeling pretty much ready. These are some things that I learned that night about relationships and love that I would like to share with you:
There are three dimensions of love: personal love or romantic love (as I explained in the first part of this post), universal love as the energy around us and love as what we are (Stillness).
Love is an intuition of the sense of Oneness, an intuition of the ultimate, of your true nature: to love yourself is to know yourself.
Even in personal love, which is limited, if it’s wisely directed it can lead us towards pure love. (Say what? Quick advice: don’t bring criticism to your relationships; instead bring warmth and the sense of companionship. When in trouble, speak from your heart and share through conscious communication).
Since we tend to objectify others and ourselves through labels and names, this prevents us from relating in complete freedom. (Drama alert! We love from who we are and not from who we want the other person to become).
These qualities create a need to grasp and attachment comes in. Be watchful of your motivations regarding your relationships. Meditate on what you are giving to yourself before thinking about giving that to others.
Honor and recreate the moments that bring you and your partner together. When there is no you or me, love blossoms.
There is so much to say about love that is better just to live it (or write about it, wink).
After the talk, I could acknowledge the fact that most of the disturbances that I was feeling about my love life were caused by a lack of observation. One of the benefits of meditation is that it gives you the calm you need to walk in other people’s shoes and not judge, to release feelings of guilt and shame and to see others as teachers instead of objects that satisfy your needs.
When you stop looking for what you want outside of yourself, you meet yourself in freshness and novelty. This feeling of newness can help you realize what love is.
And let me tell you something more. A change in perspective is only possible when you accept completely who you are, with mistakes and victories. Since I came to terms with my past, I’ve had the chance to let go of expectations and negativity. I set others and myself free. This freedom is one of the best gifts you can offer to the world. Everything else will just follow this rhythm.
The intellectual is always showing off; the lover is always getting lost. The intellectual runs away, afraid of drowning; the whole business of love is to drown in the sea. Intellectuals plan their repose; lovers are ashamed to rest. The lover is always alone, even surrounded with people; like water and oil, he remains apart. The man who goes to the trouble of giving advice to a lover gets nothing. He’s mocked by passion. Love is like musk. It attracts attention. Love is a tree, and lovers are its shade.
-Rumi, The Intellectual
Click Rumi for more information about the Sufi poet.
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