Spirituality and Love

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And today, I want to explore the spiritual adventures to be found in the quest for love. This essay will focus on love in its many forms, as many as there are definitions of spirituality for different people. Everyone has their own meaning of life. But a pattern emerges once we weigh the variations. For most people, it consists mainly between work and love. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. To have someone waiting back at home or at the end of the tunnel is indeed to have as strong a meaning as there is.

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Because when someone is waiting for you, that person literally extends meaning to your life where there might have been none. But the meaning of life can be understood in another sense, without involving the future.

The Relationship Between Love and Spirituality

Given we ultimately do things for no other reason than we want to, love is the surest way of finding the union of consciousness with experience itself. As understood widely in Eastern traditions, the absence of compulsive thought is the source of unconditional psychological well-being.

Normally, it takes years of meditation to achieve such a state of mind. But every now and then, we keep getting glimpses of it. Such is the state of every person in love. At that moment, you simply surrender to consciousness in the present, for whatever it is. The same applies whenever you find yourself in the cozy arms of your beloved. Some people define spirituality exclusively in terms of what is too beautiful or profound to be captured by ordinary language.

Things like awe, wonder, the beauty of a night sky, and artistic inspiration.

And these include people leading highly intellectual lives, such as the late Carl Sagan. And those means of aesthetics certainly include love in its various forms, whether parental, romantic, or unconditional. I think love falls within the domain of spirituality precisely to the degree the best of poets and creative artists fail to capture it despite their unyielding efforts. In this sense, as originally put by the author Sam Harris, spirituality is a lot like doing cosmology.

But you can get subjective first-person insights about the nature of your consciousness itself, of the qualitative experience of what it is to be like you in each moment. So, where does love come into the picture? Work -- check.

The Connection Between Spirituality & Love - Carolyn Hidalgo

Money -- check. Family -- check.

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Society -- check. Romantic relationships -- check NOT. When it comes to love and partnership, I definitely try to wiggle out of the four noble truths. I can halfway toy with accepting that everything changes, even that I will die and this body will be a corpse. But when it comes to love -- I need that to be permanent. There, I said it.

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When my husband tells me he loves me, that cannot change or I'm going to be very, very upset. When we make a commitment to share our lives with each other, that too must be rock solid. When he disappoints or angers me, I have every right to expect him to change. And when it comes to acknowledging that one way or another, this relationship will definitely end, well, I just need that not to be true.

Otherwise it is simply unbearable. I believe that this, by the way, is why most relationships fail, because to come to terms with this last truth is just too painful. But I digress. Even among deeply practiced and skillful Buddhists, I can't help but notice that it is difficult to apply the dharma to anything that involves love and medically unrelated nakedness. When it comes to relationships, we believe our version of reality is absolutely solid and correct. There is no oxygen when you feel neglected, dismissed, suffocated, or enraged by the one you love. Oddly, it is our intimate relationships that most challenge our ability to be open, non-judgmental, compassionate, and kind.

Unfortunately, I don't know, but I still think about it all the time. It may be useful to take a look at the four noble truths again and try really, really hard to language them to apply to relationships. I'll go first.

The Connection Between Spirituality & Love

Let me know what you think. Relationships are uncomfortable. Whether you're on a blind date, worrying if you'll like each other or have been married for 20 years, groaning yet again "why are you doing that thing that I've asked you eleventy billion times not to do? Of course, there are also times of sheer delight and deeply gratifying intimacy, but even in the sweet moments, there is the shock of dissolution. There are only so many times you can choose your make-believe husband over your real one before he balks.

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Too, there is something magical, yes magical, about this discomfort. You're right there, never quite in your comfort zone. Always a tiny bit on the edge, like you're trying something new for the very first time. Which, when it comes to love, is not such a bad approach. Brilliance and inspiration and everything fresh is discovered on this edge, including how to open your heart beyond what you ever thought possible. Thinking they're supposed to be comfortable is what makes them uncomfortable.

It is pretty hard to get away from the idea that love is supposed to make you happy. No, wait, it is supposed to make you happy -- if happy means alive, open, giving, and touchable. When we say we're looking for love, most of us really mean we're looking for safety, a way to get comfortable. We're looking for someone to love us first, and then we will love them back. That's kind of odd, no?! It's understandable. Loving is so vulnerable, maybe the most vulnerable thing you can do. Love is not for sissies. There is nothing less safe than love.

Love means opening again and again to your beloved, yourself, and your world, and seeing what happens next. The moment you try to make it safe, it ceases to be love. Believe me, I'm not saying you shouldn't be very smart, practical, and skillful when it comes to your relationships. But relationships and love are two separate things.

It is absolutely possible to love and be loved unconditionally. You know this is true.