On Falling in Love, Ways of Knowing and Check Boxes
Meditation practice at the end.
“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”
“Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion.”
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
Life is short and time is limited.
Of course we can also say the opposite.
Life is long and time is infinite.
Both are true.
Just as everyone is human so each human is different. We are everything and nothing, and we are also specific people with specific cultures and backgrounds.
So, allow me to explore this with you:
Life is short and time is limited.
There are only so many books we can read, so many places we can travel to, so much work we can do, so many children we can raise before we take our last breath and close our eyes to all that we know.
Thanks to developments in thought, science, teaching and philosophy, humans in the west* can consider what constitutes a life well lived and how to live it. Some ways our parents pass on to us, yet the tendency is to at least try to break free from that. Some ways we are taught in school, other thoughts and ideas come to us through the seemingly infinite and ubiquitous media. Of course there are also books, with more being published each year than a single person could read in a lifetime.
As a result of so much information entering us we carry within ourselves check boxes of what we need and want in life, the people we want to spend it with, the milestones we want to meet, and how we think we need to spend most of our time. Yet, instead of a few pieces of information to base our check boxes on, whether the check boxes are in agreement or reactive disagreement with what we have learned about life at any given point, we now have thousands of pieces of information, some exchanging themselves for others at times, some clear as day and some hidden in the depths of night where our consciousness cannot go, only to arise in times of crisis and turmoil.
Perhaps it is this confusion of what it is that matters that makes it more challenging to commit to one work, one partner, one city or town to live in. There are so many options, so many people and so many ways to meet them, and all come with another host of ideals, thoughts and philosophies. Combine that with a world that is currently undergoing change and turmoil of which the outcome is difficult to predict, and you have a recipe for feeling afloat on a raft, alone in a storm. Maybe you see all the rafts around you and you can talk and give advice and even hold on to one another for a bit, but then you are back alone on yours because at the end of the day, this is how you take your last breath. I am speaking here of the physical body and our felt experience of it.
Then there is always the question of, “How do I know what is right for me?”
Years ago I exited one time of my life and decided to move into the next with a long and very specific list. When I came across the fulfillment of that list I jumped on it, with little digging up of what was actually happening. I dare say this came from an approach, which is certainly rampant in the culture I am immersed in, of deciding on things more with the brain in our head and being unaware of the price we pay by ignoring the other brains in our body.
From wise teachers, both young and old, who have carefully facilitated a course of study that is as practical as it is theoretical, I know there are other many ways to know, and I have learned to discern when which way of knowing is most helpful for a life that offers satisfaction and purpose.
To it is still an ongoing process and not an easy one when the emphasis all around me is on mostly one way of knowing.
Every year I find something new inside of me, something I did not know was there. Even when old patterns repeat, they repeat differently each time, with more clarity and connection than before, because of what I have learned and put into practice.
To give you context, my regular studies and practices look like this:
Every given week I do the following:
I read books. Lots of them. About politics, history, philosophy, witchcraft, and more. Sometimes I read a (graphic) novel.
I meet with at least one person I consider my teacher or a source of inspiration as a friend, once a week.
I am in formal apprenticeship for years on end.
I teach and hold apprenticeship for several people in 1-2 hour sessions, both within a mystery tradition and outside of it and feel every breath of teaching to be equal to learning.
I coach several people intensively at any given time.
I apply what I know to a daily practice I have been honing for almost a decade, and reflect on this practice regularly with others.
I follow courses that allow me to connect and learn with new people, broadening my mind.
Here’s what I have learned:
There are many situations when it is great to trust the brain first. Truly. And in matters of love, connecting with others (human or otherwise), the brain is not that trustworthy. Whether we like it or not, are aware of it or not (I dare say that what we are aware of is just the tip of the iceberg and you can google how much of an iceberg is underwater!), we carry a myriad of expectations and ideas of what is right and wrong inside of us.
As a result, we often do not allow ourselves to love what we love because of what is in our minds in the shape of stories and judgements. We risk missing out on the most nourishing relationships of our lives.
Being in loving and intimate relationship with others is one of the most important aspects of human life thriving, of giving individuals a sense of purpose and direction, of taking a final breath with the satisfaction of having lived life well.
Being in loving and intimate relationship with others is also one of the hardest things to do. How do we know whom to open up to? Who should we invest a large amount of time in? Who do we allow ourselves to love with the risk of it breaking our hearts open? This very risk, often because of previous experiences, can make us overly cautious and again, miss out on something wonderful.
I would dare say, without our hearts breaking, we are not alive.
Though it feels painful beyond measure, intense and frustrating at times, tense without immediate conclusion, I have committed myself to loving. It doesn’t always makes sense, whom I love or how. It sometimes hurts unbearably, keeps me up at night and consumes my thoughts, my passions, my pleasures. It is also inspiring, sitting me down to write and paint things that would otherwise never come about. It fills me with longing that tears me forward and I allow it to.
What I can say to love is that I have never regretted it.
With each love I have become more of who I ever thought I could be and I have seen the same happen to the people I love who dare love me in return.
When I love I give a person everything I know how to and it has never failed.
With each time I love, I learn how to give more and it is always beautiful and surprising.
It is risky. It is worth it. And it hurts.
In surprising twists and turns that have been life-giving more than anything, I have lost my heart. And I do not know how to get it back. I know what is good in my heart, in my bones, in my spine, in my sex.
Fuck all the check boxes. I am in love.
Let’s explore this.
Here is a practice:
Sit in meditation. Ground with deep, centering breaths.
Bring all awareness into your heart. What is there? Who is there?
Bring all your awareness into your bones and your bone-marrow. What do you know to be true?
Bring all your awareness into your sex. What brings it to life? What feeds you?
Do this daily for a committed period of time. Take inventory before, during and after so you can have a sense of how doing this affected you. Continue doing this indefinitely if you feel like it.
*I am quite aware of the vast variances in thought, science, teaching and philosophy across the world. To step away from applying western culture-centric thought to everyone, I have decided to be specific.
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