Abide in the heart of love
Oh sweet one
There is freedom from fear
No desire, no lack
Allow in courage, to be
In the heart of love
To always be giving
Life is forgiving
God is Love.
– poem from my friend Eli by a woman named Jenny, the owner of an eclectic arts venue in Swaziland called ‘House on Fire’
I have often heard, from my father and other sources of spiritual wisdom, that we each are called to learn one very important lesson in our lifetime. We live in a unique tapestry of recurring patterns, themes, and symbols weaving their way to give us one essential blessing. The process of learning this lesson is unique to every individual, and we have soul mates to help us along the way. This week I remembered that my lesson is about loving and letting go.
This week, a recurring theme of the mystery of love came before me. What is love, and how does it work? I sat on my floor drinking tea for hours, going for walks, sharing brunch with different friends, hearing and sharing stories of the moments when we have felt most molded by the hands of the Divine working in our interpersonal lives. The inexplicable mystery of how people meet and feel compelled to share their hearts with each other floors me. The ambiguity of how to navigate relationships – when to hold on, and when to let go – has no easy answer. It is a walk through the forest in darkness, a radical renunciation of certainty in place of trust. It is a visceral (read: heart-crushing) letting go of the known.
So how do we love? Yesterday, my friend Ela and I went for a long journey into the woods and we found ourselves discovering beauty all around us. We watched leaves and butterflies (two of my favorite things on earth) dancing in the wind. The butterflies flew in circles of three around a field of yellow flowers, the leaves spun around a field as if singing to the beginning to fall. It reminded me of the Greek word perichoresis – a word meaning “the dancing around” of the three elements of the Trinity. The love of God is never a static entity emanating from one being, but a dance of different elements coming together in harmony. Love is active, nature reminds me. It transforms all that it touches.
As an active process, love is not a means to enlightenment or to other feel-good emotions, but an end unto itself. It is a gift that is received for the sake of receiving, and given for the sake of giving, without strings attached. It demands a heightened vulnerability that creates life’s most powerful connections – whether that means opening the door for a stranger or telling someone the words of encouragement that may be difficult to express. Each manifestation of love is a divine gift that allows us to transcend ourselves, even for a brief moment, and enter the heart of God.
we’re all just spinning leaves, waiting to hear the call
of that cold and tumbling breeze guiding us
to our fall. when we let our hearts be held
by that one beautiful tree, we know, deep inside,
we know – love is a dance of letting go.
The most difficult facet of love for me, this mysterious gift from God that transforms us, is letting go. To love is to let a higher power run its own course, in the way that it wills, through us. Giving ourselves to the heart of love is a risk; it means leaving behind our selfish attachments and desires. As we let go, I struggle with the fact that we can never know what to expect. We cannot plan; we simply have to sit back and enjoy love’s many surprises. Yet if we are afraid to lose love and we hold on to it tightly, we will never be able to experience its beauty.
Inevitably, there comes a time for a song to end, a season to reach its peak, and suddenly the melody changes. We learn to change our footsteps, and sometimes, let go of our partner. When loneliness and pain accompanies a loss of love, we must trust that it will return. It comes back in a different form; it may not conform to our preconceived images. As my friend Annalee told me today, loving well is not about avoiding pain; it is a question of faith. Faith keeps us opening, keeps us hoping, as we let go.
So, friends, in the dance of loving and letting go, my hope is to take a risk for love every day. To let go of my fear and tell a friend how much I truly care for them. To be honest even when it hurts. To give a smile to a flower daring to open its petals to the sun. I hope that you, too, will love the one that you are with – including yourself – and do what feeds your soul, as my beautiful roommate says. As you enjoy this poem, tell me, what does it mean to love let go?
On Love by Kahlil Gibran
Then said Almitra, “Speak to us of Love.”
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.