"Valentine's Day, 2015"
- in my meditation garden -
Every year when Valentine's Day comes around I find myself experiencing some mixed feelings about the occasion. In one sense I think it's a great thing to devote a day for people to express sentiments of tenderness and intimacy toward one another. On the other hand, I fear that Valentine's Day only contributes to an already-misguided popular notion regarding what true "love" is all about.
Love goes beyond romantic feelings of intimacy and it is certainly more than infatuation or desire for another. As I see it, all those chocolate hearts, the roses and the romantic candlelight dinners have the potential to trivialize and even obfuscate the cosmic nature of love - the most noble of our human qualities.
I think perhaps that many people often confuse their "love" of another with their "need" for another - and herein lies the problem because the two are not the same.
The Dalai Lama once wisely said:
Remember that the best relationship is one in which
your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
I think that a lot of people find themselves in relationships with others to get various needs met in life, physical needs, emotional or psychological needs - being in a relationship means that you don't have to figure out who to take to the party. People often are in relationships because they want to experience those nice feelings of tenderness and romance. But far too often, when those needs are no longer met, the relationship is terminated - like a business deal gone bad. So, from my point of view relationships that are primarily based on getting needs met are not really "love" relationships.
Throughout my career I would often provide counseling to couples who were planning to get married. At which time, I would always do my best to dispel the prevailing myth that marriage is a "50-50 proposition of give and take," -- that as long as both people meet each other's needs equally well in their life together, the marriage will last.
Interestingly enough most of the research about love and marriage contradicts this popular myth, suggesting instead that a marriage works best when it is a 100% proposition. To the degree that both people in the relationship are committed to giving themselves 100% of the time toward promoting the welfare of the other, a marriage is most likely to succeed.
I actually think that whenever we do anything to promote the welfare of someone else we are "loving" that person - no matter who they may be or how we feel about them. We may feel tenderly toward another or may not even like another, but when we give our self to promote the other's well-being, to alleviate their suffering, help them to achieve happiness, find joy and comfort in life, we are in fact "loving" them.
Today I reflect upon one of the most beautiful and wise statements about genuine love that I have ever encountered - Saint Paul's famous "Canticle on Love" found in the Christian scriptures. While this passage is often read at Christian weddings, I think the wisdom of these verses supersedes any particular religion or belief and provides an insight into the nature of true love that we all might place on the table next to the candles and roses and boxes of chocolate on this Valentine's Day 2015:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs...
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.