I have an idea for Valentine’s Day! How about, instead of leaving it to a ‘secret admirer’ to send us a card or some flowers, we gift ourselves with our own expression of love? We could make it a new tradition to buy ourselves some flowers or better still plant some, or paint a picture, create a playlist, do whatever warms the heart.
A healthy relationship is of course sacred and beautiful … but it does not serve as an exclusive pass to love. Love is there, every moment of every day, for every single one of us, whatever our relationship status. This is a fitting time to open our hearts to that love.
If you put a spoonful of salt in a cup of water it tastes very salty. If you put a spoonful of salt in a lake of fresh water the taste is still pure and clear. Peace comes when our hearts are open like the sky, vast as the ocean.
This delightful description comes from Jack Kornfield, a devoted Buddhist who trained as a monk in Thailand, India and Burma before returning to the West to study clinical psychology. Cygnus Books sell two of his highly acclaimed books ‘Meditation for Beginners‘ and ‘A Path with Heart‘, both of which teach, among other wisdoms, the practice of lovingkindness, a Buddhist tradition to open the heart. This practice teaches how lovingkindness can be cultivated by evoking pure compassion in meditation (mettā bhāvanā’). When you do this meditation you can feel your defences abate to let in a boundless warm-hearted feeling. In case that’s as appealing to you as it is to me, here’s a guided meditation and introduction to Mettā bhāvanā, from Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg.
Free heart opening essence from Chalice Well Essences
To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Cygnus Books are giving away a free bottle of ‘Heart of the Well: Unity Essence‘ to the first five people who order Jack Kornfield’s ‘Meditation for Beginners‘ and ‘A Path with Heart‘ together. A few drops of this flower essence, from Challice Well Essences, will help open the heart and enhance mettā bhāvanā.
The pursuit of love
An open heart reveals that we don’t need to look for love in other people. Yes, in relationships we celebrate love and live love together in sacred intimacy but the source of that love can only be reached from within our own hearts.
It was Valentine’s Day, two years ago, that I gave up my pursuit of love. I remember the very moment I made the conscious decision. I was crossing a bridge in the cold, crisp air, the sky was china blue and a waterfall thundered below. I lived in Sweden at the time, so the scene I’d stopped to admire was something of a winter wonderland, glistening in the frosty spray of the raging river. It was overwhelmingly beautiful.
I can see clearly now …
On that special day, my long awaited divorce, from a highly controlling marriage, had finally come through. But it wasn’t the nature of that marriage that stopped my pursuit of love; there was no bitterness and my heart was more open than it had been in so many years.
I gave up the pursuit because there, on that snowy bridge, my heart opened and I felt true love as an everflowing energy, rushing through me and streaming on like the meandering water below. I knew in that instant that love was connecting me to everything and everyone and that it was indeed the very bond that connects every atom of life. Why would I need to continue looking for love to be validated by someone else when I am love?
Immerse yourself in the wonders of life
There’s a sanskrit word for this ‘one love’ connection: ‘Advaita’ which simply means ‘not two’ and refers to an experience of unity, when all sense of separation dissolves. The book ‘Already Home‘ shows how to welcome this practical ancient way of wisdom into our lives, using meditation and contemplation. Advaita reminds us that love is already with us, always. As Ramana Maharshi says, ‘It cannot be anywhere else. There is always nowhere to go. You are already home. You are always already home.‘
Inspiration has struck while writing to you and I now know what I’m going to gift myself with this Valentine’s Day. From a state of mettā, I’m going to paint a representation of Advaita. Voila, the perfect formula for Valentine’s Day! Now, I’m no artist but I am inspired by the way Moyra Irving paints colours and shades from the heart and would like to at least give that a go. However you end up celebrating, I wish you a blissful Valenentine’s Day!