Here are two offerings that I want to share with you. Each is a window into the art of loving, and each is written by friend and colleague.
This first story was created by EFT practitioner and therapist Zoë Zimmerman.
For a long time, in my psychotherapy practice and for family, I’ve been writing “therapeutic” or “healing” stories. Sometimes I write them for clients or someone in my family, and other times, it’s a partnership between my client and me.
Either by myself, or in partnership, I/we feel into the situation, which can be a long-term issue or one that’s just popping up now. Then I or we create an imaginative story, often like a fairy tale, metaphorically using the themes of the issue or the person’s background. In a metaphoric way, these stories bring up the problem and then, mysteriously, a solution always appears that transforms the problem.
The following is one such story. After I participated in a wonderful retreat led by Rue, someone asked me to write them a story. I was so energized by Rue’s retreat that the story just flowed out of me.
(Note from Rue: There will be three of these Intuitive Mentoring retreats in 2012. Watch this space for dates!)
There once was a twirly-man. What can I say? That was his talent. He could twirl anything: lids, plates, dreydls, tires, flowers-on-stems, hair tresses, fingers around ears, corn cobs twirled by the little plastic corn cobs at the ends of the cobs, just anything!
He loved it. He perfected twirling. He even twirled himself, around and around, like a slow tornado—like a Sufi dancer—a “twirling dervish.” That was the most fun. Often, at parties, he’d tornado-twirl in and around and among the guests, their bewildered and yet happily grinning faces following after him as he flowed through them. He trailed a ribbon of sun-painted smiles behind him.
He was never aware of the effect he had on people. He was so involved in twirling everything, even himself, involved in the joy and the bliss and the elation of twirling that their stares, their head shakings never entered his awareness. He was totally unaware that they thought he was delightfully stark raving mad, crazy as a Canadian loon, round the bend, one—or even ten—cards shy of a deck, and so on. He just twirled.
One day, in his slow tornado twirling through a crowd on the street, he happened to slow the progress of a very disgruntled man—who took this odd obstacle to his movement as a personal affront.
“What the fuck is wrong with you!” he screamed at the twirling-man, spit spewing from his mouth. “Grow up, get a job, do something useful, get out of my way, quit acting like an idiot. You are unconsciously purposely trying to undermine society, acting out your rage in a parody of useless activity. And you’re fucking in my way!”
The twirly-man stopped in his tracks. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t twirl. He tried to take a few steps, but just wobbled a bit, stopped, and toppled over, like a slowing-down top. He looked at himself—his fingers that were used to twirling ears and flower stems, his wrists that were used to twirling at the ends of his arms, his head that was used to making twirling motions on his shoulders, his legs and torso that would swoop him up in the most delicious audacious tornado twirl.
All of a sudden, it was like he’d fragmented. His parts were all separate and uncoordinated. He couldn’t get hold of himself. He sat on the sidewalk, people speeding by him and around him, barely casting an eye his way.
His eyes filled with tears, his mind filled with feelings of uselessness, of badness, of wrongness. What had his whole life been about? What could he do if he couldn’t twirl? Suddenly he felt he had no skills, no talents. If twirling wasn’t a skill, a life, he had no skill and no life. And obviously, it wasn’t. It was nothing, it was worse than nothing, he was worse than nothing.
He couldn’t even sit anymore, but flopped down on the sidewalk, drained—of energy, of color, of élan, like a black-and-white left-over yesterday’s newspaper. Not even read. People blurring by him, over him, after-work traffic, just trying to get home.
He lay there all night. Fewer and fewer people, still blurring by and over. Then nothing for a while. He sank into the sidewalk, almost disappeared into it.
When a pair of feet stopped by his head, red-shoed feet, attached to blue-stockinged legs, attached to a red-dressed torso, attached to a long thin pale neck, attached to a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, long-haired head topped with a blue ribbon. She stooped down.
“What are you doing down there?” she asked tenderly. “Did your bones dissolve? Did your spirit fly off into the sky leaving your body empty?”
“Pfui, they did not” she said with an exclamation point.
She rose to her feet and started tap-dancing all around him, her red shoes clacking in a complicated rhythm. Clack, she prodded his right foot; clack, his left; soft click, the top of his head; swooping down to tap his hand, one then the other, with her fingers. Her forehead tapped his forehead. The red shoes clicked and clacked, her arms swooped, her head fell back and she red-shoe tap-danced, adoring the sky.
What could he do? His wrists started a slow twirl, then faster and faster, his feet touched the ground and he spiraled up like a double-helix. He grabbed her arm and twirled her around and around and himself around and around. They were a tapping, twirling duo of oblivious bliss.
© c Zimmermann 2011. Zoë Zimmermann is a licensed psychotherapist and Certified EFT Practitioner. To contact her, call 303-444-1195 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . Her website is www.eft-emotionalfreedom.com .
Zoë’s wonderful story illustrates the art of loving in action. This next piece points toward the underlying structure of loving. It is from “David’s Desk,” the monthly newsletter of another friend and colleague, spiritual teacher David Spangler.
….I think the deep quality of love isn’t an emotion; it’s not about attraction, acceptance, approval, or even affection. Rather, I think of it as an act of nourishment, a way of holding another so that that other’s unique character and identity can find its wholeness and an empowering expression of that wholeness in a collaborative connection with creation as a whole. It empowers participation as an individuality in the essential sacredness of creation.
Love is freeing, not binding, but it is an act that empowers connection: connection with oneself, connection with others, connection with the world, connection with possibility and potential, connection with the Sacred. This connection is one in which each participant can thrive and unfold in safety within themselves, in their relationships, and in what they offer to the world. It is a partnering connection in which each is a gift to the other demanding nothing in return.
As such, love reveals and expresses the ultimate Gift through which the Sacred gives itself that the universe may exist and unfold. Each act of love replicates to some degree that primal Gift.
With this in mind, we can now look at different degrees of loving, understanding that each of them offers this nourishment in one way or another.
The first act of love is perception. At one level this is as basic as seeing that another exists at all. By perceiving, I am drawing that person into the field of my consciousness and awareness. I am saying inwardly, “I’m not shutting my eyes on you.” I may not like the person or what he or she is doing or stands for, but as an act of love, I’m not blanking them out and saying he or she doesn’t exist.
This act of seeing goes beyond a simple perception that someone or something is there. It is an act of deliberate, mindful awareness of the unique characteristics of the person who is seen. You are drawing them out of the background smear of perception, out of the abstraction of “humanity,” and seeing them as a specific person.
You may not like them. You don’t have to like them. You may wish them to go away or for you to go away so that you have nothing to do with each other. At this stage of love, that’s ok. But if you do move away from each other, you do so having seen the other.
To see another is the opposite of ignoring the other. You are not treating the other as if he or she were not there at all, as if, like Cellophane Man in the musical Chicago, this person had no existence worth noting. You may not like that existence, but you are seeing it. If love is a way of valuing someone or something, you have to see that person or that thing is there before any value can be assigned.
When someone says to me, “I just can’t love this person,” my response may be to say, “Well, don’t try to be loving. Be perceptive.” Taking the time and making the effort to see another may be the step that begins to open the heart and thus turn up the dimmer switch on your lovingness.
A further stage is acknowledgement. This is very similar to perceiving, and the two can blend into each other, but I find it helpful to distinguish between them. To perceive is to say, “You exist.” Just that simple statement can be more nourishing, more connective than to say its opposite, “I don’t see you and you don’t exist for me.” To acknowledge is to say, “You have the right to exist. I see that you are here in the world with me and you have a right to be here in the world with me.”
We all see things in the world that we don’t feel have a right to be here. When we see someone behaving in violent, abusive, and hurtful ways, we are right to say we don’t want that kind of behavior to exist. But this is different from saying we don’t wish the person to exist. If someone exists, he or she has the possibility of changing and transforming. If we take that existence away, no change is possible.
My earlier definition of love includes connection with possibility. I don’t have to accept, like, approve of, or otherwise endorse negative behavior, but love acknowledges and empowers connection to possibility—the possibility of change, redemption, growth, and blessing. Love in the form of simple acknowledgement holds forth and nourishes the potential for this possibility.
A third stage is what I call honoring. Honoring is saying, “You have a right to exist and to be different from me.” Honoring is a form of perception and acknowledgement, but one that goes a bit further. Honoring as I use the term is not the same as either liking or approving, much less affection. It is a further form of perception and acknowledgement, but this time one that honors and accepts differences.
This is where love as we usually think of it begins to show itself, for when we can acknowledge and accept differences, we are coming to where we can value the individuality of the other which is the basis of a healthy loving relationship. Love is all about valuing and nourishing a person’s uniqueness, enabling that individuality to thrive and discover itself as well as enabling it to find appropriate ways of connecting to the rest of the world.
If I deny you the ways in which you are different from me and I try to change you to be more like me, then I am not loving you in an honoring manner. I am denying you your individuality.
There is nothing about honoring that prohibits anyone from changing in order to better connect with another; it simply says that this is not necessary in order to be loved.
From honor grows appreciation. This is closer to the kind of affection and acceptance we often think of as love, though I can certainly appreciate someone without particularly liking him or her. I think of appreciation as being open to knowing you and through that knowing, valuing you.
Appreciation in this context for me is saying, “I see you, you exist, you have a right to exist and to be different from me, and I am open to going past those differences to knowing you as you are.” And as I do come to know you, one effect is that ways can emerge in which our differences can work together and become co-creative.
In short, as we turn the “dimmer switch of love” up towards increasing “brightness,” we shorten the psychological and spiritual distance between ourselves and the person (or object) we are considering. We begin with “I see you but I don’t necessarily want to know you or have anything to do with you,” and move towards, “I appreciate you and am open to knowing you and having something to do with you.” We are moving increasingly towards the kind of manifestation and relationships that we think of when we think of love. ….
I’d like to end with a thought about unconditional love. This is a term that is much used in spiritual circles and held up as our objective. We are enjoined to learn to love unconditionally.
But I think this term can be misleading. What I think people who use this term are really trying to say is that we want to love without reservation, without holding back or making our love dependent on something external to ourselves.
The phrase “unconditional love,” on the other hand, can be interpreted to mean “love that ignores and is not bound by conditions” and thus is the same for all people in all situations.
But the fact is that we are conditioned beings; we embody specificity and particularity, not universality. To this end, love can be without reservation but it still needs to pay attention to conditions and configure itself appropriately.
If I have two friends, and one enjoys reading while the other enjoys playing games, I may love both unreservedly, but in expressing my love, I want to get the one a book while giving the other a board game. In short, I am aware of and honoring the specifics—the conditions—of their lives. To do otherwise is really not to be loving at all.
I can say that it doesn’t matter what I give them as it’s the loving thought that counts, but if I took the time and energy to see them, acknowledge them, honor them, and appreciate them, I would understand that it’s the differences that count as well. If I ignore them, if I ignore the conditions of their lives that make them different, how can I say I really know and love them?
So perhaps two other stages of love I can mention are paying attention and paying respect. If we pay attention to what and who are around us and are respectful of their nature, then we are more likely to see, acknowledge, honor, and appreciate. We are more likely to love in ways that truly foster growth and align with the great Gift from which we all emerge.
David Spangler, http://www.lorian.org
(If you want to read the whole piece, you will find it here http://www.lorian.org/davidspage.html under “David’s Desk Archives”)
I am wishing you all a good and loving new year, one filled with blessings!