Despite the media love blitz surrounding Valentine's Day, it can be difficult to unearth the reality of love with our partners. Union was the foundation for the ceremonial marriages performed by St. Valentinus, for whom Valentine's Day was named. Valentinus was a martyr who was beheaded for wedding Christians who were forbidden to marry. He courageously acted to build the bonds of union and love through marriage. The marriage ceremony following the initial romance is merely the first gesture of a lifelong intention to love. In our beginning steps of love and romance, we find the laws of attraction powerful yet often fleeting. How do we sustain that initial spark that Mother Nature gives us, to transform the power of attraction and union into lasting love, romance, and intimacy?
For decades, I've been teaching yoga around the world. People tell me of the joys and struggles in their love relationships, and I find that emotional suffering in relationships is the same all over the world. In partnership, when we discover love we usually also find all the things in our lives that are obstructing true intimacy, so finding love can be a double-edged sword. It is often not an easy ride when the very force of love brings up all the limiting patterns and dysfunction that we have absorbed since childhood. In the modern world, we have few good models of healthy adult intimacy that we need in order to understand the emotional and physical continuity required for developing and sustaining it. Nonetheless, the fire of nature must have its way. Driven by natural instinct, often stumbling in the dark, we try our best to relate to one another even through the pain.
To balance our inherent needs and desires amid contemporary stresses requires a deep wisdom and practical solution to heal, and experience everlasting love. In countries such as India, China, and Japan, where spiritual traditions have been passed on orally and as text in an unbroken chain for thousands of years, there is a cross-cultural similarity of beliefs. In these cultures, the one life force that creates the sun and moon, trees and bees and humans is fundamentally described as love or unity. Sounds like something worth exploring and sharing, right? And yet this may be a difficult concept to understand, let alone feel, considering that we all experience shades of sadness, longing, and separation. We need a practical means to move from our perceived duality into love and unity. While a bouquet of flowers for Valentine's Day will help, there's so much more we can do.
Treat yourself this Valentine's Day to something new, and connect to this everlasting unified love with four simple steps:
- Do Your Yoga. Yoga is the practice of unifying opposites internally and externally. The inhalation develops a feminine receptive quality, and the exhalation develops a masculine strength. I call this strength-receiving. Participating in these opposites of male and female in the internal landscape informs our body and mind to embrace them in the external landscape to an absolute degree and continuously. This polarity exists in both same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships. Yoga is making love to life. The body loves its breath, and the exhalation loves the inhalation, and feeling this love tangibly helps us learn how to love one another. When we feel loved, we inevitably give love to those around us. When we become intimately connected to each other from this place of mutual strength and receptivity, we are strong and present to each other as we receive each other. The spark of love combusts! It is a perfect love arrangement, and this is the true romance we crave on Valentine's Day.
- Love Yourself. Personal autonomy and partnership go hand in hand. Before you can feel love and intimacy toward someone else, you first need to feel it in and as yourself. Sensitivity to your own embodiment allows you to feel sensitive to another in an extraordinary and continuous way. Doing the promise yoga practice (www.thepromise.com; you can see brief video demos here) clears the body of mental, emotional, and physical obstruction. This enables us to have an intimate experience with life as the body and breath. Yoga is the movement of the life current within us. It is our inherent intimacy with life as the body, breath and then relationship in that order.
- Picnic in Nature today and make it a habit. In the winter season, find a place to share a meal overlooking nature. Everything that exists within the natural world is involved in a relationship of interdependency. Our survival depends on our unending embrace of nature and connection to each other! Allow your senses to open and receive the natural world, awakening to the fact that you are nature itself, interconnected with all life and your Valentine.
- Power Up. If we can admit to our lover that we are more powerful with him or her than we are on our own, and these confessions are mutually felt and expressed, something extraordinary happens. This something extraordinary is actually very ordinary. It's the natural state, the power of reality moving through us that ensures Mother Nature's purpose and nurturing hand. We know this is a vulnerable place to be. Although you may feel safer on your own, not risking rejection, this vulnerability is power, because you have now expressed the mutual enjoyment and equality in your partnership, jumping off the cliff of personal fear and separation into an ocean of union. It is a liberating event!
Nothing can touch the extraordinary intelligence of our own living system. Connecting with that state is deeply pleasurable. Living in a society fueled by consumerism, instant gratification, and too many cups of coffee, our natural state has effectively been hijacked. In all the fuss, we still feel that universal need to couple up, love, and be loved. To walk through life, in love with your chosen partner, requires a deeper look and daily practice of self-love. Yoga is the practical means to experience that love that lives eternally. Love life and love yourself this Valentine's Day. Breathe the opposites within, and that love will naturally be given to the one you love so dearly.
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