The Shape of Love

Well. It’s been quite a year hasn’t it? In addition to the usual ups and downs of everyone’s life, which are unpredictable and ongoing, we’ve had and are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Jobs have been lost, homes, family members, and more, including our individual and collective sense of relative safety and stability.

What has kept you going in the midst of so much loss and uncertainty?

I’m fortunate, despite the loss and uncertainty, to continue to feel resourced on many levels. I’m still healthy and have enough money for food and shelter. I have dear friends and family (even if I can only see them on Zoom). I can still go for walks among the trees nearby. I have a mindfulness and awareness meditation practice, and am part of a community within which I can practice and share with others (even if it has been exclusively on Zoom). Something very close to my heart for many years, and during this time in particular, that has gotten me out of bed on the mornings I’d rather not, has been ensuring that others have a time and a place to practice meditation, even if that has just meant committing to being there at a certain time with the Zoom room open and a timer ready.

In addition, continuing to work with my own coach, mentors and teachers has helped me see the blind spots and ways of being that keep me stuck in habitual fear-based patterns that no longer serve me and, in fact, keep me from doing what I can, for myself and others, during this incredibly challenging time in my life and in the world.

One practice in particular that has seen me through the loss of a primary relationship, seeing my income drop to and hover between nonexistent and insubstantial, the “is it safe to even leave my house, even with a mask on?” and most recently, not quite a month ago, the death of a beloved furry companion, has been presence.

Presence, for me, is that feeling that comes with slowing down, letting my attention drop from the swirl of thoughts in my head down into my body, into my heart, acknowledging what is there, opening and softening to it, and trusting the aliveness stirring within me to lead me into the next moment.

Some days that has been and continues to be easier than others. There were, and are, many moments where parts of me resist, with a loud, “OH, HELL NO!” Perhaps you’ve heard it?! Those are parts of me that feel small and frightened, parts that want to know there is still going to be a roof over our head and food on our table next month, parts of me that need a hug, a gentle, loving touch, from another living, breathing being.

Those are all very valid needs and concerns for all of us as humans. But I can’t address them skillfully when I’m caught in that blinding swirl of thoughts in my head. When I drop into my body and feel the fear, the sadness, the grief, and open to it, it softens, and what emerges from the depths of my being is what has always and will always be there. Love. All I have to do is remember to open and soften to it. The more I do that, the more I can do that. When I respond to my own and others’ needs from that place of aliveness, of being, of love, good things can happen.

This isn’t the romantic love that we feel for a partner, the parental love that we feel for children and other small (and sometimes furry) creatures, the love that we feel for friends and family, etc., though I believe it underlies all of those. This is something else and it is something that can never be taken from us. I wrote a poem several years ago trying to capture my experience of it, inspired by seeing a heart-shaped clump of snow on a windswept sidewalk during my morning walk:

Made by this
Made for this
Made of this
We are that which can never be swept away
We are Love

I’d love to share this practice with you so I’m offering a free mini workshop this Saturday called The Shape of Love: An Embodied Approach To Discovering The Love Already Within Us. During this hour-long workshop I’ll share a little bit more about the practice, how I work with it and how it has helped shape me and my response to challenge and loss, we’ll practice together, and discuss our experiences.

I hope you can join me! Sign up for your free ticket here. This will also give you the option to join my mailing list, which I’d love, but you don’t have to!

This is Shadow, who passed away on January 21, 2021, two months before his 15th birthday.

What’s with the logo? And the bamboo?

Great question!

Before I answer, I’d like to ask you to bring to mind a time when a loved one placed a gentle hand on your cheek. What were you feeling at the time? How did that gesture make you feel?

For many of us, myself included, that gesture evokes a sense of feeling safe, seen, and cared about. I notice a warmth and relaxation in my belly and chest, accompanied by sort of an inner “Ahhh” as I recall such moments in my life. Occasionally that sense of safety allows me to shed tears I’ve been holding inside and I’m left feeling lighter and more open.

What would it be like to offer that gesture to yourself in a difficult moment? What a precious gift it is to feel seen and cared for by ourselves – to acknowledge and allow ourselves to be touched by what is in our own heart.

Taking it a step further, imagine how it feels to allow your heart to be touched by someone else, and to know, to feel, deep in your heart that someone else truly sees and cares about you.

Bringing the two together – feeling your own heart and feeling felt by someone else’s heart – is the relational alchemy that is at the core of how I coach, and facilitate change.

The outer circle of the logo is called an enso and it comes from the Zen Buddhist tradition. The circle is drawn with one brush stroke and requires that the artist relax the mind and allow the body to create.

If you’re a meditator, you’ll know that relaxing the mind is much easier said than done, but in those moments where we can relax, there is tremendous spaciousness, full of possibility. (If you’re not yet a meditator, and would like to learn, ask me!)

It can also be said that the incompleteness and imperfection of the circle are actually very much a part of the circle, they belong there and are part of its beauty.

The invitation, then, is to allow yourself to relax into the space, whether it’s the one created by being in one of life’s many transitions, or the space of the container of the coaching relationship, allow yourself to be seen, just as you are, and let your innate worth, beauty and potential shine!

Bamboo, pictured in the header image here, is often thought to represent the perfect combination of strength and flexibility. What might be possible with that combination?

When I guide meditation, I invite people to feel into the strength of their back as they sit with an upright, relaxed posture, and the soft openness of their front, and consider the same question: what might be possible with a shape that is soft, strong and open?

A little story for you. Last year, on a meditation retreat away from home, I went to a grocery story to pick up a few things, one of which was going to be a bouquet of flowers to place in the meditation space. As I stood looking at the bouquets, I glimpsed a display of glass containers each with two or three bamboo stalks that stood about 3-4″ high. I’ve long been inspired by that perfect combination of strength and flexibility, and was actually in a difficult period of my life, so I had to have one.

Fast forward 12 months, I’m living in a home that doesn’t get a lot of natural light, the bamboo has outgrown its glass (and the ceramic pot I put it in 4 months ago…) and is the only plant that I’ve been able to grow in my new home!

That brings me back to the question I posed a couple of paragraphs ago:

What might be possible with strength and flexibility? With staying soft, strong and open?