There is no difference between love and joy. ~ A Course in Miracles
Kate sat down next to me on the couch, let out a heavy sigh and said, “I think I’m in love.”
“Really? Then why do you look so troubled?” I asked.
“Because I didn’t want to fall in love. It just sort of happened. I mean, I’ve had so many roller coaster relationships that I actually thought I’d given up on romantic love for life. Meeting Jake was completely unexpected. I’m still shocked about it. I’ve been burnt so many times that I thought the only guy I’d ever let into my life again was Ralph,” she paused to stroke her cat’s arching back as he leapt into her lap, almost as if on cue. “Isn’t that right Ralphie?”
She shot me a hopeless look and continued, “I’ve been doing so good, just being here, alone with myself, happily for the first time, and now this. I’m scared. I don’t know how to do it. I’m afraid this relationship will knock me off the deep end or something.”
Kate exhaled loudly again, to punctuate her frustration, and then asked me, “Do you mind if we take a small detour now, from our typical work, to talk about intimate relationships?”
“No, not a bit. It’s actually not a detour at all,” I said. “In fact, it’s one in the same.”
“How so?” she asked.
“In case you haven’t noticed, Kate, the entire point of the work we’ve been doing together this past month is to become more intimate with all of life—to give up fear completely and to live in a continual state of love.”
“Right,” she nodded. “I mean, I guess I hadn’t thought of it exactly that way, but I can see how that’s true.”
“That’s really the only way to genuinely feel full. But I think you may be missing the point, Kate, and that’s what’s got you feeling confused and anxious.”
“And the point is?”
“The point is, love is love. There are no special degrees, exceptional or particularly unique circumstances to it. Love just is.”
Her brow knit in consternation. “What do you mean, exactly?”
“Let me ask you something. What is it that you love most about Jake?”
“Hmm,” she instantly became dreamy, a wide smile returning. “I love his humor… or maybe it’s his laugh. Or his amazing eyes… I don’t know,” she said shaking her head and throwing up her hands. “I love everything about him.”
I smiled, “Kate, what you’re saying you love most about Jake is your present non-judgment of him. Whenever you take judgment out of the picture, what’s left? Only love.”
“You see, in truth, you can’t fall ‘in’ and ‘out’ of love. That’s the ego’s perception, which leads us to believe that love is special, difficult to come by and that it most often only lasts temporarily. That’s not true at all. What is true, however, is that you can suspend your judgment—the greatest obstacle to love—for a time, which feels like ‘falling in love.’ How long of a time you are capable of doing that depends on how awake you are to the fact that you are love.”
“Let me get this straight,” said Kate. “You’re telling me that what I think I feel about Jake, I’m really only feeling about myself?”
“Correct. Jake is like a mirror to you. You are feeling your own capacity to love. That love becomes very apparent when you let down all barriers to experiencing it, just as you are doing now with Jake. It feels unifying to be so open and connected. The experience of ‘falling in love’ is one of those rare times that all boundaries dissolve, allowing us to merge our identity with another person. That’s why the whole idea of it is so enticing, but also why the subsequent bliss is so short lived. It’s not as difficult to suspend judgment of others (and more importantly of ourselves!) for short periods of time, as it is to abstain from judgment entirely. So sooner or later, judgment sets in for one or both of the ‘love birds.’ Then, as always, what’s unhealed inside is reflected outside, and, as is often the story, this angst is projected onto one’s partner. Then the walls come tumbling down, only to reveal each person’s own anger, hurt, resentment and pain that’s always been carried around in them.”
Kate’s eyebrows were raised, “I’ve lived what you just described far too many times. I just thought I was unlucky in love, or something.”
“There really is no such thing as being unlucky in love,” I said. “There are, however, many misperceptions about love, and countless inner obstacles to experiencing love, which must be overcome.”
“For instance, when two people ‘fall in love’ and experience the bliss of uninhibited connectivity, it feels as though it could last forever. But many such relationships falter precisely when one, or both, of the two partners expect the other to ‘be there’ for them all of the time, which of course is impossible. Desiring for this to be possible is merely self-avoidance disguised as love. It is not loving to abdicate your own life in order to live for another person, nor is it loving to expect a partner to do that for you.”
“I never thought of falling in love that way before,” said Kate, growing increasingly pensive.
“The good news is that we can all experience the ceaseless love that we desire. Because there is a ‘being’ that can ‘be there’ for us, 100 percent of the time, 24 hours a day, day in and day out, without any conditions or exceptions at all.”
Kate interrupted, “Don’t tell me. I know. I know. You’re referring to the Soul, right?”
“Yes,” I said, “Exactly! Because Soul has no body, it only knows Oneness. Therefore, it doesn’t mind being a nobody in your life, at all. It is entirely self-less and ‘there’ for you all of the time!”
Kate laughed, “Well, it’s not exactly my idea of the perfect dinner date.”
“Are you sure about that?” I said, winking.
She looked at me puzzled.
“Oh Yeaaaaahhh,” she said slowly, verbalizing her dawning realization, “I get it. Soul is the ideal dining companion. Even Jake thought so when he, Soul and I shared our sublime Greek supper the other night.”
“That’s right, Kate,” I said catching the wave of her excitement. “Soul is Love!”
“Oh my God,” she said.
“Yes, and Soul is That too.”
“This is getting more and more mind blowing,” Kate said, shaking her head, but looking ready for more.
“Let’s take it a notch higher,” I said. “Now think of all of the millions of people in the world who feel somehow left out and forlorn because they don’t have an ideal Soul Mate…”
Kate broke in, getting more excited, “…When in fact they do. We all have! But as long as they perceive life through their ego, they can’t know that.”
“Yes, Kate. Yes. This is the very reason I’ve been so insistent, in everything we do together, to bring you always to one place—back to your relationship with Soul. It’s the one and only absolutely unconditionally loving relationship you will ever have. To forsake that relationship, as so many people do, and then to expect that kind of supreme fulfillment to come from someone outside of yourself is to doom all of your other relationships.”
“Because the Soul is the voice of your own best interest. How can you be peaceful or happy if you refuse to love that?”
“I get it. It’s impossible for any other person to step in, sweep me off my feet and make me live ‘happily ever after,’ if I don’t know and love Soul, first and foremost.”
I nodded, “Isn’t it ironic then, that so many people are denying Soul and then hope to find all of the love they are ‘missing’ in that one ‘special person.’ That person who they hope to fall in love with, marry and then have a family with so they can continue to feel love by exchanging love with a certain privileged few.”
“What a formula for disaster!”
“So often it is, and one that is almost universally accepted as the way to live—as you say, ‘happily ever after.’”
“How utterly confusing. Now I see why so many people appear to be miserable while living what they thought would be an ideal life with their ‘Soul Mate.’”
“Ah yes, the fated, fatal definition of Soul Mate!” I said smiling.‘“My one true love.’”
“So what is a Soul Mate then? Can such a connection really be possible between two people?”
“Once again, great question, Kate. As you now clearly see, to truly love another person means you must first unequivocally love yourself, with all of your heart, mind and Soul. When you love yourself this way, you polish your thoughts, your actions, your ambitions until they exemplify your inmost being and align you with joy. When you are so centered in yourself this way, you won’t go seeking fulfillment outside of yourself, making someone or something else the center of your existence. Rather, you’ll find your center in doing things that bring you a deep sense of connectedness and fulfillment, and share this loveliness with others. Soul Mates in the truest sense are two people who have found such fulfillment in themselves, via self honoring. They are those who choose to live 100 percent authentically to their own unique Soul urgings—going with the flow of the unbridled, ever-changing, ever-expanding, ever-creative and ever-new experience of that. Then, while in full acceptance of each other’s path as they intertwine, they each live their own most genuine lives. I know of only one way that it’s possible to do that. Each partner must agree to give up all labels, remain present and communicate fully with bare-to-the-bone honesty.”
“Wow,” Kate shook her head, looking a bit awe-stuck. “SCARY.”
I laughed, “Yes, to the ego that is very frightening, but to Soul, as you can imagine, it feels like home, like freedom—like life lived in heaven.”
I paused for a moment to see if Kate had fully digested all that we had spoken about. She stared down at the couch cushions for a moment, and when she looked up at me, nodding pensively, I went on.
“In a whole relationship, two partners show up as autonomous beings, knowing that they are complete within themselves. Yet, they sense and honor the Soul as it is expressed in one another—always staying focused on, and true to that. Emboldened by this sense of security in themselves, they don’t need to impose rules, labels or expectations onto the relationship, other than complete honesty and respect.”
“Wow, that sounds blissful, even if I’m not certain I could do it myself, let alone find someone who could do it with me.”
“The truth is, Kate, that if you are not experiencing unending blissful love each and every day of your life, it has nothing to do with anyone else. No partner, no friend, no family member or acquaintance is at fault. It’s because you don’t know yourself, and you’ve forgotten that you are love.”
I noticed that Kate was suddenly looking sullen. She had pulled a pillow into her lap and was hugging it tightly, without even seeming to notice.
“I’m not trying to burst your bubble Kate,” I said gently. “I’m hoping only to expand it to include absolutely everything.”
“I hate to say it, but I think I get it, at least intellectually,” Kate said, sounding a bit glum, “but let me ask you something that I think may help clarify all of this for me.”
“Alright,” I said.
“I met Jake such a short while ago, and already I miss him when I’m not with him? Is that ego?”
“Where do you feel this ‘I miss him’ sensation?” I asked.
“Where, all over?” I prodded further
“In my body.”
“So you’re feeling separate from Jake now because his body is not in close proximity to your body?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“That means you are identifying with being a body, and not with being a Soul.”
“I suppose I am.”
“And what is it that you feel, when you think about him?”
“Like I want to be with him, doing whatever it is he’s doing.”
“And where are you now?”
“Here,” she answered.
“Are you?” I asked.
She stopped, sat back in her chair, took in a deep breath, then turned to me and smiled, “You’re relentless, aren’t you? You got me… no, I’m not being present at all when I think about Jake not being with me,” she conceded. “I’m a million miles away. I’m in fantasy land, not reality.”
“I’m happy that you realized that, Kate, because whenever we move out of the present moment willingly ‘for another,’ sooner or later, and most often it’s sooner, we begin to resent them when they are ‘not there’ for us. The truth is, though, as you’ve seen, the resentment begins whenever we are not here for ourselves.”
“So we’re back there again, eh? To Presence.”
“Yes, we are, luckily!” I smiled.
“Hmmm,” Kate said, “I can’t say I like it, but I get it.” She thought about this for a moment and then added, “So, in other words, ‘Snap out of it Kate!’” Tears were beginning to well up in her eyes.
“No, I didn’t say that. There’s no admonishment necessary. In fact, that only causes the ego to want to really dig in its heels and take over, since that sort of judgment is threatening to it. Go on, feel how you feel now, after that little bit of self-judgment, you look distracted, distanced and separate, not joyful at all, as you deserve to be after having had such powerful insights.”
I let her feel her state of being for a moment and continued, “So no, I wouldn’t say, ‘Snap out of it.’ I’d say, just be present with all of the love that you are, in full recognition and appreciation of the fact that your budding love for Jake is just one wonderful aspect of that.”
“That makes sense,” Kate nodded, but still looked a bit confused. “Will you show me how?”
“Stop for a moment, and instead of thinking about Jake, just feel the love that you have for him. And notice how, when you really feel it—it’s not really about him, or limited to just him. Just notice your own capacity to love, and what that feels like to you.”
Kate closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them, they were glassy with tears, but her smile was wide. “I feel like I could take in the whole world,” she said. “I feel like I’m here, and like I’m everywhere.”
“Always remember, Kate, love is who you are. It’s your most natural state of being. It can’t go anywhere without you. You are its vehicle of extension, and the entire world can know love through you. But love cannot be known by either you or anyone else consistently if it is selectively doled out here and there. True Love never ends, it grows and grows and grows, so much so, that one person could never contain it all. Imagine; it doesn’t shut off, it’s ever-expanding, all-encompassing. It never turns to hate and it only creates feelings of peace and joy.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Kate, “but only because of what I experienced that day in my garden.”
“That’s right Kate,” I agreed, happy she had her own deep personal experience to rely on. I continued, “From the time we are born and come to live on this earth, human nature consistently seeks love. Because so many of us never really experience unconditional love—even from our parents—and are not taught to feel divine love as it is expressed through the Soul, we never really know what love is, and yet we know that we want it. Hence all of the fantasizing we humans do around the idea of love. Since it’s such a deep and powerful longing, and its fulfillment feels so evasive for so many people, they often unwittingly end up equating love with pain, sacrifice and even hate!”
“So how do real, true Soul partners experience love?”
“They experience it with immense gratitude, first of all. Gratitude for the beauty of love itself; and joy for the incredible gift of connectedness that it brings. There is a feeling of complete fullness, so full that you feel a tenderness towards everything. Life lived with this level of love and engagement is extremely vivid. You not only embrace, but thoroughly enjoy every experience. And no matter what life ‘throws at you’ you delight in it, and see it all as raw, unbounded possibility—because nothing is too big or too much to take into your heart. So, although this love may be sparked by a relationship that you have with a particular person, it is in no way confined to that person. It is unlimited. And you have learned now to have that kind of relationship with everyone and everything in your life. Life is suddenly an adventure, lived in joyous anticipation of the unimaginable. Entirely in the moment—Now, Now, and Now!”
Kate sighed deeply. Then, after a time pondering it all, she said, “I have another question.”
“Good,” I said. “The creation of our lives lies in the questions. I’m glad you have so many. It means you’re alive.” I smiled, “What is it?”
“What is love? I mean beyond the romanticism and everything. Why is it so all-consuming for everyone?”
“That’s a great question. First I’ll tell you what love isn’t, and maybe then you’ll be able to answer that question for yourself. Love is not fleeting. It’s not even an emotion, nor is it an experience. It is not something we can get, or gain, or earn. You can’t know love while seeking it.”
“I know!” Kate broke in excitedly. “Love is the Real Us.”
“Yes. It’s the authentic self that lies beneath all of the layers and labels that the ego has claimed to be our identity throughout millennia. I can also tell you how to know the love that you are,” I said, smiling.
“How?” asked Kate, taking the bait. “No, let me tell you…” she broke in quickly, “You know love by extending it to others unconditionally, no judgments or labels and without doling it out discriminately. And as I’ve realized over the last few weeks, to do this most often requires forgiveness. Authentic forgiveness attained through self discovery, deep-thought, contemplation, presence, and deliberate awareness—most especially in situations where you’re inclined to ‘fall asleep’ or revert back to your old patterns and ways of reacting to things.” She paused, “Falling asleep—” she mused, “sort of like ‘falling in love.’”
“Brilliant Kate! You see, knowing all of this doesn’t mean you can’t be in love, it just means you don’t have to fall in the process. Why not stand in love?”
I went on, “If we begin to live without judgments, labels, needs and conditions with all of the many people who come in and out of our lives, we will not only find true love, but remember who we are simultaneously. Then, a sense of indiscriminate reverence for life increases naturally as our self-love grows. At that time, there’s no ‘this,’ no ‘that,’ no ‘better,’ no ‘worse,’ no ‘here,’ no ‘there.’ All of life just is—Love!”
“This is all a bit overwhelming,” Kate admitted, “but now I think I can answer my own question, ‘What is love for?’” Her eyes widened, “Love isn’t for anything. Because love is everything!
“Yes Kate,” I said smiling. “Love is everything.”
The above is an excerpt from the email program, "Done with Dieting: 30 Days of Soul-Full Eating" by Maureen Whitehouse.
Follow Maureen Whitehouse on Twitter @SoulFullEating