Last week I proposed to my partner Helen on a rickety old navigation tower at a place in New Orleans called the End of the World.
There was joy and tears—mine mostly—followed by shouts and shrieks from various relatives as we shared the news. To me, it feels like a natural step forward, like the opening of a flower bud: wonderful, and very natural.
This shift in my life is bringing my heart and mind back to the fundamental importance of love.
I’ve noticed the way that different spiritual teachers speak about different “gates” to spiritual awakening (more on that in the link below).
Love is the gate through which I passed. And it is one that I would like to pass through again and again, every day, and every moment.
Passing endlessly, at infinite speed, through the gate of love is what I understand as the state of awakening: constantly re-entering this present moment with total love—total acceptance of what is.
When a teacher speaks from a place of love, their teaching is transformed by it. The quality of their words and the very content of their teaching gives off a feeling of warmth and of truth that needs no justification.
In my work with clients, I find that the greatest transformations happen when I enter into their inner world with love. When they begin treating their own inner world—all parts of them—with love and compassion, then the healing truly begins.
Ultimately, it is our own love that we’re seeking, not the love of some other person or our likability in the eyes of millions.
What we really seek is permission to love ourselves.
That is in large part what we seek from relationships. But the true permission comes from within.
Friedrich Nietzsche said that we should strive to make a work of art of our life, where we can look at every detail and facet of ourselves as a contribution to the masterpiece that is this particular human life.
I didn’t understand why this resonated with me so deeply when I first encountered it in college, but now I see it as an expression of total self-acceptance. And acceptance is the heart of love.
To love yourself is to stop trying to become anyone different and accept the masterpiece that is your life.
To love another person is to accept them exactly as they are, and stop trying to make them anyone different.
To love reality is to stop trying to make it different than it is.
It’s only when we forgive ourselves and the world for being different than our expectations—and can grieve that loss—that we can rejoice in discovering the world that actually exists and which is, and will always be, perfect.
The question of love, as relationship psychologist Esther Perel put it is this: “Can you want what you already have?”
I suspect that this is also the key to a happy life—and a happy marriage.
At every turn, may we want what we already have. May we enter the gates of paradise again and again at every moment, at infinite speed for the rest of our days.