Tuesday, August 31, 2004

It's all about Love

I have been feeling particularly useless lately because my mind keeps coming back around to one thing. Of course I have done other things besides dwell on this thing and go to work in the past 2 months:

  • went to my first Portland Beavers baseball game with the girl I mentor
  • went to the 2nd annual Interfaith 24 Hour Chant for Peace at Great Vow Monastery
  • wrote my articles for the Dharma News (a friend suggested I put the more interesting ones here, I think I'll do that)
  • visited with my husband's parents
  • attended and volunteered at another Darklady party
  • organized a Peace Crane folding event sponsored by the Portland BPF (brainchild of Rich Mackin)
  • discovered a neat website that's all about new words and phrases that are making their way into the English language (how I found it? searching for the word 'earworm')

and too important to be a part of a bulleted list, took care of my husband while he recovered from minor surgery. Being there for my husband, and doing so along with his other significant other, was meaningful to me not only as the first time I experienced such a wifely rite of passage, but because I did so with Krissy. Significantly, this was the first time she and I had ever spent time alone together. We got a balloon for him that said "We love you."

I guess I list these things to remind myself that I haven't been completely useless. Falling in love ain't easy. I happen to be reading two books that are useful at this time of highs and lows, obsession and intensity, yearning and focused attention. I sent for them before I met him, and have been reading only a little at a time. When I do read, they help me confirm my own thoughts about myself, and love, and falling in love.

Why We Love outlines what we think of as 'romantic love', or as polyamorists would say, NRE or New Relationship Energy. I've got all the symptoms. According to Helen Fisher, the chemistry of love is dopamine, and could include a chemical derived from dopamine, norepinephrine. Thus the sweet ecstasy, tremendous energy, lack of appetite, sleepless nights. Also, when there are high levels of these two, the levels of serotonin drop. Thus the depressive lows, especially when the love is not reciprocated. BBC has done a miniseries documentary based on her book, I hope it makes it to the US soon.

I sent for the eBook version of Spiritual Polyamory by Mystic Life. [link removed 02/07 due to author's actions towards me] Who knew it would be so hard to get the Adobe Reader to work on my Palm, and then I had to get a memory card for the thing. Perhaps the delay was meant to be. I decided to get the book because the author, also known as Chris, says such useful and even-handed things on the yahoo group he set up with the same name.

This guy I've fallen in love with, not the sort of guy I'm usually attracted to. Usually the sort of guy I would have advised a friend to steer clear of. Certainly the sort of guy my friends hear about and advise me to "be careful". Certainly the sort of guy that my husband would rather I chalk up as a life experience and move on. But I can't. I've fallen in love. I think there's something to this love. Something for me to learn. Something for him to learn. When I first met him he told me he is vain, egotistical. But how vain am I, thinking my love can do him good? So I am thinking my noble thoughts about love are just my own egotistical self-justifications, when I pick up Spiritual Polyamory again and discover someone else has had similar noble thoughts.

This instinct, this drive to mate that fuels a new love, causes all sorts of need to find security, thus all the obsessiveness. (And jealousy, though I'm not inclined that way.) Yet I also have a strong spiritual background of letting go, of learning to be comfortable without that certainty. When these two collide, all I have is a faith that the deeper love, the unconditional love, will prevail. As Mystic Life says in his chapter on the polyamorous journey, "True love arises out of an absence of control."

My spiritual path is known for renunciation. Often the form it takes is mistaken for the process itself: give up a lay life, shave one's head and become a monk, renounce worldly matters, and sex. The process itself is about letting go of ego, about cultivating egolessness, and that can be done by any person, lay or monastic, even a polyamorous sex-loving person like me. Mystic Life makes the point that it is the monogamous folks who make a big deal about sex, that sex should belong to just one other person. Sex is a bodily function, an instinctual drive that certainly is capable of bringing ecstatic moments into our lives, but it's not necessary to be possessive about it.

The more I have been on this polyamorous path, the more I appreciate it as a spiritual path that complements my Buddhist path. I have the wonderful opportunity to learn how love manifests in its many unpredictable and in its predictable ways. The more opportunity I have to experience this, the more I am convinced the key to selflessness and compassion in this universe is love. Now I have met someone who really puts this to the test. He cut right through my pacifist, compassionate outlook, challenging me with, "You know you really are judgmental." I don't think he believed (or believes) I could love and accept him as he is. Perhaps he has me right where he wants me, but yeah, some part of me takes that as a challenge.

Mystic Life said, "Nonjudgment in a relationship is an important aspect of what makes it work. The ego is tempted to judge constantly and assess whether or not another's behavior is benefiting one's self. Of course the ego is only interested in whether or not it is gaining strength, not about the evolution of one's true self. The ego likes control, power, attachment, guarantees. These are the illusion that keep it around." I found most of my judgments of my new love have been based on self-protection, and protection of my other relationships. Certainly that is healthy in this real, non-abstract world. I think it is also healthy not to be ruled by fear, and to find that all-encompassing love wherever it may be.

If I am to learn something about this love, it is to love without conditions, without expectations. I was inspired to go back to my the spirituality of my upbringing. One of the favorite passages of the Protestants who taught me is I Corinthians 13. In a poem I had written to my new love, I said:

if there is a glue that binds
this universe together
perhaps that would
be Love.

I would do well to remember these things in Corinthians about love, not only with my new love, but with all my loves: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." Later, "when perfections comes, imperfect disappears...Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Sounded awfully Zen to me.

I think a more full knowledge of love begins when we are able to fall in love. This biological drive, an animal instinct, is the very thing that can propel a person to an even deeper love beyond the confines of the ego.

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