If you wish to start with Part 1, go here.
Any experienced polyamorist will tell any newbie that for it to work, polyamory takes honesty and commitment. I have also said it takes a commitment to polyamory itself, to love itself. I may have said that in my zine The Great Activity, if not here.
[side note: contact me if you'd like me to send you a copy! I'll send it to you for free, but you can also buy it here, and read it in the queer archive here.]
For me, this commitment evolved into a recognition that this is a spiritual path. For me, commitment to a spiritual path necessitates a questing mind, or as we say in Zen, Don't Know Mind. I look within and ask "How can this work? What does this look like? What does this feel like?" It changes, my understanding grows, and I become more convinced the key to a happy life, to a good life, comes down to how we cultivate all our relationships, and whether we bring love to all our relationships. It takes on a form, an internal landscape that melds with my past understandings of this internal landscape, until I realize this is the material that glues it all together, that brings shape to that world, this space of love.
Rachel came across this concept, the space of love, from the UV Family, a polyamorous tribe that goes back many years. They too write of this as a process of discovery:
When we listened without judgment and shared without editing, we found that we were consistently "in love with each other." But it wasn't love as we had known it - love as a reaction to another person. It was love that came from simply removing all the resistance to each other. As we gained our sea legs on this ocean of love that we created nightly in our heart sharing ritual, we gradually began to carry it over into everyday life - we could be "in love" while cooking, gardening, walking by the ocean, with someone in a foul mood or by ourselves, because the door to love was within us. Love wasn't an emotion (though wonderful emotions went along with it) and it wasn't a response; it was more like a choice. Love was a space. It couldn't be given or received, only entered.
Not long ago, I said to someone, "In that moment, a door to love opened in my heart for you." I'm keeping that door opened. It's hard to tell if that person walked through or not. A lesson I've had to learn several times, you can't get someone to walk through that door...that has to be their choice. I've also learned it's possible to keep that door open whether the recipient is in your life or not. It is a choice to close your heart, and it is a choice to wish someone well. This inner space, it becomes a touchstone, with more doors open to more specific people, it becomes the modus operandi with more people, with many people. My space of love touches the space of love of strangers. They are oblivious to me, but I see them, I see the miracle that is their life.
There is no avoiding hierarchy in relationships. Strangers on the bus occupy my thoughts little beyond those moments we ride together. If I don't touch base at least weekly with my homies, I miss them. Steve and I have been together longer than Steve and Krissy. Steve and I live together, Krissy has her own place. I resist saying though, that I am Steve's primary, and Krissy his secondary. I already have the relationship with more power. Cultivating love for them as well as for me and us, I want to minimize the impact of those differences. I don't wish to contain and solidify our V into labels that reinforce heirarchy, because who knows what the future may bring? It's possible that creative possibilities will be shut out if we make it one thing and no other. Indeed, I think the UV family would eschew the V term, they say:
What was askew in our old notion about love was that we had thought of it as though it were a vector, which in math is something that has direction and magnitude (and in biology is a disease carrier!). Since a vector is like an arrow, we dubbed this the "Cupid" model of love.
What if another guy comes along and shoots her an arrow? Whose love will she return? After all, there's a limited supply of love arrows . . . and on and on the game goes. Fortunately, we made the discovery that love, rather than being a vector, was a space - a limitless space - that any of us could enter by letting go of our protective games. Each one of us had our own door to the room of love, one uniquely shaped in the image and likeness of our naked selves. We had to leave our masks and armor and baggage outside the room of love and could only retrieve them by leaving love. Judgment, taking offense, blame and guilt
are a few of the components of that baggage - they exist only outside the room of love.
Limitless space....hmmm...sounds a little like emptiness.
I've said it before, one of the most profound characteristics of these to paths of mine, polyamory and Buddhism, is the liberation they bring. When I chose to step down those paths, I don't think I realized what radical choices they could be. Rachel invokes cognitive behavior therapy, saying, "When I remember that it's where I want to be (this choice, or space, of love), and "go there," then problems don't loom so large, and resentful or angry feelings towards H., or my teenager, or my mom, often dissipate."
We are not alone in our perception of the world-altering nature of this choice of love. On Alternet, Courtney E Martin talks about love as a radical act:
It is the moment we critically and consciously choose how to shape our love that we move towards freedom. It is a critical response to our commercialized culture of romance, a rejection of that which feels outdated, a vision of a more inclusive, more authentic, more liberating relationship. In fact, the moment we choose to shape our love is the first, most critical step in shaping the whole God damn world.