We’ve all experienced real love.
The love that makes us question ourselves and our worth, the love that we enjoy, the love that makes us think and solve problems, and the love that makes us curl up on the ground and sob because we are afraid of losing it.
And then there is sacred love…the love for which we work together to keep at all costs, while we simultaneously become better people individually.
The lasting love. The golden love.
This is the essence of the yab-yum (Tibetan for father-mother). In Buddhist art, it is a profound symbol depicting a male deity sitting in lotus position with a female consort in his lap.
Well actually, it’s not kinky. It’s supposed to represent the sacred, non-dualistic union of compassion and wisdom. Together, the man and woman overcome the illusion of duality…the barrier of male and female is discarded and they proceed to develop their minds at an expedited, mystical rate.
If we don’t have love, we go crazy. Love is a basic need in life. I’m talking about any love: Love from family, love from animals, love from boyfriend or girlfriend. Self love. Any love.
So, in being so close and striving to become better people in partnership, we are bound to have altercations.
From Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche:
“[…] love and affection are largely based on free love, open love which does not ask anything in return. It is a mutual dance. Even if during the dance you step on each other’s toes, it is not regarded as problematic or an insult. We do not have to get on our high horse or be touchy about that. To learn to love, to learn to open, is one of the hardest things of all for us.”
In any dance, there is the possibility of tripping and falling. There is the possibility of kicking your partner in the face or forgetting the dance. But there is the possibility of also proceeding into a dance by whispering, “I love you” and doing your best to keep the space between you and at the same time create something beautiful.
You can and you will suffer in loving someone. You will become angry. You might do things to each other that are wrong. You might take breaks, need space, even have breakups, divorces, or deaths. You will feel loss in all its forms.
I have, and it sucks.
“The desire to force love to live only in its most positive form,” writes Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “is what causes love ultimately to fall over dead.”
If our relationships are perfect all the time, they do not grow. If you spend Valentine’s surrounded with flowers and sex and chocolates every year, you will not grow. I’ve never spent a Valentine’s Day at home with my lover. But every other day with him? Better than Valentine’s Day! We eat chocolate and he buys me flowers all the time! So what if we miss this one overrated day? We set ourselves up for failure if we hold these expectations of perfection on Valentine’s Day (and all days).
You can’t love yourself? You won’t love another. Our souls consist of love, whether it is sexy, exciting, and passionate, or simple and unconditional.
The other day, I was spending some time with my lover’s father. Well, his surrogate father. He told me that love doesn’t care what happens. You do the things you have to do to love yourself and, at the same time, you have to give yourself completely to someone else in order to fan the flames of love forever. If you find true love, you hold on to it at all costs. You help each other–hold each other up. You have to, essentially, cut yourself open. Hide nothing. Get rid of your ego and your anger. Rid yourself of addictions. Do healthy things together. Enjoy the passion, but understand that you need a sustainable, slowly burning fire to make it through life with a lover by your side.
This is coming from a non-Buddhist man, who has lost everything, and who has everything too. Has the most beautiful marriage I have ever seen. He may not be a lama or a practitioner, but I am going to believe him as if he were the Dalai Lama.
Sometimes, we have to get down to the nitty-gritty. We have to have everything ripped away to realize what we had and to perfect it in the future. That is what the yab-yum is and what the yab-yum means…experiencing love in all its forms and on a guttural, stomach-wrenching level.
So go step on each other’s toes. See what happens. Just make sure you’re there for each other through the wind and the rain.
I love you.
Photo of yab-yum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Vassil. Photo of dancers courtesy of author.