Longing After Loss

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Out
Of a great need
We are all holding hands
And climbing.
Not loving is a letting go.
Listen,
The terrain around here
Is
Far too
Dangerous
For
That.
—Hafiz

Falling in love can enliven us. Feeling seen and held can ground us; it can put us at ease. Love can also grant us a sense of safety and security. Falling out of love, on the other hand, can unravel us.

Losing love can trigger a cycle of craving and attachment that not only exacerbates our suffering but also can last a long time. As a feeling that once seemed like it would last forever starts to fade, we can become so addicted to the feeling of having been in love that we are willing to try anything to maintain that feeling—by “fixing” our former bond, changing ourselves, or persuading our partner to change. We might even be willing to endure difficult, or even unhealthy, situations in order make that love last. In the face of loss, our minds become fixated on finding something— anything—to fill that void left by love’s absence. Because loss on this level can make us feel we are not worthy of being loved at all, we also become guarded and therefore unwilling to be vulnerable once more. We can risk the hardening of our hearts.

When faced with such loss, great spiritual teachers often warn against this very thing: building fortresses to guard our hearts. These teachers ask us not to abandon love because it is a profound experience necessary for compassion. Rather, they encourage us to recognize more stable and fundamental sources of love within ourselves instead of some external source. Tsoknyi Rinpoche calls this “essence love.” Read More

The Pharmacy of Desire

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An American success story: A college graduate gets a good job and marries. The couple drives a beautiful car, a consolation for their terrible commute. Work pays well but requires callous decisions. Expensive vacations and a lovely home recompense for the sacrifice not only of time, but also of ideals. Contentment, however, remains elusive; an underlying anger burns. The additional cocktail flames the anger into vindicating rage. Marriage lapses into emptiness; children become strangers; affairs end unpleasantly.

This is a pattern of addiction, but addiction to what? Each candidate seems as much a symptom as a cause: wealth, possessions, pleasure, rage, alcohol.

According to Augustine, “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, O Lord.” In the Christian tradition, the soul is eros: a desire for luminous and uncreated Good. What marks this desire are interior peace (apatheia) and unconditional love (agape). The deeper into divine union one sinks, the more one is able to feel love, compassion, and joy. Read More