Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer of LOVE

This has been the summer of LOVE with four weddings. The last, in LA, we regret we will not attend. The three in which we have participated were each a breath of fresh air, incorporating the uniqueness of the couple with a practical sensibility of aptly entertaining guests in simpler, more meaningful ways.

Sunday, we were in the woods for the ceremony, the rain spattering then holding off until we were all safely tucked into the big, beautiful barn before the torrential downpour. This wedding was truly about community. Neighbors actually grew wildflowers from seed that adorned the tables and ceremony arch and a core crew assembled the stunning arrangements. Favors were woven friendship bracelets reading abiding love crafted by Phillipino women working themselves out of prostitution. The bride had participated in the World Race journeying to 11 countries in 11 months as a missionary among the most marginalized people. That’s where she served the women weavers.

Like the event we attended two weeks earlier, this too was centered on a farm. The message seems to be back to the roots, making these ceremonies grounded, earthy and very inviting.

And then this young couple pushed the envelope a bit farther (than half their guests being children and another chunk beautifully multi-cultural). They asked us to watch a video that really was a sermon. They described it as the theme of the wedding, matching the abiding-love favors. Far from the quiet simplicity of my Quaker Meeting, I was reading text and listening to booming voices on a video monitor. It’s not my style and yet I was compelled to listen because I know the bride and this must be important.

The gist of the message was that God doesn’t match us with perfect partners in marriage for a very specific reason: we learn God’s unconditional love when we are forced to forgive the other’s imperfections. This WAS big news. I have learned that you don’t marry intending to change the other, but had not considered how we are moved toward pure love when challenged. Of course it’s easy to have unconditional love for your children (even if you may not like their behavior in the moment), but it’s much more of a journey to love your spouse despite their fault and deficiencies. Let alone how they have to live and love with yours.

As I mulled over the message on the drive home, forgiveness as part of that process of living into unconditional love arose. It may have been a remnant of the day before when I attended a metaphysical retreat on opening your heart via Taraka yoga. I had no idea what I was signing up for, just went because it spoke deeply to me.

The gentle facilitator suggested metaphysics is the joining of mind and spirit and took us on a journey of 13 steps, where we reflected on our most recent seven-year cycle. Thos steps included some interesting assignments. The first was a half hour of free writing about love in your life in those seven years. Used to journaling, my pen flowed freely to the point of tiring my hand. We had a break, then came back and listed 100 attributes of love. As I rendered more, others labored to get to 100. I believe regular journaling keeps me open to these activities.

In three different exercises, we were asked to look at our first, stream-of-consciousness writing and identify a place where we could forgive someone, a place we could ask for forgiveness and where we felt love had been denied. We wrote a letter granting forgiveness, then symbolically burned it. We drafted a letter seeking forgiveness, forgave ourselves looking in a mirror and were given an envelope if we intended to send it. Watching myself in the mirror was very hard, but the longer I did it, the more I softened and quit looking for the flaws and noticed the child of God peering back. I know last week’s challenge by my best friend to post 5 photos on Facebook in which I felt beautiful prepared me for this. Seemingly random, I know Spirit has been at work on me.

Once again, we were asked to return to the original entry and identify all of the people we mentioned, one attribute of that person and whether they would have seized that opportunity of denied love.

And then it was time for another list of 100, the I-am list. We were each handed a mirror and requested to spend 10 minutes gazing at ourselves, right between the eyebrows. That, was not easy; many of us groaned. The last time I spent much time looking in a mirror was during a shamanic breathwork retreat. Again, I had no idea what I had signed up for, but my young daughter had slipped her purple princess mirror in my purse as a marker of her presence with me. I did take a journey during the session and was forced to look in a mirror. I resisted, assuming I would see evil or ugliness. When I finally screwed up the courage, all I saw was myself. Nothing scary. This time, I further softened the critic in me and began to receive the eyes of unconditional love.

Putting the mirrors aside, we were asked to compare our “love is” and “I am” lists for matching words. Boy, was that interesting. We ran short of time, yet I managed to squeak in a quick sketch of a heart inside a circle surrounded by the shared words, the final step.

I have since delivered my request for forgiveness, which was met with a hug even though the recipient has not yet read its contents. And I also understand that my partnership, my marriage, is about growing into unconditional love not just for myself, but for another who is also less than perfect.

• How do I define unconditional love?
• Where do I experience it?
• Where do I give it?
• How have I been able to forgive myself?
• When do I see myself as a child of God?

all of these
lovely brides

in flowing white

committing themselves
in community

out there and upfront

to unconditional love,
the hardest kind

but the one with the
best example

it has been a
summer of love

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