Where Is Love?
Pure love is when you can love yourself and someone else without torturing yourself or the other person. You may ask, what is the fun if we cannot torture someone? No, I’m just kidding. When we can love in a genuine way, every challenge becomes workable and achievable, even awakening. Or marriage! Sometimes marriage seems more difficult to achieve than awakening.
When we cannot love fully, without ego or self-centricity, then love can feel like a burden, as though you’re completely bound up. That’s why sometimes people do weird and stupid things, even going so far as to kill their partner.
How does love, so soft and gentle, turn into violence? It happens because we confuse love with so much attachment, clinging and jealousy. When our disturbing emotions––anger, jealousy, passion––get mixed with love, then love becomes destructive. Of course, that’s not real love, it’s confusion. You may think you’re loving someone while all of this is happening, but actually you’re not even loving yourself. To cultivate genuine love, we need to connect with our sense of gentleness, the soft spot in our heart.
The Emotional Couple
Once when I was struggling with my emotions, my teacher told me a story. He said that there were these two yogis in Eastern Tibet––they were a couple. They would always fight and yell at each other. Not only did they fight and yell at home, but they would also go outside and yell at each other. One would be standing way up on a mountain ridge and the other one would be standing on a lower ridge and they both would be yelling very loudly because they were so far apart they couldn’t hear each other. But in the end, somehow they both accomplished a great realization and awakening.
My teacher said if you only looked at what they were doing from the outside, it might not seem like they were really practicing a yogic path. But then, he said, maybe they were actually using their strong emotions as a path, as a means of working with the mind.
So sometimes when you experience anger it may be good to remember that kind of story. You can think, “Oh, this could be nice. I don’t have to imitate that couple, but now that this anger is here, it’s OK. I can try to work with it.” You don’t have to try to create a situation of fighting and yelling, but if anger does come up, it’s OK. But please don’t try to create that in your family. It’s not necessary.
The Power of Silence
Sometimes I think the practice of silence can be really helpful. Not only silence in our speech, but silence in our thoughts. We can try not to engage in too many projections.
In meditation retreats sometimes we maintain silence. We do this thing called “functional speech,” only speaking when it’s absolutely necessary. So in love also this could be helpful. We could do “functional labeling.” Some mental labeling may be necessary for simple functioning through the day and that’s OK. But if some kind of label or judgment comes up about the person you love, and you see it’s not necessary, you can just drop it. Just drop it.
If we’re resistant to dropping the label, we can try to see why we want to torture ourselves with it: “I’ve had this kind of thought before. It didn’t lead me to a good result. So why do I want to do this again?” When we know what the result will be and we still keep doing the same thing hoping this time it will lead to a different result . . . isn’t that what we call insanity? It is not going to be different, unfortunately. It’s going to lead to the same result: pain. And so why do it?
Therefore, right from the beginning, try to connect with this original soft spot, this gentleness in your heart. This feeling is really gentle, soft, and vulnerable. It’s OK to connect with that, and feel it, and then relax.
Where to Find Love
We have seen so many times––in our lives and in the lives of others––how the process of sophisticating or complicating our loving heart has led to nothing but pain. It’s very clear.
Of course, if we have some kind of fixation on happiness being painful, then sure, we should go ahead and complicate our experience of love. If you want some kind of depression, if that’s your idea of happiness, or if you want some kind of deep emotional pain, if you enjoy your partner shouting and slamming doors at you, then sure, go ahead. In that case, you should label your love and make all kinds of projections and judgments and that will be fine. But if you don’t enjoy that, then don’t do it.
Let’s not do it.
Instead, let’s connect with this soft spot we feel in our heart, this gentle and vulnerable spot. That’s our beginning point.
From there, you can continue expanding this heart of love, feeling this sense of goodness within yourself. There’s nothing wrong with you. You have this precious human birth, this wonderful physical body. Even though we may not like our nose or ears or something, that’s OK. It’s no big deal, everyone has a different opinion about noses and ears.
And our mind’s original state is so beautiful, too. Our mind is full of awakening love and wisdom. So we start from there, by loving and appreciating ourselves and feeling this gentle soft spot in our heart. That’s where you’ll find love.
Finding the Soft Spot: An Exercise
When tension arises between you and someone else, just pausing for a moment to connect with the soft spot in your heart can mean the difference between a simple exchange and a violent outburst.
1. Recall a time recently when someone said something that upset you. Remember how you felt and sit quietly with that feeling for a moment.
2. Try not to add any labels or judgments, or any storyline. Breathe naturally. Try to connect with the soft spot, the gentleness in your heart. It’s okay if it feels vulnerable.
3. Stay with this feeling. Just feel it, and then relax.
4. Now that you have done this exercise, how do you feel about that situation and that person?
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche taught on these aspects of love and relationships in Seattle, Washington in 2015, and in Hartford, Connecticut and Washington DC in 2016.