When I compose these articles I tend to write from whatever my current preoccupation is. This time I am musing on love, realising that this is an unrealistically ambitious topic for a short piece. Accordingly it is a collection of threads that are part of my living – marriages, children and my spiritual journeying through reflections on Rumi.
January to early April sees me in the thick of the wedding season, meeting couples and writing ceremonies of marriage with and for them. Love and marriage are expected to go together, so love gets to be a big part of what we talk about and what I am challenged to write about in a way that makes sense to all the different couples!
Some want it simple, nothing too frilly or romantic - “We only know what we have always known, that without love we live alone.” (Denis Glover)
Some find a poem or reading that expresses the essence of what they mean to each other, so for example, “Love is friendship that has caught fire …” (unknown) or “because to the depths of me, I long to love one person, with all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body...” (Mari Nichols)
Many welcome it as an opportunity to acknowledge each other in ways we often don’t make the time or place to do.
“ … I love you for putting your hand into my heaped up heart and passing over all the foolish, weak things that you can’t help dimly seeing there, ad for drawing out into the light all the beautiful belongings that no one else had looked quite far enough to find…” (Roy Croft)
And sometimes the marriage is a celebration of a long love and friendship. “Young love is a flame – very pretty – often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
I am deeply privileged to participate in people’s lives at this level. Time and again I get to reflect myself on love. It helps keep me softer and more loving, both toward myself as it reminds me of the best that as humans we can aspire to and toward others as I share their journey of making sense of our being human.
Today, as I was writing this, a friend sent me one of those quick flick emails that go around every so often. It’s heading – “What does love mean?” A group of professional people had posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds. The following responses really appealed to me.
"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love." Rebecca- age 8
"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." Tommy - age 6
"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget." Jessica - age 8
The children’s responses point to an understanding of love over time, of love surviving challenges and our need to know we are loved. I am a step-grandmother, Nonni K, to two young children. My step-son has only been in our lives for the last eight years as he was adopted at birth. So almost simultaneously we have become birth father and step mother and warmly welcomed and now loved grandparents. No rules for this experience, just an intention to be loving and loved, that we grow into with each visit.
My spiritual journey encompasses mystical Sufism – in particular the writings and teachings of Rumi. I am currently reading and reflecting on a book by Kabir Edmund Helminski – “Living Presence – A Sufi way to mindfulness & the essential self.”
One of the chapters is entitled “What we love we will become”. I find that certain sentences leap out for my contemplation; “whatever the soul chooses to love, it will resemble.” And therefore what we choose to love is important.”
In talking about love for the Spirit or agape he talks of how “Spirit within us can love Spirit in everything. “…our openness, our relatedness, and our engagement are the measure of our love.”
Easier perhaps for me to do when working with couples on their marriage, definitely an energy I endeavour to bring to all my work, even when dealing with people experiencing strife or overwhelm in their work and living.
When I am asked “how are things” - I will often reply, “I am blessed to lead a full life.” Usually meaning I have been really busy! What might be more real and truthful is that “I am blessed to lead a full and loving life.”
When I remarried in 2000 we had the following blessing:
May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk, this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
Our every day a day in a paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
A seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
An omen as welcome as the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe how spirit mingles in this marriage - Rumi
I could replace the word marriage with the word life and I would have some way of speaking to the blessed life I lead as I am indeed, “out of words to describe how spirit mingles in this life.”