Lust and Spirit: What’s Love Got to Do with It?
Valentine’s Day is here, and all kinds of stories are being published by experts, and all kinds of industries selling postcards, chocolates and teddy bears are attempting to profit from commercializing love, romance and soulmate-ship.
Nothing necessarily wrong with it if you literally do not buy into it.
Perhaps you have already noticed that I like to investigate everything that is presented to me. I am not too impressed with status quo in anything, and occasionally assume the role of a spiritual detective or BS-detector.
So let’s look at Valentine’s Day and the obsession with love, romance, and marriage. According to pop songs and postcard industry, these things can beautifully be aligned after, of course, suitable but exciting obstacles are overcome. They tell us that first we romantically fall in love, then we experience, after the suitable obstacles of romance novels, the final happiness of everlasting marriage.
And, to be fair, sometimes this happens. There are rare but amazing couples who were each other’s first and last love, were never unfaithful to each other, their romance stayed intense until they died, etc.
I am willing to make a small exception for them, although I am pretty sure that if you speak to them, they will tell you of some lonely years, some disappointments and adjustments, and lots of hard work to preserve what they originally have had.
For most people, however, it is not their experience and, perhaps, it should not be and, perhaps, it was not intended to be so at all.
Now, please do not get upset here, and please give me the benefit of doubt. Let’s look into the history of romance, marriage, and soulmate-ship.
This is a topic, by the way, that I have been obsessing about for some years, and wrote about in my novel The House of the Beloved.
Historically speaking, romantic love was an invention of twelfth-century troubadours from Provence in Southern France. The troubadours were the singing poets, who introduced the concept of loving a beautiful woman who was unattainable.
So, in times when marriages were arranged, the troubadours invented a courtly love, a romantic worship of a chosen beloved, not to marry her but to hold her as a romantic ideal of love that could be consummated only in secret and in great danger to the lovers.
Otherwise, they would argue, what was the point in just marriage for procreation? A boring proposition for any poet, across time.
It was they who had invented secret meetings between lovers and who had glorified this sort of love. Thus in its origin, romantic love was often separate from duties of marriage at worst or just a precursor to childbearing. Either way, it was not intended as something that was meant to last, not in its romantic form anyway.
Still, that does not mean that we should resign ourselves to a boring love life, or worse, a loveless life. In my life, I have been very lucky, and I am a big believer of allowing ourselves to experience each kind of love.
So let me share my journey with you.
In my life, I truly loved three men.
One, my first husband from Toronto, with that young love that is supposed to fulfill all your expectations of love in one person. This almost never works. Often, when so young, we also project both our ideals and our faults on others and want them to complete us. You complete me, often heroes of romantic movies say.
My second love was a mad romance which, like all great romances, had a tumultuous end — well, beginning, middle, and end. But I have no regrets because who can blame years of great passion and sexual attraction? It is something to behold, and then let go of.
If you take passion to the limit, as I did, it will take you to many places where perhaps you would not choose to go, that wild ride, but also it will either burn itself out or burn you out.
Remember that romantic passion and morality can often clash.
My third love was a meeting of two souls, of great emotional, sensual, and spiritual depth. If the experience of love can be graded, I would call it a higher love. This love can come only after the experience of other loves.
That depth of understanding and baring each other’s beings from moment to moment is on a different scale altogether, and comes from both experience and grace. It is sublime and grounded at the same time.
It is romantic because of the depth of feelings, but it is wiser and more honest as it has an additional dimension to it of spiritual connection, something that popular literature refers to as soulmate-ship.
It is my belief, however, that it is almost impossible to get to this point without two prerequisites:
Prior experiences with different types of love, including romance and passion, and even more importantly, some form of spiritual practice, such as meditation.
In the end, love mirrors the state of our heart, mind, and soul, and how could you have a soulmate without looking first into your soul and taking responsibility for what is there?
I believe that ultimately we attract partners to learn more about ourselves and grow spiritually, both on the human and divine level, and not to be perpetually entranced in each other’s presence, however sexy as it might sound.
Even the romantic and sexual entrancement are there for a while to show us that this elation is within us, and the other only triggered it in us for a moment. That is why it can’t last in its present form. But it can last if we work on ourselves and find it within us, and with practice, stay permanently established in that feeling.
Now, what this means for you, only you can know this.
If I were to give my younger self an advice, this is what I would say to myself: Remember, wherever you are, you chose to be there. Whatever other choice you would have made, it would also have had both positive and negative consequences. If there is no growth or depth in the relationship, remember you chose to be there and you can choose to leave as well.
The only thing that truly matters is that you continue to grow and explore what love means to you. Not the technicolor romance propagated by romance novels and Hollywood, although if you choose it, it will be exciting and will teach you many lessons. Not necessarily marriage and childbirth, although if you chose it, it will have its rewards and satisfactions.
Not the one that asks you to sacrifice yourself over and over again, unless this is what you truly believe is what you want to experience in love. And I hope, not the one that worships you all the time because it is an infantile desire and there is no growth in it.
Whatever you choose, choose what helps you grow and expands you, even if, and especially if, this is not what you have heard or expected of love previously. That is the adventure of love.
Ask yourself, how would you like the mandala of your love to look now? And when you have your answer, paint that mandala with your life.
Dr. Joanna Kujawa is the author of Jerusalem Diary (a spiritual travelogue) and many short stories, essays and academic pieces. She sees herself as a Spiritual Detective who asks difficult questions about spirituality, such as ‘Can spirituality and sexuality be experienced as one?’, ‘Who was the real Mary Magdalene?’, ‘How can we include eco-spirituality in our belief systems?’ and ‘How can we bring back the Divine Feminine to create a more balanced and interconnected world?’ Her goal is to create and participate in the shift in consciousness about spirituality, our connection to nature, and our place in the Universe. She has PhD from Monash University, and MA and BA from the University of Toronto. She is immoderately passionate about her Goddess News blog. You could connect with her via her website, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.