Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Love's a Skill

I’ve often wondered about Love, what it actually is. It seems so intertwined, so many life facets operating on so many planes. How to define it? Especially when it’s bandied about so freely. Talk show hosts and guests in familiar mutual self-promotion mode. “I love this guy” type statements.

The pull of youthful nature to couple with another human being — to feel and to be felt, to smell and to be smelt, to kiss and to be kissed. How those passions progress over thirty or forty years of marriage. How the young look at their parents and can’t wait to move on with their own lives. How their parents see themselves in their children. How the two find it impossible to communicate their feelings.

How frequently Love is used as a Twitter hashtag — how it peaks at 5:00 PM and again at 8:00 PM.

How the word #Love — even though it’s sincerely meant by many a conveyor and felt by many a listener — somehow gets lost in the sentimentality repetition engenders. In a masterful popular song lyric, for instance:

What's it all about, Alfie, is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?

And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?

As sure as I believe there's a Heaven above, Alfie
I know there's something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in 

I believe in #love, Alfie 
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you've missed
You're nothing, Alfie

When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you'll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie
 © Alfie - Music & Words: Burt Bacharach, Hal David

And yet, when Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, or Cilla Black reaches the payoff line, I believe in love, Alfie, it sends a chill down our backs and we forget about definitions and believe we really know what it means. Then, when the song is over, we ask ourselves, once again, What does it mean? Is it “I believe in #hashtag Love, (fill in your lover’s name here) or is it remaining married for 40 years and being able to live and laugh together?

Whitney Houston in concert 1997
The Magnificent Whitney Houston at the very moment she tells Alfie, "I believe in love."

And even though we understand in our minds that a big part of it is only a hashtag cliché, we know, there are occasions when it transcends banality. Nevertheless, until a few days ago, I didn’t know what love was, and now I do: Love is a Skill.

A few days ago, in a meeting, a writers group was discussing the meaning of love, going through the usual changes, the sharps and the flats of our various triumphs and failures, until someone said they’d heard phrase, Love is a Skill and it resonated. And, it fell into place for me, because I looked back and realized how unskilled I’ve been for most of my life. At that same instant, I reflected on how Love, when treated like a Skill, is closely tied to self-remembering.

It’s the difference between Reacting and Responding, a shift from emotional to mental, or mnemonic. Reacting is immediate; Responding is the moment one uses to remember one’s self before rejoining the fray. It is, in fact, stepping outside the fray, seeing the fray as an enactment with all the players, one’s self included, strutting and fretting. A true out-of-body experience.

So if Love is more than a hashtag, it must be different than Tin Pan Alley love, just as passion and lust are different than sitting around the kitchen table discussing the family finances, and coming out of the discussion without once raising one’s voice.

There’s a lot of talk about civility today, and rightly so: That instead of calling people names, thinking of them as #Assholes, we need to see people as unskilled or inexperienced in the various arts and sciences of love and/or the practices of civility.

Sex is one thing; Love is another. Not to say that sex has no place in Love; it does. But it’s not the only thing. Yes, it’s the thing we get lost in (like we get lost in a song), the thing that gives us immense pleasure (like a roller coaster or other thrill). And, yes, it has to be done right, mutually accepted and mutually satisfying.

Love is the skill (art and science) of dealing with other human beings, playing a hand of cards, shuffling them around expertly: the money card, the sex card, the prestige card, the power card, the health card, the pride card, etc. Some decks have more cards than others; some players have to play more cards than others at any one time. It’s the hand you’re dealt with and how you play it. What does this have to do with Kundalini?

Progressively, Kundalini gives us an other ethereal, subtle body that allows us to detach ourselves, to observe the daily reenactments, instead of getting swept up in them. It helps us to witness the realities on the physical plane, instead of idealizing them. And that’s why I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a #Soulmate because this notion, if built on sex alone, crumbles over time, as the body debilitates.

Could it exist? Yes, if, when one partner plays a card, the other knows how and when to play the right card in return. It would mean a mutual stepping back to witness an enactment from outside the body — an ability Kundalini readily confers upon those it favors.


  1. I've heard it said that love is the most misused word in the English language. Going back to some of my previous courses, there are three types of love: eros - attraction or sexual, philia - brotherly love, agape - unconditional love as of the nature of God. The latter could be defined as wishing for others the best of every circumstances. It would include being concerned for their spiritual development and welfare. In a marriage, all three exist (or should exist) the latter becoming more prevalent as the relationship deepens. I experienced Kundalini as a transforming energy that strips away the impediments (or some) that lie within my subtle body that prevented me from loving properly and completely. It seems to me that it used the energy that is usually expended in eros to transform and raise us to new levels of philia and agape love, so much so that the experience of the Divine's love for us and our love for the Divine merge into one. We must never forget that the Divine's unconditional love for us is or can be a "real experienced reality". Our returned love for the Divine is a reciprocal response to that love received. With this merging or union, resulting largely from the restoration process of Kundalini, we move into that which cannot be explained through the intellect. Saint Paul described it as: I live now, not I but Christ who lives in me. Or "I AM" because "I am" not. Or as Thomas Merton said: The greatest joy on earth is to freed from the prisons of our own false self, and to enter, with love, in union with the One who dwells and sings withing the essence of every creature and the core of our souls.

    1. Okay, let’s examine the three types of love through the filter of Love is a skill. The difference between my hypothesis (love is a skill) and yours is that mine is a learning process and yours is a series of layers that one may, or may not, get stuck in or advance through. An active, rather than a passive model — one i which you try to improve in. Anyway, it's food for debate, as we try to define love.

      Type One - Eros - sexual attraction: Here one learns the art of lovemaking, hopefully avoiding the pitfalls of lust. The problem with relationships based on sex: one partner is usually more #FuckNeedy than the other, and therefore, abdicates the power in the relationship. This kind of love is okay when you’re young (you’ll survive), but disastrous if you’re older. Fortunately, I went through it when I was young. What helped me get through this layer was getting dumped by someone I’d lived with for four years. Misery is a great teacher; I vowed it wouldn’t happen again. Not that I spurned commitment, I was better able to detach myself, to base relationships on something more complete than sex.

      Type Two - Philia - brotherly love: This layer is skill-intensive, providing many opportunities to learn the card playing aspect of love I referred to in my original post — relationships based on sensitivity, finesse and empathy. Not only putting yourself in your partner’s place, but also making empathy the basis of all relationships.

      Type Three - Agape - unconditional love as of the nature of God: For me, this layer cannot be learned, rather it is conferred. I’m going to be honest here and confess that I understand it intellectually, that it occurs, much like Shaktipat does, but I don’t live it on a daily basis. In fact, when I hear people claim they live this state, I’m suspicious. Why? So many well-known Gurus have been unmasked as frauds of one sort or another. Is it any wonder? The way this state is described demands the composure and the inner power of Christ on the cross. I don’t see this type of love in action on the street or anywhere around me, and I’m not surprised, given the present state of the world. But hey, what do I know?

      My Kundalini was aroused through meditation and although I experienced an all-pervasive consciousness whose vibrations emanated throughout my being, bathing me in feelings of love synonymous with your description, I was never able to carry this condition over to the real world. Nevertheless, I do feel that I may be able to do this sometime in the future, as I continue to evolve. I’m not going to force it; I’ll let it come to me through the work Kundalini does on me every day.

    2. Your responses, both of them, are more gentle and more honest than I deserve. I was thinking I should delete my post, but decided to leave it there as a reminder to myself to try to more reflective of what I am reading in the future. The "stance" of the prodigal who experienced his awakening but is rushing home to seek the Father's assistance is far better than of the dutiful elder son, who may have stayed home, but remained blind, because he thought he could see much more than he did. It's those more deeply ingrained habitual tendencies that perhaps kundalini has not yet reached in me.
      Just as a sideline note, on the Myers Briggs personality scale, I am INFP: that is introverted, intuitve, feeling, perceptual. My feelings are largely on the inside, so I experience things quite intensely. I don't know why I'm that particular type. I didn't choose it. I write about what I experience inside,but that does not mean that it gets translated perfectly into my outward actions. I kind of wish I could, but it hasn't happened yet. I guess all I can say is that in little ways I try, and for now, I have to be satisfied with that. And that's all anyone can do. Forgive me for being a little preachy. It's a hangover from my pre-kundalini time. I really like your honesty. It's real.

    3. Please don't delete your post. I'm no expert on the subject; there are no experts, except in the movies. I'm only looking at it from the perspective of personal experience. That's all I can do.

      I'm probably INFP, too. The fact that I now do this work is an effect of kundalini, pushing me to reveal and discuss experiences openly. I certainly wasn't meaning to criticize your comment; I've come across these definitions before and found them useful, just as I now find the notion of "Love's a Skill" useful. It's one more reason to remember myself as I enter into the flow of a human interaction.

      While Kundalini works on me, I can't standstill. I have to contribute to the work in my own way, namely trying to respond, instead of reacting. Grab myself before blurting out. Thinking of love as a skill gives me a moment to look for something "loveable" in the person I'm dealing with. Does it always work? No, but at least I know it's there, and I can train myself to come back to it during difficult interactions.

      Thankfully, there's still a long way to go. Lots to learn.

  2. Consider this passage from the Tao-Te-Ching by Lao tzu

    The world tells me Dao is great,
    It resembles no description.
    Because it is great
    It is beyond comparison.
    If it could be construed
    It would have shrunk long ago.
    Three treasures I cherish:
    The first is fathomless love,
    The second is frugality,
    The third is reluctance to lead.
    From love comes courage,
    From frugality generosity,
    From reticence comes leadership.
    To be daring without loving,
    To be generous without care,
    To be forward without reticence,
    Lead to nothing but death.
    To venture with Love is to win the battle;
    To defend with Love is to be invulnerable;
    Heaven saves and guards through love.

    1. Beautiful passage, Neil. It's so hard to capture in words the experience that flows from this inner connection, but this passage from the Tao brings one in touch with that mystery. I admire the ones who can bring this out as an expression of the Divine within, something we all possess but very elusive for most, and even myself at times. I have found that kundalini has dissolved most of the constructs of the Divine as conveyed through my conventional religious formation and replaced it with something much more simple and very close. I'm not sure where this will eventually lead me, but is something that can't be denied. Thanks for the passage.

    2. From reticence comes leadership. To be forward without reticence leads to nothing but death. It's amazing how wisdom words can sometime convict me. Thanks again Neil for the Tao.