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Refelctions on Love

Every February, across the country and around the world, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine, all to honor love. I found it interesting to explore the history of Valentine’s Day a bit before writing about this special day. If you want to learn more, too, take a look:’s_Day

Though for many Valentine’s Day seems like a holiday manufactured by Hallmark, I still am grateful that a day has been set aside inviting us to reflect on love. Opening to love is a key ingredient to knowing deep happiness.

So what is love? It is so much more that remembering to bring flowers or sending a card. Love is heartfelt and pure. It is playful and direct. It dares to reveal faults trusting they will be forgiven. It is the safe place we initiate our boldest, strongest self. It is the soft place we can admit our weariness, confusion and express our doubts. Authentic love is a willingness to learn from our mistakes. It is freedom rather than restriction, and a bond rather than bondage. It calls for encouragement rather than judgment. It is tenderness, anticipation, truth, kindness, flexibility, and acceptance. It nurtures true listening, honors silence, and demands an honest answer. It allows the sharing of laughter and sadness. It puts happiness above being right and is committed to finding the path through challenges. It is a hug held until connection is made, a sigh that says it all, a tolerance of silence, and a welcoming harbor for the unexpected process of personal growth. Love is innocent and wise. It is a reflection of the Divine from the inside out.

Authentic love starts with self-love, and our happiness is the greatest gift of love we can give another. And yet, loving our self and designing our own joy is too often overlooked in favor of finding our fulfillment through another and attempting to keep up with the unrealistic expectations of our circumstances. Effortful caring, controlling, worry, and loving others at the expense of our own well being makes the love we offer them more of a liability than an asset. The mis-belief that you cannot be whole without another is co-dependent love. It is only an illusion of what we long for. Coercing someone into being who we want him or her to be comes from fear, not connection. Love holds gently in a way that strengthens the bond created, and lets go willingly for the highest and best for all.

As a non-denominational minister I feel honored to be a part of significant life events. One is officiating at weddings. Some couples I see walk through the motions of commitment far more focused on the dress or the cake than the intentions of the words they express to one another. The words exchanged are each couples definition of love, and their blueprint for their journey through life together. Some couples I feel to my core mean what they say and offer one another their wholeness, while others instead offer their unfinished business and unrealistic expectations. Some are playing out the fairy tale rather than consciously designing a durable love because they failed to love themselves first. Love also teaches, offers opportunities for growth, and stretches us. And my mom always said, “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.”

Rob Breszny is someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a fun and provocative writer considered by some as a renegade genius whose syndicated Free Will Astrology column runs in 130 newspapers nation-wide. I get a kick out of his ability to challenge ordinary thinking. He has also written a fun read, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia (North Atlantic Books; $19 paper) in which he poses fresh possibilities in a chapter, I Me Wed. Here he emphasizes that loving yourself first is a pre-requisite for loving another authentically ( Ron suggests that, “Because none of us is ever likely to find our perfect partner until we master the art of loving ourselves with great ingenuity, a self-wedding ritual can be the transformative magic that induces the arrival of a challenging new consort into our lives, or else brings the renaissance of an existing intimate relationship.”

I find this an idea worth pondering. Would you marry you? Have you taken the time to learn to enjoy your own company? Have you come to know and accept your unique gifts? Have you taken full accountability and responsibility for your own joy? Do you love yourself in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer? Have you ever looked boldly in the mirror, cherishing whom you see and offering gratitude for the person reflected before you, flaws and all?

My favorite prayer is, “Dear God, Help me accept the truth about my self, no matter how magnificent it is.”

It is essential that we come to a place of understanding that self-love doesn’t mean the kind of selfish love that excludes. This kind of self-centeredness is self-absorbed and insensitive, not genuine. At a higher degree of consciousness and with a clearer intention being self-centered means being centered within our self. Loving from the inside out. Loving from our insight-out. We then become a true gift to another. This is the love that heals, builds bridges, and makes peace possible. Love becomes our presence. Love is being fully present.

If, on this Valentine’s Day you were to wed yourself, celebrating your own magnificence by writing yourself a love letter of apprecia