“You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer.”
– Paul McCartney
I. Love is a Dance
When I strip away all the romantic drivel and idealistic bullshit that buries our ability to distinguish fact from fiction, I see very clearly that one person loving another person, even in the most committed relationship, is just a shared and often clumsy dance to a common song that plays for a time. The dance may be brief, or it may last many years. It may even occupy a large period of one’s overall life. Eventually, however, it will end, because, in the words of the Buddha, “whatever arises also passes away.” So enjoy the dance with all the passion you can muster, but remember, it’s just a dance, just a dance.
You and I are utterly irrelevant in this thing called “love,” just as we are utterly irrelevant in the vastness of the cosmos, its evolution, and eventual annihilation. The cosmos is the dance. What is happening right now is this dance. What you call your “self” is a movement in the dance, and so in the dance and expressing it, but in an important sense utterly irrelevant to it. It isn’t that you exist and this “you” is irrelevant. It’s that there is no “you” there in the first place to be either relevant or irrelevant. Phenomena we call thoughts, feelings, and sensations – Yes. But at the heart of these experiences there is no “you” to be found. An apparent you – Yes. There is only emptiness that manifests now and then as the person you take yourself to be. When it is clearly seen that “I” am absent, life becomes playful, and this playfulness is the precondition for experiencing love as the dance.
For a long time I thought that what made love so difficult was impermanence, the impermanence of the world, self, and thus all relationships. I’ve concluded that what makes love so difficult is actually the belief and subsequent interest in permanence and the acquisition of an identity from the apparent other. The problem isn’t that the world (or our experience) is a particular way, namely impermanent. It’s that we are attached to it being something or someway other than it is. From this arises the belief that impermanence threatens rather than enhances or enriches love and relationships.
II. She is not My Other Half
What does this “being in love” mean? Among other things, a most powerful, very powerful attraction. What does this attraction mean?
If I truly understand what my attraction to her means, I will clearly see that it’s not a call to get something from her that I lack within myself; rather, it’s a revelation of what must be sought within myself. Her beauty truly lies concealed within my own heart as my own inner beauty. She is perhaps a poet, maybe a singer, a repository and transmitter of eternal wisdom, or a healer of the psyche. Maybe she’s a wonderful cook, someone with a contagious sense of humor, or someone who quotes my favorite authors. The irresistible attraction I feel towards her is my very self beckoning me to return to the depths of my inner life and find her beauty as my own. It’s the inner invitation of my unconscious life to discover myself as the poet, singer, philosopher, healer, or cook, and then to cultivate this beauty as my own, as a lotus flower arising from my own heart.
If I take this path, I become a giver of the beauty I find within myself, not one who steals the beauty of another. My love becomes a movement of myself, clearly seen, towards another also clearly seen. I see her as she is because my projection is withdrawn, and I need nothing she freely gives. She cannot complete me. This is know. I’m already complete in myself. I cannot love her on account of what she gives. I can only love her for who she is.
She is not my other half. I’m not her other half. We are each already whole. Therefore, our love lacks nothing, needs nothing, not even each other. This love, and this love alone, is capable of consciously and richly giving itself.
III. The Self Searching for Love is Searching for Itself
When there arises in you a desire for another to complete you, inquire into the origin of this desire. The desire to be completed by another is none other than some part of you seeking completion beyond itself. The essential thing to see is that beyond this part is the whole, and you – not another person – are that.
The search for love “out there” in a person or relationship will always disappoint. It isn’t that love is not found out there, but there really is no “out there” in which love is found. If you find love in another, it’s because it has been first realized in yourself.
When your attraction to another repeatedly brings you back to yourself, to your own inner depths, to experience your inner life, however blissful or painful, with utter clarity and the most intimate tenderness, you are prepared to give love to another like never before. You are prepared to dance. You are prepared to be a dancing lover.