Valentine's Day has been a special time for me for many years. As I've written in a previous blog post, Presence for Presents, it wasn't always. I once rolled my eyes at all the stereotypical romance promoted for this day of love. But I live in the 'love world' - that's what I call it - and that means love comes in many forms.
I'm that kind of person who finds joy in small things. I always connected to nature. I was told a young child told his mother that, "Tina is always smiling." Of course, that was from a young child's perspective - I wasn't always smiling! But, I was that person who generally lived in love... without trying and without knowing it. Even in the workplace, I used love as a tool. As a leader of a team, I did my best to use compassion in times of uncertainty or help me manage a difficult situation or empower my team. I also turned to love when I didn't know what else to do. I didn't really have a clue how to be a parent at 23 years old and single... so I decided I will simply love my daughter with every cell of my body and mind, and at least she would know love. That couldn't be a bad thing, right?
This was the love world I lived in. However, I was often (very often) without romantic love. From others' perspectives, I didn't have much either. I struggled financially. I did not travel much. I lived with my parents for several years until I could save a downpayment for a house. I was rarely adorned with gifts at times like Valentine's Day. I was single a lot. I was often questioned about my single-dom and received looks of pity. My response to this was usually that I loved my life as it was.
There were times over the years when I lost my sense of the love world. If I go back and reflect on those times, I would probably see that every single time, I lost a sense of myself. I forgot who I was. I disconnected from myself - the true source of love.
THIS is true love. Romantic love is fabulous, and I'm grateful I have a wonderful husband to share that with (who DOES adorn me with presents and presence). There probably isn't a better feeling in the world than the love a parent has for their children. And I'm grateful I'm lucky to have the privilege to experience that love... and receive a child's love back in return.
But... I've come to learn that these things, as important as they are to me... are not where true love lies. They could disappear. Depending on them as a source of happiness is seeking love externally.
My source of happiness, I have learned over the years, is finding love for me. That does not mean I need to pamper myself in the way many ads portray self-love. Rather, for me, that means an unconditional acceptance of myself. Really, you can get a weekly massage and a daily bath and take time to do all the things you love, and if you don't have complete self-acceptance, you still do not have self-love.
My Valentine's Day is every day. Love is a practice. If we cannot find love within ourselves, the external sources of love will never satisfy us. We will always feel like we are seeking love. Love and acceptance of ourselves is sometimes difficult, but like I tell my students, when you can become friends with all parts of yourself, the things you like and do not like, you can experience love... and then, and only then, can you spread it around.
As a yogi, I practice love everyday (practice meaning I'm not always successful). However, I also love Valentine's Day and I definitely do chocolate and special activities. Do these things make me happy? Of course! The difference is that I practice not depending on them for my happiness.
"Only love of the absolute, eternal truth is the greatest." ~ Naradi Bhakti Sutras 1.81