11 July 2014

Nica Reflections: Loving with Non-Attachment

In the spirit of being totally brave and unfiltered (practice makes perfect, right?)...

This post contains my second set of post-Nicaragua reflections (you can read my first post about Mental vs Physical Space here.) In addition to what I learned about bringing my new found superhero mindset into my everyday life, I also learned some pretty significant things about love on my trip. Not coincidentally (because are there really coincidences?), I started reading Paulo Coelho's By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept shortly after coming home, and my realizations about love have continued to unfold and take shape. I will share a few of my favorite excerpts from the book throughout this post, as they perfectly align with where my heart is presently.

On the beautifully welcoming, wide spans of sand in Nicaragua, the relationship between love and attachment came to me. After a rose quartz necklace that an ex-boyfriend gave me suddenly broke in two, I was called to retreat to the beach and reflect back on our chapter together. I thought that I had learned all that I could from it and that I was at peace with where we landed, but the spontaneous break in my heart chakra crystal told me otherwise. There was more to glean... more to let go of.

Instead of blaming or holding onto "what if's," as I had done in the past, I was called to consider how I had contributed to our struggle. What arose was the realization and acceptance that two half empty people don't make a whole. In an effort to try to salvage our confused love, riddled with holes because it lacked love of self, I tried to bottle it. I tried to contain my partner and to get so close that I could understand him and overwhelm him with love. I was hungry for connection and communication, and when it didn't come naturally, I felt that I must capture him - capture our love in a jar. Maybe then, existing in our own tiny ecosystem, it would make sense, be fulfilling, and satisfy us. How wrong I was. In the process of trying to confine our love, I stifled him and lost myself. Attaching to him didn't make it easier to love and accept him. In fact, it made it impossible. He felt the pressure, cramped in a tiny space of resentment and desperation, and he would power down and shut me out. And, in this state of hyper-focusing on how to connect with my partner, I didn't leave any room to deeply know, trust, and love myself. Lose-lose. 

This excerpt sums it up well:

Love is wild. It's curious. It wanders and takes us by surprise. Like the lovers themselves, love needs air to breathe and grow. It's not meant to be captured. It's not meant to be confined in efforts to understand it or control it. It's meant to be free. When we attach to it, infusing it with our worldly ideas about how it must serve us and what it should look like, we suck the life out of it. We deprive it of the air it requires to burn on and take us to new heights.

Think about attachment in general. Attachment creates pressure and expectation. And when you have an expectation, you judge based on a certain idea of what it will be like, what will happen, how long it will last, what it should be... Expectation (and the anticipated effect), specifically as it relates to positive outcomes, looks like this:

- I will get the job (and then I will be ok)
- We will get married (and then I will be happy)
- She will arrive on time (and then I will exhale)
- He will call me (and then I will be worthy)
- He will change (and then I will accept him)

Expectation is living in the future, projecting your limited knowledge of the past and present conditions onto how that might look at an inaccessible future point in time. It makes no sense. When you are expecting, you are not grounded in the present. Just the opposite, in fact. In an effort to control and cling to an all-knowing, hopeful concoction of what is to come, you sacrifice trust in the Universe and the ability to stay present to the current magic around you. How can you live in gratitude when you are fixated on what comes next? You can't. In setting a bar, a restricted idea of what should be, you ultimately impede your ability to accept whatever is

When you crouch in that place of expectancy with love, you don't allow enough space to let it be what it wants to, to drift where it pleases, to surprise you, and to evolve. You stagnate its growth and you cloud your own ability to sit in an honorable seat of observation, acceptance, and gratitude. This learning is what came into crystal clear focus (pun intended) on my trip. But the seed was planted weeks prior...

Before I left for Nicaragua, I connected with someone in a way I never had before. Cosmically, out of nowhere, I experienced a pure meeting of two souls. Immediate curiosity. An undeniable pull. Kismet attraction. An authentic connection. It felt like it was first time I really allowed myself to be seen and heard by a person of interest. From the moment we met, I completely surrendered any hesitations or judgments -- I really allowed myself to be vulnerable. And he held space for me. Although I was completely exposed, sharing my insecurities, opinions, and dreams with a near stranger, I actually felt completely held and safe. I felt deep inner peace and reassurance that it was okay to unforgivably be me and to share myself with this person. And in this place of total peace and self-love, I was able to see and hear him with the same level of acceptance and trust. I listened intently, without judgement, and I wanted to learn more, to get closer. It was one of the most invigorating, freeing experiences of my life. It simultaneously took my breath away and made way for deep, relaxed breathing. I didn't know that such a connection was possible on this planet. I felt like the Universe had shared a beautifully coveted secret with me... like I was among the few people given access to this incredible magic. Our time together before my trip was short, but it was perfect and complete.

While I was in Nicaragua, he would float in and out of my mind. Thoughts of him would warmly lap at my consciousness, but didn't hold me or consume me. Reflecting in my journal, I wrote:
"The more I remain in a place of non-judgement about it and take a seat of pure self-awareness, wherein I observe myself thinking of him and smiling to myself, the more I release the desire to become attached to him or desperate for him."
What a huge difference this was from my last relationship, where it felt impossible not to cling to my partner or to starve for connection and attention. This was something entirely different. It wasn't frantic or expectant or judgmental. It just was. Whether it was the place I was in mentally and spiritually the night we met, or how he gave me permission to be vulnerable through being open himself, or some exquisite combination of things, I felt closer to true love than I ever had. And while it blew my mind, shot a tingling sensation through my body, and expelled all the heaviness from my chest, I didn't feel the need to claim it or bottle it. I was perfectly content and felt such immense gratitude that I was experiencing it, in each individual moment. 

On the beaches of Popoyo, Nicaragua, I vowed to only allow for these kinds of relationships in my life moving forward. Any new ones I established, I would exercise this capacity to love without nets. I soon started to think about existing relationships in my life where there was opportunity to love more freely, without judgement or expectation. I promised to continue to practice love with complete non-attachment through surrendering any of my ideas about who they should be, what they should want, or how they should serve me. This would mean being unleashed and giving them permission to just be who they are, where they are. Because "judgement and surrender do not serve the same master" (Kindred Spirit: Fulfilling Love's Promise, by Matthew and Terces Engelhart).

So I vowed to continue to be this way with him, too. While I was away, I would feel my stomach go weak and let a smile creep onto my face at the thought of what we shared, but I continued to let go a little more each time he popped into my mind. In a moment of giddy happiness, I wrote:
"I'm excited to gauge our connection when I'm back in town. I would love for this feeling to be mutual. But I do have to honor that you can't force or forge connection. It's much better to leave it to the Universe... like we have been doing. I just have to keep letting go... of expectations and the need to create any kind of pressure or hype. It must bloom organically."

When I got home from my trip, I was completely unleashed. As I shared in my last post, I felt (feel) free, brave, and capable of anything. I was struggling to come down from the high I experienced in Nicaragua, but I was excited to extend my vacation through reflection and sharing with others. I wanted to share with him. And he had something to share with me too.

The Universe held me to my vow, to love with non-attachment. It decided to test my true ability to do so. He met someone else, he said. Before he spoke the words, I already knew. And even in my journaling from several days before, it was as if I was already feeling him slip away. But can someone slip away if you never held them? If you were never attached, does it feel like loss? 
“But love is always new. Regardless of whether we love once, twice, or a dozen times in our life, we always face a brand-new situation. Love can consign us to hell or to paradise, but it always takes us somewhere. We simply have to accept it, because it is what nourishes our existence. If we reject it, we die of hunger, because we lack the courage to stretch out a hand and pluck the fruit from the branches of the tree of life. We have to take love where we find it, even if that means hours, days, weeks of disappointment and sadness. 
The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seek us. And to save us.” 
― Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

Benjamin Francis Leftwich "Atlas Hands"

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