My coaching client Jodi has been in a Mormon marriage for nearly 30 years. For all those years she, her husband and their five children have participated avidly in the Mormon Church, rituals and community.
A few years ago Jodi felt guided to explore other philosophies, such as yoga, meditation and alternative forms of spiritual expression — all no-no’s according to traditional Mormonism, which shuns people who step out of line. So for Jodi to express her desire to delve into non-traditional pathways, it required a huge leap of faith.
Although Jodi’s husband Don was initially distressed by her dabbling outside the church, he supported her to venture onto other paths of spiritual inquiry. Jodi stopped wearing traditional Mormon garments, took a life coaching course, read books by Paramahansa Yogananda, set up an altar including small statues of Buddha and the Hindu deity Ganesha, and took an unprecedented trip by herself to a residential meditation retreat. If Don had been stuck on their special relationship, he might have hit the ceiling and called in the church fathers to “deprogram” his wife. But, to his credit, he just kept loving Jodi, which endeared him to her all the more. His trust in her explorations did not dissolve their marriage, but strengthened it. When I last spoke to Jodi, she reported that she and Don were doing tantric sex practices. Both of them deserve huge credit for flowing with the changes in their relationship and co-creating a marriage based on love, not fear.
I have often pondered why so many of us have had so much pain in relationships. It’s because we were trained to believe that we are empty or broken, and if we can just get someone to give us what we are missing, we would be happy. Then we must control our supposed source of good so that person will keep doing the things that make us feel loved. As it turns out, it’s the other way around. The purpose of relationship is to source love within ourself and then extend it to our partner. When we genuinely love, the joy that passes through our heart to the other person blesses, uplifts and heals us as it moves through us.
I used to teach about unconditional love, until my mother taught me what unconditional love really is.
When I set out on my spiritual path, I was inspired by the teachings of Jesus. I studied the New Testament and I taped a small picture of Jesus on the dashboard of my car. My Jewish mother was not exactly pleased as punch to ride with Jesus as co-pilot. When I picked her up to take her shopping, she made fun of the photo.
“Were you cold out here last night, Jesus?” she mockingly asked the image, tapping it with her forefinger. “Would you like me to knit you a sweater?”
So out of respect for my mother (especially since she had paid for the car), I removed the photo from the dashboard and placed it in the glove box. The next time my mother sat in the car, she said nothing but she seemed happier, so I figured Jesus was secretly smiling under the dashboard.
A few weeks later when I went to visit my mother at her house, I saw something I had never seen before in my home or in any Jewish home. On the dining room table, propped up against a napkin holder, was a small picture of the Catholic Saint Veronica.
Astonished, I asked, “Mom, where did you get this?”
“I saw it at a garage sale,” she answered nonchalantly. “I thought you would like it.”
I was speechless. In order for my mother to get me that picture, she had to rise above her lifetime belief system and values as a Jew and a Jewish mother. In that moment, I realized that unconditional love goes far beyond words. It is an energy we radiate, a principle we live.
Love is not about control, but connection. Not about demanding, but allowing. Not about getting, but overflowing and supporting. As we release fear-based models of love, we open to the gift we were born to receive by giving it.
February is Valentine’s month, when we celebrate great love. If you are searching for love, it may be closer than you think. Kabir said, “I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty.” The love of your life might be right where you stand. Even if you are not with your ideal lover, you have friends and family who love you deeply. If you are with a partner who does not appear to be “The One,” there might be more love available in that relationship than you know.
Appreciate and celebrate what you have before asking for more. The gifts that you have been seeking have been laid at your door. When you find beauty and wonder in those around you, you open the door to find it in yourself. Let this month be the one in which you find true love, by discovering the happiness you seek right where you stand.