An Essay for Valentine’s Day
The way Francesco broke up with me was as simple as it was shocking. It was a Saturday afternoon in July and we’d just seen a movie at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Riding the subway back downtown, we sat side by side, him in an inexplicable and smoldering silence. Then he got up and walked out of the train. I never saw him again.
Dumbfounded, I was left to fill in the blanks myself. We’d only been dating for three months, seeing each other about once a week. Steady and sweet, he was the first guy in long while who seemed to enjoy being in a relationship rather than fighting it. He called me, took me out, complimented me. For more than a year, I’d dated men whom, I’d realize too late, were playing the field. Francesco’s availability was refreshing—in fact, it was a relief.
Until that fateful Saturday. Nothing had gone wrong as far as I could tell. Had something bothered him about the movie? Had he met someone else? Was it me?
After a week, I swallowed my pride and texted him. Nothing. After a few more days, I called. Still nothing. Then, my insides churning, I emailed a plea for any kind of explanation, no strings attached. Dead silence.
Francesco’s behavior made no sense, and, a month later, I was still struggling to accept it. On a friend’s suggestion, I went to a yoga center to check out a Tantric meditation class (which contrary to popular Western thought is not all about sex).
As a yoga teacher and yoga writer, I’d made many attempts to make meditation part of my practice, but nothing had stuck. I thought I could give it another try, but I had low expectations.
As I discovered, this yogic approach was different. Rather than simply closing our eyes and sitting there pestered by thoughts, the instructor had us trace our chakras, or energy centers, up and down the spine. We chanted their associated sounds (called bija mantras or seed sounds) and made the hand gestures or mudras. It was powerful and absorbing, and I found myself effortlessly transported. By the time it was over, some of the bewilderment and disappointment I’d been lugging around had lifted.
I was intrigued by the method and the teacher. His insights into love startled me—in a good way. When we got to the heart, he said, “Here we cultivate a feeling of loving for no reason at all.”
For no reason at all. The way the teacher put it struck me like a thunder clap. Most of the loving I did had an agenda. With Francesco I had been defensive and cautious. I’d expected him to pass a series of tests: to call, to take me out, to consider my needs. I wanted him to prove he liked me. I’d been constantly judging him, assessing whether he and his efforts were good enough.
But what about inviting love in by giving it out first? And with no purpose at all? As corny as that idea sounded, I could feel it was true: I had to give love in order to get it.
The heart chakra is called anahata, which means “that which cannot be destroyed.” Its element is air, which governs the sense of touch. Its quality addresses our ability to connect with or touch others. It’s often symbolized by a lotus, which, when open, drinks up the power of the sun but, when closed, droops down and withdraws.
I’d always thought that my most meaningful connection in life would come from romance, but now my daily meditation practice often feels better even than that—steadier, deeper, and more abiding. As I run through the chakras, I often linger at the heart center. It’s here that the possibility of romantic love blossoms, yes, but so does the love that I can share in a smile with a stranger or a friendly word on a crowded subway. It’s love that lets me help a blind old man walk to the corner and that sends me on an errand for a friend in need. It’s love that pushes me to share with my yoga students what I’m learning.
I know now that love is mine for the taking. I don’t need to wait for the other person to prove his love to me.
Today I keep fresh flowers in my house to remind me of the uplifting life of an open heart. And when I think of Francesco, I no longer feel bad about his silent departure, I only regret silently judging his every move.