Leaving Home - Talking About Love: the Valentine’s Day Column by Ness Mountain
"...when you feel love as something inside yourself, a feeling you have, it is constantly renewed."
I have often been confused about love. As a teenager and a young man, I confused love and control. This pattern always felt wrong, but I never knew just what the problem was. I rarely felt truly in harmony with lovers and friends. I was lonely, argumentative, melancholy, intense—a poetic person, as I recall myself, interesting and spiritual, but not very “together.” When I fell in love (which was often) I would usually give my lover advice, and expect her, or perhaps him, to see things my way. As you can imagine, this caused problems.
But there were odd times that felt really great, both with lovers and friends. A gentle feeling, but at the same time, soaring. An absolute, unqualified positive feeling towards someone, which made me feel comfortable with myself at the same time. I felt brilliant, bathed in sunlight. I dreamed of flying. It didn’t last too long, of course, but it wasn’t the kind of thing you forget, either.
You want it back. You grab for it, and you find yourself holding on to a person who wants only to get away.
Moving into my twenties, I spent several hard years searching for clarity. I was alone a lot, and I learned to seek my own company. I was unsatisfied with my relationships. Friends found me difficult. I fell in love less often, and I questioned it more when I did. I had realized that the feeling I had lost was something I would not be able to regain until I learned something new. I waited, troubled but determined, for a new light.
I went to college, looking for a teacher, but found only professors.
Eventually I signed up for a workshop on etheric healing, taught by Frank Coppieters. At the class, I saw a light in Frank that I had been missing. I asked him to be my teacher, and I’ve studied with him ever since.
Frank’s essential lesson is very simple. He teaches me what love is. Love is a feeling, and like any feeling, we choose to feel it when we are ready to. It’s a warm feeling, soft, in your chest, bigger than your heart. It is always gentle and positive. It leads us to be flexible and open. Frank is very good at it, and he shows me how.
People often talk about love as if it was something we had for another person, directed at that person. It can be, of course. But there is another way to see it: as a state of being. When our love is only directed towards others, it dries up. It’s like a reservoir that is not being refilled. Even though the loving is good for a while, it drains away. But when you feel love as something inside yourself, a feeling you have, it is constantly renewed. This is often called “loving yourself,” but I think of it as just embracing this feeling, this openness, warmth and positivity.
When I am successful in this, my ego doesn’t get in my way. Problems with others tend to fade. Life is good. It’s a shift in perspective, a shift towards the positive.
This is not to be confused with “trying to be positive.” This distinction is key. When something is not OK with you, you have to change your situation. Do what you have to do, just do it in a gentle, positive way. Love without strength just makes you into a victim.
Which finally brings me to Valentine’s Day. I remember the spring I was nineteen, dancing through the streets, high as a kite on Love—what a drug! Romantic love is a great feeling, but I would never go back to the days when love was a sometime thing. There were too many years when the well was dry and life was hard. Now I have learned to carry mine with me, winter and summer.
When I stop feeling loving, sooner or later I notice and get myself back on track. Sometimes it takes a couple of days, but I’m improving. It’s a matter of practice.
So here’s my advice: practice loving, all day long.
Ness Mountain is a counselor and urban shaman living in Portland. Your comments on Leaving Home are welcome: respond to Alternatives or to Ness by email.