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  • Annelisa MacBean

The Loving Heart

What if I give my loved ones the gift of my presence this Valentine’s Day, the gift of my loving heart? What if I make actual contact with my partner, my friends, my employees? What if I pay attention to the person in front of me: allow them to matter to me, become curious about the meaning they are making of their lives: what affects them, what frightens or worries them, what brings peace to their bodies and light to their eyes. Perhaps my gift might be a willingness to meet each person’s longing to feel heard, to feel seen, to feel felt. Perhaps I can bring to them some tender empathy and deep listening.


I wonder if I can see that my loved ones are not merely objects arising to serve and fulfill my needs, but are actual human beings, subjective beings, alive, with beating hearts, longing for connection and trying to make sense of it all. Being seen, held, and loved is a longing we share. I wonder how close I can get to sensing and understanding the actuality of their lived, embodied experience. I wonder if I can be present to their hearts, to the core of their being.


Perhaps I can find a moment of pure contact in which I liberate them from my expectation that they change, be different, see things from my perspective. Perhaps I can relieve them of the burden of confirming who I think I am so that I will love them!


Will I be able to stand in the truth that no one will ever, not ever, be able to meet all of my requirements and needs? Will I be able to live in the knowing that no one will ever be able to resolve for me that which remains unresolved in my own heart. Will I be able to open and receive the gift my loved ones bring when they resist my expectations and return the sacredness of my personal responsibility to me. Will I be able to withdraw the urge to shame or blame them for this, and instead, bow in respect as I reel back in and accept my projection.


Is it possible to let go of the fantasy or ideal in my mind about who the other should be – who I hoped would be there, needed to be there, or feared would not be there. My loved ones, my partner, family and friends do not exist to roll play the parts of my scripted imaginings. It has never happened; it will never happen . . . the fantasy, and the hope that they might rescue me from my losses and grief will remain unfulfilled. Is it possible that I might meet the person, the soul who is actually here with me as they are, not what I imagine they should be . . . Is it possible for me to appreciate that their embodied presence is a supreme miracle?


Maybe I can give my loved ones the space to be who they are. Maybe I don’t need to spin around them, spin around in my head . . . reassuring myself that they are okay and that they are continuously confirming my hopes, fears, and unmet longing. Maybe, by staying with my own experience, and attending to my grief and pain, maybe through my willingness to be personally responsible, I can convey through my presence that I am available to them, that I am close by … simply contained and doing my own inner work . . . but available if they need me.


If they need me, I am here, I AM HERE, but not otherwise. Even, or especially if I am triggered or activated by their unfolding process, is it conceivable that I might not impose upon their unique journey. Can I imagine witnessing them living their life, making their mistakes, making their own meaning of their experience, and finding their own way. When their hearts break, and they plunge into the depths of their own pain and vulnerability, when they find themselves standing in the truth of human aloneness, I could simply be standing by in deep, mutual knowing of just how alone the path can sometimes feel.


I can respect our separateness AND our connection, and honor the space in which we both make the journey in our own way, as the veil separating "self" and "other" reveals its translucency,


So . . . when I am alone, when there is no other, the same question remains . . . Can I witness what emerges from my willingness to make a radical commitment to self-attention and non-abandoning presence. The Divinity of my own nature is waiting for me inside . . . the mirror of my own being. Even in the field of my own aloneness – within which we are all standing in together - I am perfectly positioned to make the same offering of space, patience and acceptance to myself that I might make to my loved ones. When I attend to whatever is arising within and allow the space for my experience to unfold exactly as it is . . . only then, and finally, am I truly able to attend to another in this way.


Contemplating these truths, I am filled with love for my clients, my friends, my sangha, my teachers and myself. I feel you. And honor you. And accept the gift of your being. From the clear water in the spring below my house, from the infinite ocean, from the redwoods and cypress, along with the osprey and the hawks, the owls, and the deer who have come around this morning to offer their tender presence, I send the humbled love of one who is totally alone and unbearably, absolutely connected.




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