Beloved: Dreams + Medicine
February is the only month in our calendar year when we are encouraged to not only celebrate, but explore love. It is a time of both recognition and seeking… and sometimes visionary revelation. Far beyond the commercialism of candy hearts, the sparks created by this fiery heart-centered holiday can be profound. It is no coincidence that Valentine’s Day falls within the sometimes dark and dreary bowl of late winter in our hemisphere. It is a timely reminder. Though our days may still be marked by isolation and interiority, hibernation and cold, the warm river that gives life its eternal flush continues. Love continues.
Every Valentine’s day I am submersed in so many representations of love, I often find myself in a state of reflection. When I step back and ponder the predominate culture that surrounds me, and all its messages about love, I can’t help but feel constricted. It is as if I’m looking into a tiny, tiny pond. When the truth, the reality of love, is so much vaster. I am in a time of my life—the late-winter of an important, but increasingly waning, phase of youth and its cocooned vision— in which I am turning away from the contained waters of what I has perceived to be love and seeking the greater ocean.
Our language itself holds such narrow definitions of love. The word spread thin, like a prudent amount of butter over a single slice of toast. In truth, love is not an object (of either affection or desire), it is not a thing we can covet or a state to achieve. Love is a gateway to remembering to our widest, wildest selves. The boundless beings that are fused with all of the world. The creaking oak, the changing sky, the mantras spoken by low creeks over cold winter rocks. Love is a state of being, of giving, of receiving… of knowing that at the center of all things rests a kindred flame that burns eternal.
In my dream of the world, Valentine’s Day is embraced as a day in which we recognize not only romantic love, but all incarnations of love. We would treat this holiday as a blessed opportunity to honor all the sources of love that suffuse our world—family and friends, beings that surround us both seen and unseen, the love of the land that holds us and the sun that rises and glows, gently now, warmer and warmer, every day. Most of all, I approach, again and again, the ceremony of self-recognition this month of love deeply demands. I begin the walking meditation in honor of the bedrock from which all over love springs— the love we are here to find within.
Self love has become a nifty catchphrase these past few years. Like a refrigerator magnet, the term is so habitually encountered that the meaning itself has faded into yet another assumption of the eye. We see it so much, we stop seeing it. For years when the term “self love” was brought up I would all but swish my hands dismissively through the air, an impatient motion like shooing a fly from one’s face. Of course, I loved myself. Yes, I love myself, Can’t we move on? And yet, the deeper I have allowed myself to go within the caverns of my own heart, the more I have realized that loving myself is a life-long journey of remembering who I am… and that it is a quest that I have only just begun.
We are the source from which we live every day. We are the sun that opens our eyes in the morning, the light that colors and catches, illuminates each facet of the world we see. We are the only flower we will ever know in this lifetime, and our sole purpose is just to bloom. I remind myself everyday that each bud deserves affection, adoration, exclamation and love. I remind myself everyday that without opening first, a flower can never truly see the world into which it blooms. Without opening to my own sources of inner-unconditional love, how can I love the world within which my own spirit so freely suffuses?
I am surrounded by an abundance of love in this lifetime. I am blessed by the spectacular love of both family and friends. I am touched by the everlasting love of this earth, the plants and animals and waters that feed and clothe me, still caring for me despite my small-sightedness, my forgetfulness, my sometimes entitlement. Despite it all, I am still loved. Despite it all, I live and continue to discover unconditional love.
Just as the love of this world continues, as constant as the mountain’s forever-sighing streams, so does our own inner sources of love. In a place before words, I know I have loved myself forever. It is a feeling that comes upon me in only the most serene of moments. Leaning up against the maple tree in my front yard on the first warm day of late winter, I think about the sugary sap running now from the roots to the crown, nourishing the whole tree. I know, without having to think or grasp, that this tree loves itself unconditionally. It does not disparage its broken branches, or pecked perches. It does not wish it was growing across the street, or even ten feet over where the garden soaks up so much light. It loves itself because it is, and there is nothing else for it to do but love its being.
Learning to recognize and embrace this steady stream of inner-unconditional love, learning how to let it in and let it feed my whole being, even after the long parch of a very cold and lonely-feeling winter, is part of my work in this lifetime. And every day, I remind myself to simply be-loved.
In celebration of this month of amour, I asked for the guidance to create a medicine that would help me to remember the love that exists so freely within this world. In my dreams that evening I traveled to a thatched cottage at the edge of an ancient wood. There, an old woman welcomed me, wiping two root-worn hands on a faded apron-full of medicine. Her face changed, turning silvery sides like butterfly wings— from young porcelain-skinned beauty to a chestnut weathered crone. She hummed to herself as she stirred together newly opened blossoms and jars of white roots, powdered rose quartz and steaming tea into a plain clay vessel. In the dream, the elixir was as pink as a cherry blossom and smelled like sugarcane. She handed it to me and I drank it down heartily, thanking her for the healing. Afterwards, she brought me to a rocking chair by the fire, and told me to rest with myself for a while. When I closed my eyes there, I woke up here. And I brought a new healing elixir, Be.Loved, with me.
Be.Loved is my way of honoring this blessed time of love. I honor the love I find within myself, and I honor the love that continues to find me. I offer this elixir in honest hope and heartfelt prayer: may we all remember that we are surrounded by love. May we all love and be-loved.