Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The inner wellspring of love

After I graduated from college I worked for eleven years in a small town library. It was there that I discovered the joy of romance novels -- through our revolving paperback collection -- and I got quite shamelessly addicted to them. When I first started working there, the library was the oldest building in town, and there was a cubbyhole in the checkout desk where I sat that was perfectly sized to discreetly house a Barbara Cartland paperback, so I always had one stashed there to read during the occasional quiet times between customers and phone calls.

What I remember most about those books -- other than Cartland's irritating habit of inserting lots of ellipses (...) in the last few pages of the books to convey the heroine's breathless joy and finally having been singled out for the hero's love -- was that breathtaking moment when the hero finally -- and passionately -- swept the heroine into his arms for a kiss: my heart, starved for romance as I was in those days, would give a lovely little sympathetic leap, which fed my soul in some way I'm still not sure I understand.

I thought of that leap this morning as I was reading Anam Cara, John O'Donohue's classic treatise on Celtic Christianity. I mean, the guy's a priest, right? And yet he gives one of the most moving descriptions of love I've ever read:

There is, he says, "a primal intimacy in the soul; this original echo whispers within every heart. The soul did not invent itself. It is a presence from the divine world, where intimacy has no limit or barrier.

You can never love another person unless you are equally involved in the beautiful but difficult spiritual work of learning to love yourself. There is within each of us, at the soul level, an enriching fountain of love. In other words, you do not have to go outside yourself to know what love is. This is not selfishness, and it is not narcissism; they are negative obsessions with the need to be loved. Rather this is the wellspring of love within the heart. Through their need for love, people who lead solitary lives often stumble upon this great fountain. They learn to whisper awake the deep well of love within. This is not a question of forcing yourself to love yourself. It is more a question of exercising reserve, of inviting the wellspring of love that is, after all, your deepest nature to flow through your life. When this happens, the ground that has hardened within you grows soft again...

You should invite this inner fountain to free that gradually the nourishing waters begin in a lovely osmosis to infuse and pervade the hardened clay of your heart. Then the miracle of love happens within you. Where before there was hard, bleak, unyielding, dead ground, now there is growth, color, enrichment, and life flowing from the lovely wellspring of love. You are sent here to learn to love and to receive love. The greatest gift new love brings into your life is the awakening to the hidden love within. This makes you independent. You are now able to come close to the other, not out of need or with the wearying apparatus of projection, but out of genuine intimacy, affinity, and belonging... you become free of the hungry, blistering need with which you continually reach out to scrape affirmation, respect, and significance for yourself from things and people outside yourself. To be holy is to be home, to be able to rest in the house of belonging that we call the soul.

You can search far and in hungry places for love," he concludes. "It is a great consolation to know that there is a wellspring of love within yourself."

Years later, now happily married, I still read romance novels; still love romantic comedies. But I am finding, with time, that that little jump of the heart has become more of a steady warmth, suffusing my being. And it comes more often from meditation than from reading or watching movies: it is in meditation that I have begun to tap into that internal wellspring of love that nurtures the soul. And the more I find it there, the less I seem to require it from anywhere else; the easier it is to walk through life without demanding "affirmation, respect and significance from things outside myself."

Which is not to say I'm perfect: I'm a Four on the Enneagram scale, after all; my need for recognition is pretty great. But the gift that comes with our needs and shadows -- and there is always a gift -- is that they bring us closer to that particular and unique aspect of the Divine heart designed to resonate within each individual. I'd like to believe that over time, as we become more attuned to that inner spirit of love, those things we work for outside ourselves become vehicles to gain recognition, not for ourselves, but for the universal and unifying presence of the Sacred.

NOTE: The John O'Donohue quotations are from Anam Cara (© John O’Donohue. All rights reserved). To learn more about John O'Donohue, be sure to visit his website:


I AM ROSE said...

Wow! Diane I Love your post today. Self Love is my passion and I run classes and breathing sessions to awaken the Love with-in.During these sessions to connect to this Pure Essence of Love through our Heart space connects us directly to God.I find that more and more people are ready to awaken this Love and to trust this Love. An example of the power of this Love happened to our son yesterday. First a brief history of events that happened in 2006 (at the age of 18)he suffered an horrific forklift accident that injured his foot badly. He has been an extremely angry young man and difficult to live with at times. At the start of this year his relationship ended with his high school sweetheart. He now is very passionately in Love with another girl. The amazing miracle here is that his foot pain and walking gait is very quickly healing. This is that spark of Love that touches our heart.When Self Love is awakened fully we allow ourselves to experience a balance of Love. There is an equal balance of giving and receiving. It can be scary at times to sit in silence and connect to this Love. When one truly awakens Self Love, miracles happen.To trust in this Love as God is Love.
In Love and Appeciation.

Unknown said...

This is great food for thought. Thank you for sharing it here.