DIY LOVE: A Mindful Valentines Day
“Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.” - Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
Why is the word “love” so emotionally charged? Just saying, “I love you,” can evoke fiery, heart-thumping passion. Or else... it just might send you bolting out the door. One thing’s for certain, when it comes to matters of the heart, infinite variables come into play. What are your thoughts on love? Think on it a while… your answer reveals much about how you see the world.
As February 14th nears, chubby dart-wielding cupids nest beside red velvet hearts in storefront windows. Instead of grounded in realism, somehow Valentine’s Day has come to signify the kind of fantasy romance portrayed in Gothic novels. Overflowing with expectations, for those without partners (or idealized love) the day can be especially disheartening. Triggering even. And with good reason. Ruby chocolate kisses aside, did you know that Valentine’s Day isn’t rooted in lovey-doveiness? The custom of Saint Valentine's Day traces back to the ancient Romans, who according to NPR, held the Feast of Lupercalia from Feb 13th-15th; although it included a matchmaking lottery, where men selected young women like ripe apples, it was also known to be a violent celebration.
Luminary psychologist and philosopher, Erich Fromm wrote in his groundbreaking book, The Art of Loving, “Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.” Another insightful point Fromm made is that most of us are more focused on getting than on sharing love. Fromm once said, “Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one's capacity to love.” Fromm viewed love in a similar way as mindfulness, since he saw it as a skill, requiring regular practice.
If you think about it, Valentine’s Day is truly a man-made invention. So why not recreate it? This time around, let it be inclusive, and echo Fromm’s enlightened ideas on love. Much like compassion, when you infuse the art of loving into your life, the fog of despair lifts. And there’s no need to be part of a couple to feel its blush.
The path to being lovable begins with how you feel about yourself. What would make you feel special? What stirs your senses? Colors. Scents. Foods. How about a hot stone massage, lavender bouquet, or restorative Yoga class? Instead of engaging in negative self-talk and inadequate feelings, appreciate the wonder and beauty of you. And show yourself some love. According to relationship and intimacy expert, Dr. Alexandra Stockwell, coach, and author of Uncompromising Intimacy, there’s no reason to wait to go on a date. Dr. Stockwell suggests a playful idea, “dating yourself!” That's right. “Take yourself on the kinds of dates you would enjoy. Eat where you want to eat, go to the movies you want to see,” advises Dr. Stockwell. The more authentic the experience the better. Dr. Stockwell says, “the key is to dress as you would for a date. Treat yourself with the same care as you would want someone else to.” Aside from enjoying a night out, or in, Dr. Stockwell says, “you will move through the world as the kind of person who is treated well by those who love her, which is sure to attract the same from others.”
When Valentine’s Day rolls around, if you are in a loving relationship, consider forgoing convention in favor of inventing your own unique celebration. Is there a place you've been wanting to go together but never seem to find the time, a favorite song your partner would be touched if you sang to them? Dr. Stockwell says, “Typically, we do for our loved ones what we wish they would do for us. So, instead of doing that, imagine being your partner. What would they most love from you?” Other possibilities Dr. Stockwell suggests include, “writing a love letter and sharing all the things you love about your intimate partner and your life together. You might create a romantic atmosphere with candlelight and soft music and either read the letter aloud or leave it for them to read while you are there.”
Relationships ebb and flow. Inevitably, there are times when every one of us will be single. If you currently don't have a romantic partner but would like one, let Valentine’s Day serve as a springboard to move you forward. In addition to online dating, explore connections in real life, where chemistry has a chance to spark. Be adventurous. Dare to ask someone new out. Also, welcome a setup; don’t shy away from asking friends if they know someone in their circles, you might connect with.
Continue to take romance into your own hands: attend a fun romantic soiree for singles. Or plan your own gathering and ask each friend to bring another single person (of the opposite sex, or sexual orientation) they are not romantically linked to, and see where the evening leads. Alternatively, Dr. Stockwell suggests, “getting together with a few friends and do a Romance Vision Board Party. Make sure to keep the energy fun and upbeat, and create a visual of what you desire. It will have you feel connected with what you care about and imprint your unconscious with the good vibes in the vision board.”
When it comes to love, whether romantic, platonic, or for the self, the way you choose to express your feelings is highly personal, and ought to stem from an organic place. Mindfulness teaches us the value of being fully present, experiencing each moment. So to impose unrealistic expectations is to judge and view yourself without compassion. Sadly, this attitude takes you away from the beauty of the moment. Right before you, is the opportunity to experience love in all forms. And there’s a kind of heart-centered magic in giving and sharing affection. Joy. Harmony. Warmth. It needn’t be a certain day in February to show those you care about how they’ve enriched your life. Allow positive feelings to blossom... Love truly is as a daily practice.