The month of February serves to remind us of the importance of love, one of the most powerful forces in the universe. While it is a good idea to honor love, longing and lust all year long, I felt compelled a few weeks ago to organize a poetry reading called, “Love, Longing and Lust” at Antioch University, Santa Barbara. It was wonderful uniting a powerful group of female poets who poetically and passionately expressed their universal sentiments on love. The crowd was enthusiastic, which was a message to us that more of these types of events need to be arranged.
While the poetry reading was initially inspired by my poetry book, Lust, released last year on Valentine’s Day, much more evolved from the event. We came away with the understanding that like everything else, love has positive, negative, masculine and feminine forces. Love can be all encompassing; the emotion of love can make us feel whole and bring us home to who we really are. The euphoria of love can propel people forward in their lives and serve as a huge source of creative inspiration for artists and writers alike. According to diarist Anais Nin, in her essay “On Truth and Reality,” being aware of her personal world, particularly her love life, was a great source of strength and psychic energy. She wrote: “The creation of a perfect personal world was the root of my inspiration.”
The idea of writing about love is not new. In fact, it goes back to the beginning of time. Many mystics, whether writing poetry or prose, often referred to love in their writings, referencing love as our mission and desire for the pursuit of happiness. Intuitively, we all want to be happy and follow the path to what makes us feel good, emotionally and physically. Writing is one way of showing how transformative falling in and out of love can be. The best writers show, rather than tell, what they are feeling in a way that the reader can understand. As Anais Nin said, in her book The Mystic of Sex: A First Look at D.H. Lawrence, “The medium of a writer is not ink and paper but his body: the sensitivity of his eyes, ears, and heart. If these are atrophied, let him give up writing.”
Longing has been described as an awakening within the heart, which may be thought of as the most direct way home to our true essence. When we long, we feel a sense of separation. This in turn encourages a union with something or someone that we want. Longing followed by receiving what you want can result in feelings of wholeness. The poet Rumi, for example, said, “Do not seek for water, be thirsty.” In fact, longing is at the core of every spiritual or mystical path. Falling out of love can lead to heartache, which some might perceive as negative. But the fact is that there is something to be learned from all experiences, whether we view them as positive or negative, happy or sad.
According to Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a Sufi mystic, “the masculine side of love is ‘I love you’ and the feminine side is ‘I am waiting for you; I am longing for you.” In his article, “Feminine Mysteries of Love,” he says “the longing of the heart is a sign of the deepest fulfillment.” But love can terrify the mind, mainly because it does not belong in that world. It is as if the mind and heart speak two completely different languages and are very often different dialects, too. Sometimes we have to decide which to listen to. Where love is concerned, we tend to turn to the heart, because the mind rarely knows what the heart needs. When people are having difficulty making decisions, I often suggest they open their hearts and look inside for the answers, as that’s where the deepest inner truths lie.
Love, longing, and lust are all characteristics which contribute to all that makes us human and puts us into contact with higher levels of consciousness. These are also transformative agents because they embrace the mystery of what it’s like to be human. Love by itself is powerful because it opens us up to new feelings, and at times can be intoxicating. Thus, love in the right situation can have transformative powers while leading us to a deeper place.
According to Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D., in her article, “Longing and the Dread of Emptiness,” even those who are in vibrant relationships can experience a sense of longing when they are not achieving a certain amount of intimacy, especially when individuals have lost a sense of emotional safety in their relationship. Further, she says, one’s own longing should be thought of separately from the needs and longings of one’s partner. “Although love can hurt, it can heal when partners trust each other and themselves enough to take a look at what lies beneath the conflict that leads to the experience of longing and emptiness.”
There are many different ways to fall in love, and there is no protocol, paradigm, or right or wrong way to do it. It is highly individualized, as are love, longing and lust. I believe there is such a thing as love at first sight, second sight and third sight. Love can also grow as you get to know someone. There are so many permutations and unpredictable eventualities when two people unite in a sacred union, but one thing we can count on is that, with any luck, at some point in our lives, we will be affected by love, desire, longing and lust—all universal experiences. And what a blessing and empowering experience it should be when it happens!
Nin, Anais (1966). “On Truth and Reality,” In "In favor of the sensitive man and other essays,” San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Co., p. 57-65.
Nin, Anais (1995). The Mystic of Sex: A First Look at D.H. Lawrence. Santa Barbara, CA: Capra Press.