“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi
My grandmother is nearing the end. She’s had a good life, a family, a loving husband, dancing and singing, growing things, running a business.
There are some skeletons in the closet though; her early life had some very heavy experiences that made her afraid and may have held her back. On balance, a great life, but there were challenges.
Right now, she’s slipped into a dream world and she is often still there when her eyes are open. There are lucid moments but her short-term memory is gone. She wakes and wonders who you are.
But if you don’t push her to be in your time zone, she is happy to have her hand held, to sing the old songs, to laugh, to tell you what’s what. Her personality hasn’t changed.
What she’s doing, we think, is sorting through the various stages of her life, coming to terms with the things that need to be understood with the heart. She seems to be burning away the old memories, the old feelings.
Maybe she’s also looking forward to joining my grandfather for a dance, as they always did. They met at a dance.
I don’t really know what it’s like for her but I see her returning to a kind of innocence, burning off the barriers to love. I see her life and all our lives as a gift of learning how to love.
This has me thinking: How can we remove the barriers to love now? How can we burn off what doesn’t serve and let the best of us shine through?
1. Practice forgiveness.
Let go of the poisons of resentment. Let them wash away in a cool mountain stream meditation. Simply say, I forgive NAME and I forgive myself. I send love to both of us.
2. Try to understand.
Play act being that other person. What could have made them do the things they did? Were they in pain themselves? Were they just naive and oblivious?
3. Change your beliefs.
The limitations and barriers to love (and to anything else we want in life) are really about the beliefs we hold. The past is gone; it’s only our beliefs that live on to affect our current life. What belief is stopping you feeling love? Is this belief really true? Could you believe otherwise?
4. Change your story.
Change the way you see it and tell it. What did you learn?
Your story might be: “I am lonely because I was treated harshly as a child and can’t trust others.” You could change this to: “My early life taught me to crave and seek healthy connections.”
If you lived in fear as a child, did it teach you courage? Your story could be: “Being afraid taught me to stand up for what I believe in.” Change your story if you need to. Your story about before runs your life now, and now is what really matters.
5. Create from the darkness.
Play with the raw materials of life. Creativity transforms experience. Write, draw, paint, sculpt, bake, cartoon, collage, or just laugh about the hard stuff with a good friend. Get it out.
In the movie Something’s Gotta Give, the heartbroken playwright (Diane Keaton) writes madly, alternately sobbing and laughing with delight as she “nails” a great comic scene. At some point, the terrible truth may become hilariously funny. Get creative.
6. Give love to feel love.
Love lives in my heart when I give it. Giving love makes us feel love. How do you best give love? What does your beloved like most? Do they love hugs, a talk, good food, flowers, car movies? Feel love in the act of giving. You may not have to actually watch the car movies.
7. Appreciate this miraculous life.
List your gratitude. List your small and simple pleasures. Indulge in them. For all the dark and light, life is a beautiful gift.
I want to talk about that last point. Often, someone nearing the end is reluctant to let go of this life. I get that feeling watching my grandmother now. Whatever life has held, we want more of it, even when it’s time to say goodbye.
Years ago, I saw an achingly beautiful contemporary dance performance called Fallen Angels. In the last moment, the stage filled with a thin layer of water. All but one had climbed to heaven. One dancer was left flipping and struggling like a fish in shallow water, holding on desperately to a difficult and beautiful life.
In that scene, letting go of life was so hard. Despite all the mess and confusion, the pain and heartbreak, this last dancer did not want to leave, even for heaven.
For all its contrasts, life is beautiful. At the end of our lives, I think we may want to hold on to all of it, the good and the bad. I have a feeling our souls wouldn’t change a thing.
Let’s embrace the beauty as much as possible right now and burn off the barriers to love. We can only do our best, learning to love as we go, living and loving all of it.
Photo by Jenny Starley