published Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Upton: Will you be my Valentine?

Happy Love Day. I know, I know. Some people quietly endure this day of hearts. It makes them mad or sad if they have no "special someone" to enjoy it with. Or their "special someone" is less than appealing lately.

Others can't stomach the pressure of one more Jared Jewelry commercial and resist the societal expectation to show love in a materialistic way.

Despite the various perspectives out there, I am strangely drawn to Valentine's Day. For all those who disdain a day like today, perhaps I can inspire you to take a

second look. Let's spend the next few minutes celebrating it together. Come into this space, imagine it strewn with rose petals, see the welcoming candle, hear the restful music and notice the suspended, floating poetry. In other words, will you be my Valentine? Just give it a try ...

A poem came across my email a few days ago. It was written by a popular 13th- century Persian poet named Jalaluddin Rumi. The verse makes a deep impact:

"Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."

If you're like me, the idea of not seeking love feels counterintuitive. Most of us love to find love but are often disappointed because, true to what Rumi perceives, we are unaware that when we struggle, the barriers we face to finding love in sustainable ways are most often hidden deep within ourselves.

The type of poetry Rumi wrote was considered ecstatic love poetry, meant to help a person journey from physical ideals to a much deeper, divine level of understanding. Reflecting, one assumes that, once we remove our barriers, love may come flooding in. That would mean that love is all around us. Perhaps the barrier of fear keeps it from some of us, or self-protection, or disappointing memories and negative expectations. Perhaps these types of internal edifices blind us in some way, keeping us separated from what we really want in life -- in essence, to feel useful, connected and happy.

Of course, this love is not necessarily romantic. Please sample the delicious chocolates I'm offering you now in our imaginary space and think on this. The Greeks believed there were four types of love: eros (romantic, sensual love), philia (brotherly, friendship love), storge (instinctual, parental love) and agape (perfect, unconditional love.) If we take inventory of our lives, we can become aware that sometimes our perceived external blockages to having what we want can be removed by going inside.

For example, I desire to experience storge love in the experience of being a parent, but I have no children. In my zeal, I have at times tried to parent other adults. This usually ends disastrously. Other times I have yielded to anxiety over this lack. Finally, I have entertained creative, out-of-the-box ways to manifest this type of love -- through mentoring, teaching, playfully noticing and encouraging the young. From this I learned that even literal blockages can have secret passageways around them. One can find other unique ways to overcome an obstacle to a certain type of love.

Now sip some of this refreshing beverage: Love is good. Celebrating it is wonderful. Our creative minds help us move past stuck places and frustrating emotions. Sometimes we need wise guides, such as insightful friends, good writing, new ideas. Rest awhile on this soft pillow of imagination. When you are ready, enjoy the rest of your day, sharing it with others in love.

Tabi Upton is a freelance writer and counselor who practices at CBI Counseling Center. Contact her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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