This quote was the inspiration behind the theme of love for my recent back-bending workshop. Love isn't something outside of ourselves that we need to somehow "find". Love is a state of being. Love lies at the center of our existence. Love is what we are.
Rumi invites us into the inquiry: where we are blocking ourselves from experiencing love? As human beings we have a deep desire for love and connection. We also have a deeply embedded fear of rejection and shame. However, the problem is; the only way to open our hearts and to create a meaningful connection is to allow ourselves to fully be seen. We have to be willing to be vulnerable and exposed in the face of that fear and doubt. We have to let go of how we "should" be in order to be who we are. We have to love ourselves enough to know that despite our flaws and oddities, that we are worthy of love. I heard somewhere that a student once asked a teacher "how do you open your heart", and the teacher replied: "you never close it". Somehow, we have to build our capacity to stay open, to be boldly authentic and live a life of courageous integrity. We have to cultivate the strength to bravely be ourselves, to be imperfectly perfect and see the beauty in every flaw. We have to risk getting hurt, risk failing, falling, being rejected and judged. Once we accept ourselves, and receive ourselves with an open heart and an open mind, our self-love becomes an invitation for others to do the same.
Zen Buddhist Roshi Joan Halifax put it perfectly in this quote:
"All too often our so-called strength comes from fear not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that's flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that's soft and open, representing choiceless compassion. The place in your body where these two meet - strong back and soft front - is the brave, tender ground in which to root our caring deeply.
How can we give and accept care with strong-back, soft front compassion, moving past fear into a place of genuine tenderness? I believe it comes about when we can be truly transparent, seeing the world clearly - and letting the world see into us." - Joan Halifax