TrueHeartWork | Eros
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Eros Tag

The Look of Love

body paintingLove is an act of the imagination. We daub our lover with our oldest longing. We paint his lips with our most noble and generous magnificence. Love photoshops her imperfections. Love ennobles his good qualities, assigns them with mythical powers.  In our lover’s vow we talk, we touch, we seal our dreams with a kiss. We know that we are beautiful. In the warm nascence of Love we touch our holy longing. In the Mystery of barely knowing him we travel the world, design our new home, merge in our anticipation of something new, something more. As the sun rises we bask in possibility.

Yet according to research on neurobiology, the potent alchemy of attraction is spiked with dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Our intense emotional and physical fusion is only possible with someone we do not yet really know.

We are as changeable as chameleons, as contrary as Mary.  In order to feel fully alive we need a sprinkling of mystery. We require a dash of  novelty. We need a splash of  change, blended with just enough safety and  continuity to ground us. Risk and Fear. Safety and Adventure. We fluctuate like clouds that shape shift across a summer sky.

When we commit to each other, marry or cohabit, our brains produce the bonding chemicals, oxytocin and vasopressin.  We want togetherness – and difference to keep things interesting.  Yet in the otherness of our partner we so often respond with judgement. Or we set the bar high for an athletic leap of great expectations which breaks the legs of spiritual growth and sprains our soul’s warm desire.

Our heightened dependence on just one person makes us vulnerable. So we stack up the sandbags against the rising waters of uncertainty. We construct a prison of predictability in our relationships, and choose to stay behind narrow bars of bland neutrality.

Our script of staid of assumptions goes something like this: “I always know what you’re thinking” or “he doesn’t talk about emotions.”  It may sound like “he’s my rock” or “she would never have an affair”.  It might be the stolidly dependable “she always takes care of all our finances.”

So we dis-own our passion and vitality, clutch at things we feel we can control. We blinker our eyes and stop being curious.

Risk and Fear are the Guardians at the gate of Love. We cannot be truly intimate or sexually playful when we are vigilant or fearful. We cannot be truly intimate or sexually adventurous when we do not take a risk.

images45AR3A8POur relationships work, for a while, within a bounded space, enclosed by children and pets, in-laws, work, social responsibility. Until they don’t.  Until something happens to shatter the thin veneer of compromise. Until a raging torrent rushes through the aridity of our sexuality. Until the brittle sacrifices implode in a shower of dust. It may be a death, a health-scare, an affair, the loss of a business, our child leaving home. The comfort of fireside companionship, the tangible solidity of the things we own, and the cadence of routine now does not feed our hunger. We go online and gorge, like starving anorexics feasting on chocolate sundae. Or in the seductive gaze of our work colleague or the children’s tennis coach, we swallow the sweetness we have denied ourselves for decades. And in the rapturous delusion we  transcend the mundane and we soar above the clouds sprinkled golden with sunbeams. We become alive again.

images6YU9IO9DLove is a creative act of the Imagination. Its realm is rarefied, intangible, briefly captured like an exquisite butterfly where it flutters to the sound of music, poetry, the wind whispering through the trees.

Intimacy waits patiently for Love’s transient rapture to disperse. Intimacy requires time, repetition and the ability to choose each other, again and again. Intimacy is a practiced dance where two dancers move across the floor, present and focused, moving as one, yet firm in our own foot work.  The dance of Intimacy requires tenderness and some acceptance. It requires routine and a sense of safety. It requires trust and an ability to create an emotional connection. Yet so often as we spin our soft cocoon of companionable safety, Eros feels swaddled. He becomes a pudgy Cupid, not a virile Lover.

Sex therapist David Schnarch writes, “We’ve reduced adults to infants and infants to a frail ghost of their resilience, reduced marriage to providing safety, security, and compensation for childhood disappointments. We remove our essential drives for autonomy and freedom.”

Psychologist Esther Perel suggests that too much closeness restricts the sense of freedom and autonomy we need for sexual pleasure. “When intimacy collapses into fusion it is not lack of closeness but too much closeness that impedes desire.” She maintains that intimacy only sometimes begets sexuality and that our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. With too much distance there can be no connection and with too much fusion (the soul mate theory) there is no one to connect with.  “Increased emotional stability ironically what makes for  good intimacy, does not make for good sex.

Anais Nin wrote so poignantly, “Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we do not know how to replenish its source.” So how do we replenish Love’s source? In The Passionate Marriage – David Schnarch writes pragmatically,  love and desire are “not a matter of peeling away the layers but of developing them—growing ourselves up to be mature and resourceful adults who can solve our current problems.”

images6RA72WW7It requires an artist’s eye, a poet’s sensibility, a gourmet’s palate. The willingness to be curious, to engage in the mystery, to re-ignite the flame of Eros with the spark of our human imagination. Perhaps in the break-down of all we know is safe and sure, we discover that it is our partner who has been taking care of our marriage after all. In stretching out of our familiar roles, seeing each other with new eyes we can rebuild a relationship that has collapsed under the heavy weight of our control.

Proust wrote “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” In the shift of perception, the releasing of our illusions, we see our partner with new eyes. Remember the Na’vi greeting in the movie Avatar? Remember those eyes that said “I see you.”

When we dare to see our partner, extend rather than contract, engage and offer rather than stay stuck in a one-dimensional sitcom, we can risk sharing ourselves more deeply, more honestly, and revel in our aliveness once more.  When we balance with skill and reverence the two basic life forces: individuality and togetherness we can look at our own reflection and ask Who do I want to be?imagesLRZ6JLZG

The Look of Love  Dusty Springfield

 

 

 

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Like a Virgin

sandro botticelliNew – fresh, innocent, exciting … we are curious primates, irresistibly drawn to things that look different, that we have not tried before. Advertisers bait the hook with words and images that attract our insatiable appetite for novelty and variety. Our hunger for “newness” is in direct conflict with the jaded repetition of most of our very ordinary lives. The searing surge of sexual attraction we feel when we fall in love, soon dissipates as we grapple with the practical realities of earning a living, calling the plumber to fix the blocked kitchen drain, packing school lunches, and giving our harassed spouse a peck on the cheek as he hurries out the door to join the flight to the concrete city hive.

How do we see enchantment, magic in the ill-tempered scowl of our frazzled life partner who has been sitting behind a desk all day? Where do we find a frisson of excitement in distant eyes? How do we continue, year after year, to arch with delight at a touch that has grown so familiar and find intimacy in the tangle of tasks that require left brain engagement? When do we allow time for romantic reverie, erotic fantasy conjured up in expansive imaginings? Alain de Bolton, in his new book, How to Think More about Sex, proposes that the ethos of modern marriage “with its insane ambitions and its insistence that one person can plausibly hope to embody the eternal sexual and emotional solution to another’s every need” sets us up for bitter disappointment. He suggests that love, sex and family were wisely differentiated from one another historically for very good reasons. Like oil and water, they do not mix. The elevated high of romantic love that inspired the chaste troubadours in the twelfth century to write sublimely beautiful songs and achingly beautiful poems was fuelled by the sleepless suffering of unrequited love. Raising a family and earning a living were never urgent desires of lusty eighteenth century Parisian libertines. Says Bolton, “the impulse to raise a family has been well known to the largest share of humanity since our earliest upright days in East Africa. In all this time, however, it seems to have occurred to almost no one (until very recently, evolutionary speaking) that this project might need to be fused together with constant sexual desire as well as frequent sensations of romantic longing at the sight of a fellow parent at the breakfast table.”

Love and marriage. Horses and carriages. We are conditioned, admonished, to balance our wet erotic urges with the harness of constrained convention. And yet, the swoon of a stolen kiss, the delight of a brush of skin, the intoxicating scent of newness, awakens the beast within our bellies. What we think is romance, or love, nearly always comes in the guise of someone who makes us feel all shiny and new. And the fee at the tollgate of adultery may bankrupt us, liberate us, or lead us on a circular road right back where we started – new horse but same carriage.

goyaIn Greek mythology Thanatos was the daemon of death. Thanatos and Eros dance together, two polarised forces. Eros thrusting into the hot rush of life. Thanatos sucking us like the undertow into cold dark waters of death. Perhaps the monumental challenge we face as modern-day humans is to navigate through the narrow inlet between these two Titanic forces, paying homage to both.

Without Eros there would be no great works of art, no new inventions, no unfurling of passion that galvanises us to cross continents, discover the hero within, experience events that crack us open like juicy pomegranates and flood our lives with sweet pink juices. Eros confirms our existence is real, vital, infinitely creative.

The icy blackness of Thanatos quenches our flame, pulls us down to the stark finality of endings. Ego deaths are accompanied by a retinue of unspeakable isolation and grief. Loss of a sense of Self so often ensues after a dance in the flames that burn us black, leave us charred, irrevocably. When we step aboard the sailboat of a committed long-term relationship, we are required to use the compass of common sense to deal with the myriad practicalities of survival. We are summoned to bend with the winds of change as they hurl fiercely against our sails. We are asked to be humbled by our own humanness and the contradictions of living with another who is so different and yet so familiar as to seem invisible to the arrow of our ardour.

It may be impossible to feel weak at the knees with a heated rush of lust when our rumpled partner staggers through the front door after a long day at the office. It may be ludicrous to feel anything but resignation as he burps in unrestrained satisfaction, leaves the loo seat up, uses the last of the milk, and clips his toenails while sitting on the side of the bed naked and not so sexily exposed.

red rose and bumA night in an unfamiliar hotel, a steamy romp on fresh new sheets while the kids are at a sleep over might fan the flame of passion. Maybe it could be a shared adventure with just a hint of danger that throws you trembling, quite unexpectedly, together once more. Homo not-so-sapiens may require plenty of thrills, spills and surprise to bring out the hirsute wild man or wild woman in us all.

So as you lie together on rumpled sheets, or hold his hand and feel his skin against yours, remember to open the window wide. See in the softness of the moonlight the innocence of his familiar face. Remember there was enchantment there once. And if we use our artist’s eye and our poet’s imagination, we will find it there again.

older man and woman

Madonna –  Like a Virgin

 

 

 

 

 

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Only A Woman’s Heart

There’s a virgin’s innocence in the blush of new love. It is a many  splendoured thing. It arrives, flying on bright-feathered wings to lift us off our feet of clay. In  love, we become gods and goddesses. Our days sprinkled with stardust, our nights with butter-yellow sunbeams, our domesticated lives quite suddenly unleashed.

Erotic love is eternally young and naive. It ruffles our hair, heightens our intuition, ignites our creative impulse and supplies life-giving blood to our anaemic imagination. The ancient Greeks depicted Eros as an eternal youth.  This is a love that is playful, unbounded. It stirs, it shakes, it rattles at the windowpanes, then bellows through our hearts on a big wind. In this expansive energy, we stretch our own soul-wings and feel the tender bud of our own blossoming potential.

This kind of love recognises no boundaries, no barriers in time and space. We may fall into love during the dappled springtime or the monochrome winter of our lives. It is our soul’s initiation into the realm of Infinite possibility. Elif Shafak’s beautiful book, “The Forty Rules of Love” is a paean to the power of love that transports, transcends, defies all reason and codes of conduct. So often, there is fatedness about two souls joining, reuniting, at a certain place, in a certain time, to experience the bliss of their Belonging. Great love stories immortalise love in all its manifestations – the madness, the melancholy, the deception, the heroism and the sublime healing. So often the mystery and grandeur of love’s experience meets the cold unyielding concrete walls of practicality or the finality of death. Our souls inevitably lead us across barren wastelands, or snare us in thorny brambles of subterfuge and prickly complexity.  Without the luscious juiciness of erotic Love, our soul’s thirst is fleetingly quenched by love stories in books and movies. Its gossamer wings stretch towards the warmth of a love song that reverberates in the furnace of our knowing. We encounter love in the transcendent realm of our dreams. Love swirls us in fantasy, pricks our hardened hearts with thorns of sadness for what was, what might have been.

Some of us dare to dive deep only once in a lifetime. Some 0f us swaddle tightly in layers of protective clothing. Stay well away from such foolish messy things. We are too busy, too old and too fussy to believe in such folly ever again. So we  remain, ghostly spectators on the mossy river banks, not daring to dip a even a toe into the swirling waters. Wearing our wetsuits of past experience that say “too risky… or it will never last…”

We choose to live low wattage light bulb lives, silently moving through the motions of our lives, barely casting a shadow, leaving a foot print.  “There is life without love, “says Mary Oliver. “ It is not worth a bent penny. Or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied.” She  admonishes her reader to grab their courage, and “ row, row, row, for your life toward it.”

The valour of Love stirred my heart in a beachfront restaurant on Sunday evening. A middle-aged couple strolled past my table: an ordinary looking man holding the hand of an ordinary looking woman.   Except that there was something transcendent, something magical about the way they moved.  In unison they seemed to glide across that floor. Slowly, they sank into their seats at a table facing towards mine, their backs away from the turquoise sweep of sea and sky. With soft eyes they gazed at one another. They loved what they saw. Heads thrown back, throats exposed, soft and vulnerable, they laughed deliciously, often, playfully. They savoured the sweetness of each word, each precious gesture. They hungered to know more as they leaned into each other. Languorously, they kissed, hungry tongues exploring, hands urgently caressing. Oblivious to the setting sun, oily oozing gold-vermillion on the shimmering waves. Unaware of the black-backed gulls swooping low over the kelp-strewn sand. They sat, enthroned King and Queen of Hearts in their timeless kingdom. The food they ordered, the bottle of wine, were incidental props at the High Table of their love. Their embodiment of love graced all our tables that day. Says Thomas Moore: “Our era’s preoccupation with mental hygiene encourages us to think of all forms of mania as disease…Plato’s divine madness is not pathological in our hygienic sense, but more an opening into eternity. It is a relief from the stringent limits of pragmatic, sanitised life. It is a door that opens out from human reason into divine mystery.”

Love weaves daisy-chains, lies in grassy meadows, staring at the dance of clouds. Its delicious languor stretches across time. And yet so often the clouds of fear darken the fierce flame of our Love. Our doubts gather ominously on the horizon.  As we scurry for shelter from our childlike innocence our contaminated thoughts become the words that fly like poisoned arrows from our lips to pierce the heart of our lover, lacerating our own lips. Conditional love breeds like bacteria in a festering wound of fear. It flourishes in a dualistic world where we seek approval, control and security, through our love relationships. Where we sow the poison seeds of destruction in our superficial relating or rigid roles, where we cling to one another in desiccated desperation. Self-growth is self-love. And yet so many of us do not know how to begin to love ourselves until we begin to unearth our buried longings, the playful, joyful passionate parts of our selves. If we are single, we can write out the “wish lists” and visualise our “soul mate”. Yet we will only meet the “right” person when we are the “right” person. If we love ourselves conditionally, if we tame our own desires with shoulds and musts and ifs … we shrink into drab, one-dimensional cartoon characters, separated from Source, from our own Divinity.

There is always one constant in all our relationships: ourselves.  When we are willing to make the quantum leap into a new paradigm of forgiveness, acceptance and gentleness; when we release the fear and shame that bolt the door and imprison us in our sense of separateness, our relationships will mirror our own unfolding spiritual journey. Love is a many-splendoured thing.  If we are willing to adventure with child-like innocence, and eyes wide open in wonder, it will find us just at the perfect time. And we will sparkle, so splendidly.

Eleanor Mc Evoy Only A Woman’s Heart

 

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Between Two Lungs

It is our in-breath that holds us in Life. And yet it is when an opportunistic virus squats in the warm moistness of our body, and our lungs rattle and wheeze in the echoing silence of the night, it is only then that we experience the desperate urgency of that vital breath. We can live for weeks without food, days without water, only minutes without the hallowed air that connects us to the world around us. Yet, how often do we move mechanically through our days, without pausing to marvel at the miracle that is our body.  Until we wake from our stupor… until something goes wrong.

Many religions place care of the body as a sacred responsibility. The body is the temple for the soul, a physical form through which we all experience spirit, our humanness. Yet paradoxically, these same religions condemn our carnality; denounce our bodily functions, shame our sexuality. We have lost our ancient connection to the land, to our own animal bodies.  We worship at the altar of the mind, banishing our bodies, mutilating ourselves in our vain quest for some standard of “perfection”. Physical fitness is extolled in the media and in Western culture, yet below the skin of the perfect body,  lurks a fetid abscess of shame which poisons our blood, defiles our bones. We subjugate our natural cycles, starve our hunger for touch, use them like landfills for the garbage of shame and self-abuse. The memory of fear, loathing, and trauma, lies in the vaults of our musculature, stays, silenced in our timid, shallow breathing.

How many of us love our bodies? Care for them as we would minister to a beloved pet or a cherished child? The black rat of dissatisfaction gnaws in the belly of this body we say we love. Our bodies remain charred uninhabited landscapes. We’re talking heads, amputated from flesh and blood, swinging in space.  So, there comes the day when our athletic knees fail us after years of hip misalignment, and we must genuflect. Our facial muscles atrophy from mis-use of botox, our shoulders ache, immobilised by static hours at the computer. We are dis-embodied – unable to access the intuitive wisdom –  or the raw courage to defy the herd mind and attune to what feels self-nurturing.

As Caroline Myss says, “Our biography becomes our biology.”   So coming Home to the body requires listening, in silence, to the body’s innate wisdom to heal, to regenerate. It may take years to silence the critical voices in our heads that push us beyond exhaustion, that quell our instinctual hunger and desire. Jung talks of the Eros principle to describe this sense of interconnectedness, this sense of being fully alive, awake, in our fleshy moist bodies. He connected Eros to the archetype of The Mother, the feminine, the connection with the Earth, with sensual touch, with food, with nurturing, with relatedness to all things. Eros is our life force. When the feminine is demonised, devalued, she slips silently underground. She falls asleep, emerges angry, erupts as dis-ease. Somatised emotions sing to us our soul-songs of pain.

In the patriarchal West, we honour Logos – the masculine. When masculine and feminine energies are imbalanced, as they are in so many institutions, and religions, what emerges is competitiveness, perfection, specialisation, over-rationalisation, greed, mis-use of power, and the ultimate insanity – war. When masculine and feminine are out of kilter, we try to transcend who we really are. So often it is an illness, some kind of physical break down that brings us Home to  surrender, so softly to the warmth of  our bodies. Says Marion Woodman, “This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known. “

So, as we allow our minds to become still  energy  enters, the feelings  overflow… we begin to breathe deeply, filling our soft bellies, receiving… Life. As we learn to trust, to take seriously the honour of loving our body, our dreams bring us precious pearls in oyster shells of  metaphor, and imagery. They speak to us of dis-ease in our body if we are attentive, long before our bodies talk to us through symptoms.  Or, perhaps an “accident” may open the door to a room in our psyche we have never entered. “Injury is an essential part of the life cycle of any active biological organism,” writes Josh Schrei. “Only in a world in which we seek an endless summer and a lifestyle of perpetual comfort would we consider injury as entirely negative. Our very life cycles say otherwise. Our mothers birth us in pain and rapture, structurally altering themselves — and often being injured — in the process. We ourselves are born through a passage that puts tremendous pressure on our new frames and warps them out of symmetry right from the start… The reality is that injury — like all things in this realm of physical preciousness, up to and including death — is a gift if we take it as such.”

We cannot destroy our energy; lose our power, (to anything or anyone). It is there all the time, in the sacred landscape of our body. In the heart, between our two lungs.

Florence and the Machine –  Between Two Lungs

Dreams of a Saturday Morning in my Lover’s Bed – art by C.S. Scogins.

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