I Bow Down to Love


I bow down in complete awe to the immense depth and breadth of what is possible to experience as a human being.

To know the full range of being human is to know the capacity for great joy and great sorrow. To feel so alive that nothing is pushed away. Nothing is deemed too difficult to feel, too shallow to experience, too risky to allow out into the world.

Yesterday, I was feeling playful and light. Totally free. Smiling from my belly.

This morning, I woke up a little groggy. Had some tea. Sat down to email, twitter and facebook. I found a tweet from Yoko Ono, followed the thread and wound my way to this video that Yoko created to celebrate what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday.

I watched the footage from the seventies, and listened intently to the brilliance of John’s genius. I listened to his wisdom, how he was willing to do things no one else dared. How he spoke of Ghandi and Martin Luther King embodying non-violence as a way to peace, and how he spoke of them being shot for it. I thought of how amazing it is that John was sharing his vision for love and peace, and he, too, was shot for it.

And then I began to cry. A deep cry, a cry of grief. A feeling of grief so deep that it found its way back to love. I cried for the beauty of John Lennon’s vision. I cried for his vision that still has not come to pass thirty years after his death. I discovered unexpected grief. Perhaps mine. Perhaps the collective. It doesn’t really matter. I cried.

Grief is the doorway to love, and to life. It is by way of grief, we begin to know death.

Grief teaches us about what we’ve killed within ourselves, and therefore it teaches us what we’ve killed in others, and in the world itself. What we’ve pushed down into the dark because we couldn’t feel it. Couldn’t allow ourselves to feel the immensity of its pain.

Bindu Wiles writes, “If you run from the sorrow, you live a half life.”

Some of us avoid pain and sorrow. Some of us avoid play and joy. Some of us avoid anger and rage. Some of us avoid vulnerability and softness.Whatever we avoid is in the other half of life that we aren’t living.

I ask myself, “What’s in that other half that I am not living?”

I have found the more I am willing to be with the grief that is always present when we’re living a half life, the more it teaches me what it is I’ve been avoiding.

Grief is a loving companion. It takes our hand and walks with us. It wakes us up to the power and vulnerability inherent in a heart that is willing to open to the mystery of life.

Love and grief are deeply intertwined.

When my late husband died, I feared being obliterated by the grief. I discovered I couldn’t feel the grief fully until I allowed myself to feel the love I had for him fully.

When my mother died and I sat with her body, and sat with the grief that was raging through me, I was mysteriously given the opportunity to experience a profound love for her I had never  known.

How can I be a whole human being, if I’m living a half life?

Isn’t it our humanity that’s needed right now, our very real and vulnerable humanness? Isn’t it an embodied spirit that’s needed, a playful, joyful humanity that doesn’t shy away from another’s suffering?

I know many people who don’t travel to ‘difficult places’ because they fear seeing the suffering that is very real. I, too, feared traveling to India because I didn’t know if I could handle seeing the poverty. That fear was keeping me from a whole life. That fear was keeping me in the half life Bindu speaks of. What I discovered was a delightful playfulness in the children that were begging on the Ghats of Varanasi. Yes, they experience a great amount of difficulty. And, in seeing the difficulty up close, I realized that everything I think they are experiencing is only what I imagine in my mind. When I am not willing to be with something in another, it is my own fear of being with that in myself. It stems from living a half life.

When I am stuck in the land of ‘there is no mystery’, I think I know what this world needs to heal. I think I know how to save it, or even that it needs to be saved. Maybe it’s humans that need to be saved, and I don’t mean saved as in born again. I mean saved as in waking up to what we believe we have killed within ourselves. Maybe it’s as simple as waking up to what I believe I have killed within me, waking up to the love that is waiting in the half of my heart I don’t dare open, the half of my heart I don’t dare share.

I do know that we humans have imposed ourselves on this world for far too long. We’ve become great at dominating and not so good at coming into rhythm with Life. Sometimes doing is too much. Sometimes it is good to stop and listen, to feel, to open and receive that which might cause us to remember humility and awe for life itself, for the sheer wonder and delight that we are breathing at all, that something is breathing us.

When I am in fix-it mode, I think my powers as a human being are far greater than the intelligence of the creative mystery that breathes us, that smiles us, that can heal us. The old way of doing things was to impose our ideas of what was wrong with the situation so that we could fix it, and in turn feel better about not feeling that place in ourselves that was being mirrored out there. I know this way well. I’ve wanted to fix the things that I see are broken. I’ve wanted to fix the things that cause ME pain.

As I write this, I see how I (over and over again) react to what causes me pain by attempting to impose what I believe to be a better way to be. It’s painful to see it, and I’m not all that proud of it. And, what I also know from experience, is that when I choose to feel the pain I am fleeing by my attempts to ‘fix it’, what emerges is love, a love so bright and clean and full because it came out of the cauldron of grief. And in this love, is a different way, a new way that is about coming together, collaboration, creativity, sharing, living simply, honoring, respecting. This love isn’t about not doing, but rather it is about moving from a deeper, wiser place.

I know deep in my bones that grieving, and the healing and love it brings, is a natural, intelligent process. And, it takes being open to that process, which is a deep mystery. Whether we want to know it or not, we are bathed in that mystery. We are that mystery.

That mystery is trying to get our attention. It is whispering to us, giving voice to a different way to be. I know I hear that voice from within, a voice that scares the crap out of me, because it asks that I surrender to it. I would be lying to you if I told you it no longer scared me. Yet, I’ve come to a place where the voice that wants to ‘fix it all’ scares me more. I see where trying to fix it all has gotten us. I see where trying to fix it all has gotten me.

This quiet, yet insistent voice within doesn’t bargain with me. There is no bargaining with it. It only shares one step at a time. It asks us to trust in something greater than ourselves. It asks us to trust in love.

I bow down in complete awe to the immense depth and breadth of what is possible to experience as a human being. I bow down to love.

Love, by John Lennon

Love is real, real is love
Love is feeling, feeling love
Love is wanting to be loved

Love is touch, touch is love
Love is reaching, reaching love
Love is asking to be loved

Love is you
You and me
Love is knowing
we can be

Love is free, free is love
Love is living, living love
Love is needed to be loved

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17 Replies to “I Bow Down to Love”

  1. I too am coming to see where the voice that wants to ‘fix-it-all’ kept getting me/us and am learning the grace of surrendering to love.

    Thank you for this beautiful post.

  2. what we need to fix is the need to fix.
    i mean, really. what fixes it for one, doesn’t necessarily fix it for everybody. how absurd. how arrogant. yes. let’s shift. let’s leave that kind of power-over by the wayside. let’s offer to help, let’s offer support and assistance when asked for and until then, let’s bear witness.
    too often we approach grief with a timeline and tabulation of what we’ve lost without ever considering celebrating and appreciating what we have, what we could have. love and grief are deeply intertwined: yes. yes. they come together to create a rope . . . a rope that can be fashioned into a noose or as lifeline – choose. a rope we can hold onto and make our way through that door into the other “half-full” side, into the great mystery, into the place i long to become a full-time resident of.
    thank you for another thoughtful post that really resonates . . . even if i don’t quite have the wherewithall to craft a cohesive comment that matches that resonation.

  3. Hi Julie,

    Your post reminds me of the line I remember most clearly from the book “Ordinary People,” which I read almost 30 years ago: “It’s hard to smile when you’re keeping a stiff upper lip.”

  4. Grief is the doorway to love. So, so beautiful Julie – and so, so true. The very thing we most resist is the very thing that offers us the deepest experience of all that we most desire. SO grateful for you, my friend.

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  6. This pulled me up out of the aftermath of deep, intense vulnerability – the wash of “oh my – did I really do that, go there, reveal those things?” that often comes after peeling back the layers.

    Thank you for these words tonight.


  7. Beautiful, and truetruetrue.

    I know, because I’ve been there. Blessed with that grief opening into love.

    Recently, though, I’ve been in a cycle of denying it. Trying to fix it. Terrified of it. Touching it occasionally, like I’m wildly, frantically treading water in depths only up to my shoulders. And occasionally I touch the bottom with my toe. And then, terrified, even horrified by the soft pull of the mud, I pull up my legs to tread ever more frantically. Surely I’m treading mere inches from the safe bottom.

    I’m sure if I relaxed, put my feet on the bottom, and stood, the water would not cover my head. I would be able to stand safely and calmly. I have before. I have stood in these waters before, blessed by them like the waters of the Ganges or the Jordan.

    But at the moment in this cycle, I’m still scared. Stiff. Untrusting.

    Tired of the frenzy and fear, absolutely.

    But in the moment, still scared.

    And yes, only half-living.

    1. Karen,
      There is so much energy in your comment, so much happening right now. I can see how in touch you are with what you are feeling, seeing, realizing. That is all. Being scared, untrusting, tired, denying yet knowing you’ve been blessed before. Letting this be, now. Thank you for your rawness and vulnerability, here. Thank you.
      Blessings and love,

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  9. Luminous – and yet earthy, raw, real. You write from the inside of a bruise, yet there is all of this light. I am so moved by this. I want to write a whole post of my own in response. I will say only this: thank you for touching me.

    I will pull out this line (there were so many ‘favorites’) “It only shares one step at a time. It asks us to trust in something greater than ourselves. It asks us to trust in love.” I chose it because, for me, this has been the way to myself. In trusting the love inside of me (and understanding that this love is a part of Divine love) I now trust in a way that would have been inconceivable even one year ago. I trust that the way will present itself, that when my foot is ready to step, the earth will be there – and that when I am ready to fly, there will be wings, ground support, and wind.

    Thank you for this.

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