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Feb 14
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Joining in the Dance

painting by Maya Rook

painting by Maya Rook

It’s Valentines’ Day
by Maya Rook, Brooklyn, New York

“Love is a mutual dance that takes place, and even if you step on each other’s toes during the dance, it is not regarded as problematic.”
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

From across an inky midnight sky splattered with white-hot stars there is a spark — a glisten of intriguing energy. Curious, I move toward it and watch as one star expands brilliantly yet softly, slowly reaching toward me.

Oh. It’s you, I think, even though I don’t know who you are. In this space of unknowing and uncertainty I’m drawn closer, wanting to move in rhythm with your pulsing light, whatever it may be…

“What is going to be is what is,
That is love.”

As energies encounter one another in this great expanse of existence, there is no telling what will happen. We observe the world and watch as some energies attract while others repel, entwine and merge into one entity or meet and dissipate quickly. We take delight in watching this play of phenomena but often forget that our own physical bodies are also composed of that same energy — and that when we encounter other beings we are not experiencing the meeting of two solid forms but of a mingling of such intangible forces.

Our egos wish to fix a storyline onto these encounters, causing us to see people not as they are but as what we wish them to be in relation to us. On a larger cultural level, these storylines are mythological narratives that traditionally help us find meaning in our lives and understand our place in culture and society. However, they become impediments to growth when we cling too tightly to such fixed storylines. And it seems our narratives of love and romance are particularly detrimental. The normative cultural narrative of finding “true love” is a mediocre story we all know too well. It generally centers around two individuals who are not quite happy in their lives alone. But then they meet each other, fall head over heels, and (perhaps after a dramatic issue that makes it seem like they won’t make it) get married. It always ends with big smiles, the promise of a joyous future together, and maybe even a baby on the way, ready to repeat the fantasy all over again.

The love expounded by these cultural myths is not “true love” as much as the movies and romance novels promise it to be. Off the screen, expecting this type of love predisposes relationships to possessiveness, demands, and expectation. It cultivates a love that, in many ways, is insulting to both partners because it doesn’t allow each individual to truly see the other. It’s a love that feeds into holidays like today’s Valentine’s Day, which often leaves partners disappointed when unreasonable expectations aren’t met or causes single people to feel awful for being alone. How many fights have occurred or tears shed over this holiday that is supposed to be about loving another person?

For many, this rom-com mythology is engrained in our worldview as we’ve been bombarded since childhood with fantasies of what it means to be in love. But just because we can’t completely turn off these cultural myths doesn’t mean we have to be ruled by them. We can see these narratives as what they are — simply narratives — and not let them write our life stories or dictate our personal experiences of love. Just as we let go of clinging to thoughts in meditation with each exhalation, we can also let go of the narratives that are damaging in our daily lives.

“There is no fear of leaping into the immeasurable space of love.”

True love is so much more than what we see at the movies. It is stripped of such simplistic narratives. It isn’t about finding a perfect partner or getting married or having children. It is, as Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche suggests, something more akin to a “mutual dance” than a fairy tale. In this approach, love is about being with things as they are and being attuned to energy as it unfolds in the moment. It is a continual process of acceptance and of letting go. It’s about acceptance of what is, even when it isn’t exactly what you want it to be. It’s letting go of hopes and fears and facing an unknown future. It’s letting go of a desire for a person to belong to you, and it’s an acceptance that no matter how well you know that person they will change, and so will you.

Indeed, it means celebrating that change.

If love is a mutual dance then it means a willingness to move with that change, whether it’s pleasant or painful. The music ebbs and flows but if all you can manage is a box step you might find you’re out of tune with the natural development of a relationship. To fully embrace the dance, you might be challenged to change your habitual patterns to maintain a harmonious flow. You might have to trust that you can release your partner’s hands so they can dance alone and not know if they’ll ever return to you. You might find yourself spinning dizzily and enjoying the confusion.

And during this dance if you step on each other’s toes, can you laugh about it?

“Fall in love?
Or, are you in love?
Such questions cannot be answered,
Because in this peace of an all-pervading presence,
No one is in and no one is falling in.
No one is possessed by another.”

This dance looks different for each person, and that’s its most beautiful attribute. Sometimes we can predict how it will go, while other times every movement is a surprise. Our individual experiences are our own, yet in love we’re willing to expose ourselves to another person. In love we gain the strength to be vulnerable, and in that process we free our hearts, minds, and bodies from the fixity of self. We become other. Other becomes us. And in mingling our energies together we create a work of art. We craft a unique relationship—something beyond each individual that is intangible, impermanent, and distinctively beautiful whether it’s just beginning or coming to an end.

Ultimately, this type of love is not restricted by any narrative or relationship structure. It is not even dependent upon a romantic partnership. Such dances of love can take place between friends, family members, and even strangers. They occur when we let go and celebrate our mutual existence in any moment with any other being.

In this way we fall in love constantly, and yet we are not really falling — we are completely grounded. In these moments the preciousness of a single molecule, the simple sip of a glass of water, or the overwhelming beauty of the universe becomes our lover and infinite possibilities serve as our ballroom floor.

“Unexpectedly, as I opened myself to love, I was accepted.
So there is no questioning, no hesitation.”

Back in that inky sky a story has yet to be written, and perhaps it never will be. Your light continues to radiate and in the center of that light your heart is exposed. When I look directly into that brilliant glow and see you as you are, those imposing narratives have no power. They cannot dictate the movements of our energies, the patterns yet to be etched in the expanse of space.

So listen. Do you hear the music of the phenomenal world? The whisper of wind through the branches? The screech of a subway car? Raindrops falling against the window? Listen as the melody unfolds — it’s my favorite song. And if you’re willing, I’d love to share this dance with you…

Maya RookMaya Rook lives in Brooklyn and works at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York. She is pursuing a PhD in American Cultural History at Drew University where she focuses on twentieth-century intersections of popular and counter-cultures, gender and sexuality, and Buddhism in America. She also writes poetry and essays, creates visual art, and serves as the historian/dramaturg for The Tower — a play dealing with the history and mythology of the Donner Party that will debut in April.

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2 responses to “ Joining in the Dance ”
  1. Bravo MR dear ~ so proud of you. Very touched that VCTR is speaking to you.

  2. Linda Mockeridge
    Feb 17, 2014

    Delightful! Thank you.

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