Wherever and whenever people meet, it is never long before love and relationships – their problems and confusions, their bliss and beauty – is discussed. Love is as essential to us as air; a force that drives us all.
Love determines who we are, who we become, what we can achieve and, through this, how the world will evolve. It may even determine how long we live. Policy advisors to government now claim that the single strongest predictor of whether an individual will be alive in 10 years time is his answer to the question: “Does somebody love you?”
Psychologists have found links between love and self-confidence, mental, emotional, and physical well-being, and freedom from stress and anxiety. By sad contrast, those working with Romanian orphans have also found that children who are denied love can develop a “virtual black hole” in their brains where their emotional centres should be. Because of this, they can never grow up to be complete human beings.
Studies like these show us the importance of love. And yet, so many questions remain unanswered. How many of us can say, for example, what love really is, or how to find it, nurture it, and learn from it so it can feed and enrich our souls? How do we make our relationships work so that they – and we – are healthy, happy, and whole?
These are questions which scientists cannot answer. For that we need a Master who can teach us love’s simple truths and guide us onto the path of the heart.
RUMI: THE MASTER OF LOVE
This year marks the 800th anniversary of one such Master. Sufi mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi was born on September 29 1207 in Eastern Persia. As a child he gained a reputation as a gifted spiritual teacher, and went on to establish the Sufi order known as The Path of the Master. During his life he composed thousands of verses of mystical love poetry, the messages of which concern the notion of tahweed (unity), where, through love itself, we become one with “the Beloved”: the divine spirit of love within all of us. For Rumi, we are all divine and there is no problem we can face which does not have a solution, no question we can ask which does not have an answer, as long as we remember who and what we are. What, after all, is impossible to God? And the essence of God is love.
To love well, therefore, may be our most important task as spiritual human beings, because only by this can we overcome our difficulties and distractions, and reconnect with our true selves. Through love we can make miracles.
To find love, however, we must surrender to love, knowing that our partners are reflections of ourselves and that we are both capable of the deepest, most soulful, and intoxicating of loves – if we choose to see things this way.
WHAT IS LOVE ANYWAY?
The word ‘love’ is nowadays poorly defined. It stands for so much yet can mean so little. Other cultures were clearer on love, suggesting that they were more thoughtful about and respectful of it. The ancient Greeks, for example, had many different words for love, describing its various forms and how each feels, including eros (sensuality and passion), philo (the love between friends), and agape (love of God, or, more generally, the kindness and compassion we show to all people when we recognise them as divine and special beings, just like us).
For Rumi, any (and all) of these forms of love is a gateway through which we can meet God. When we are loving and loved by another, our perceptions change and things become brighter, clearer, and more meaningful. We see the world as it really is. Even a gesture from our lover can leave us swooning and carry a deep and sacred meaning. We wake up to the world and, through this awakening, we realise that everyone and all things are part of a single consciousness: We are One – and, more remarkable still, we are all God.
The problem for modern relationships is the pace of life. We do not have time to reflect on love, to experience it fully, or even to be in the company of our lovers. We are always wanted somewhere else. On top of this, in this modern age, we are all consumers and consumed. Love’s confusions arise from this. As consumers of a fast-food lifestyle, we have been grown to expect instant answers and gratification; to simply be ‘in love’ and our lovers to feel the same.
But love, despite the spin which makes it look so easy, is never really that simple. It requires that we look more deeply at ourselves and our lovers, who have been gifted to us by God for our mutual spiritual advancement, and not to approach them just with expectations to be met.
If we accept love in this way, we will learn from it and grow; if we have demands and expectations, however, we will be disappointed and experience rejection and hurt when love does not go our way. These feelings click into our deepest wounds and lead to defensiveness and conflict – the opposite of love in any form.
To avoid this, we must be clear on what ‘love’ means to us, because when we know what we want there is less room for misunderstanding. We must also be willing to explore and release our feelings of rejection if and when they arise. By doing so, we free ourselves from hurt so that in future – and in Rumi’s words – we “Do not revisit the past” because “This fleeting moment must not be wasted”.
HOW CAN WE BE MORE LOVING?
Intimate relationships are our universities of the heart. In them we will find challenges and blessings, ecstasy and sorrows, and come to realise that our lovers are our mirrors and we are reflected in their eyes. If there is conflict in our relationships it is because we ourselves are in conflict; if there is joy and fulfilment it is because we have found peace within ourselves.
Love seeks balance, stability, and a subtle deepening. For it to evolve in a positive way, it is not necessary, therefore, to force things in our relationships or to worry that we are not doing enough or being as loving as we could; it is only necessary, as a first step, to Do No Harm. This is the first principle of love and Rumi urges us to use it in order to find our equilibrium:
“If you are like the wind: sometimes hot, sometimes cold,
Find the place within you where heat and cold are no more”
Then love can evolve naturally towards its perfection.
In Rumi’s tradition, life is a mystery and we cannot know its secrets, but there is logic to the universe beyond our understanding and things are unfolding as they should to help us learn, heal, and to love. We are all as perfect as we can be in this special moment.
The relationship you have now, therefore, is perfect for who you are in this given moment because you still have more to learn from it. But that doesn’t mean that you or your lover cannot become more perfect still! Each passing second brings change, the possibility of healing, new insights, and new ways of being. Perfection is not an absolute, but a process of evolution. “In aiming for perfection”, Rumi reminds us, “it is God that we become”. As we become more loving, we attract love to us.
Every relationship – even the most unsatisfactory – is part of this evolutionary process, giving us the opportunity to practice our love, to open our hearts, and create perfection in the moment. If we are wise to love we will learn from it and this will allow us to better understand ourselves and move forward.
To do so, we need to look at ourselves, at what motivates us or holds us back, and at where we must place more of our attention so we are balanced and whole. When we are perfect beings, perfection cannot help but flow towards us. Rumi’s advice, then, is simple:
“Keep company with Saints And you will become a Saint!”
AND WHEN PERFECTION SEEMS HARD TO COME BY?
It is difficult, when our hearts are broken or we are sad at the world, to feel that such perfection exists or can be found, or that we can trust enough to give ourselves completely to another. It is our challenge to do so. We must be the “Spiritual Warriors” Rumi implores us to become, and not give in to despair at our ‘failures’, for they are opportunities, too, for learning and growth.
“Come, come, whoever you are!
Wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire,
Come even though you have been broken a hundred times!
Come, and come again,
Ours is not a caravan of despair!”
Relationships work because of openness, vulnerability, and a desire to love, no matter what. When we approach our lovers with a bitter heart or with sadness and fear in our souls, that is what we bring to them and what our relationship becomes: “I have run to you because I am afraid of myself. Please don’t give me back to myself!”
No relationship can ‘save’ us from the problems we bring to it. Instead, it will magnify them so we see what needs to be healed and are given an opportunity for positive change. If we find it hard to give love, for example, then it will be equally hard for love to be given to us, and this will be central to every relationship we have until we decide to heal it. Our relationships reveal these truths and this is our lover’s gift.
It is clinging to hope and expectations – the ‘what could have beens’ – that cause us pain when we absorb ourselves with relationships that have failed. When we learn from them and let go, however, our pain is released and we can greet new lovers with wisdom, dignity, and respect for ourselves and for them.
There is a simple law of the universe that embraces us in times of sorrow: Love seeks balance, and our pain now is equal in measure to the joy that will come. Trust that it will and allow yourself to be blessed for, as the Master of Love remind us, “Peace always keeps company with troubles”.
The important thing, then, is to know what issues we face. In this we find freedom, not shame! By understanding our pains and fears we and our lovers can find creative solutions so that love has a chance to flow. Knowing our answers, we can navigate our relationships so that, one step at a time, we give more of ourselves and open our hearts to love.
Through the challenges and blessings of every relationship, we explore the depths of our beings and learn more about who we are as we grow in appreciation for what we find. The person we are learning to love is always ourselves.
When we understand this, our lover becomes our ally in helping us connect with our souls by making the invisible world visible and what is hidden within us real and apparent.
The mirror of my soul is your face, my love;
You reflect my perfect being
WHAT, THEN, ARE OUR BLOCKS TO LOVE?
There is a conflict within all human beings between what our souls know to be true and what we are taught is true. What every newborn child knows is the reality of love; what we are taught by life is to fear. We will have far more training in the latter than in how to love and to recognise it in others! Through our conditioning, we become experts in withholding trust.
Fear closes us down and, since the world we create is the one we perceive, once we close ourselves off to love, fear is all we know because it is all we see. To change this we must be courageous in love, then those around us can also wake up to the truth. By acting from love – no matter what – we create a more loving world, free of the limitations we have known.
“Leap into the fires of love”, writes Rumi.
“When you know ecstasy
You cannot live without the flames”
We must embrace love and allow it to flow – fearlessly, passionately, uncompromisingly – as the route to freedom for our souls. The path of the heart is one we must walk now.
“The time for staying home is over.
It is time we entered the garden,
For the sun has risen on a new day of happiness:
Our day of vision and unity”
Ross Heaven is the author of Loves Simple Truths: Meditations on Rumi and The Path of The Heart, which is available from , and the forthcoming The Way of The Lover: Rumi and the Spiritual Art of Love. He is a therapist, healer, and counselor, and runs workshops on the themes of his books.