Oooh, Valentine’s Day. The one day of the year that drives fear into the hearts of men and women everywhere. (Or wait, is that just me?)
I used to be very anti-Valentine’s Day. I liked to whine a lot about the artificiality of forcing ourselves to be loving on some random day of the year, probably because I enjoyed, in a weird way, being angst-ridden, and probably because there’s a sloppy gratification and comfort in whining all the time.
These days I’m more ambivalent than anything else. Valentine’s Day comes and goes and comes and goes. There’s not much to it—just another day.
So I surprised myself this morning when I woke up with a deep feeling of joy grounded firmly in the center of my body. I don’t know whether it’s the meditation challenge or what—we’re halfway through!—but it was a desire I can only describe as “I want to give everybody in the world a big fat hug. Right. This. Second.” Usually when I feel like this it’s because I just had a cup of coffee. But this morning it was metta au natural—no caffeine, no intentional cultivation, no nothing.
I have different meditation routines that I follow, but more often than not I start a sitting session with the four lovingkindness slogans—may you be happy, healthy, safe, and live with ease—starting with myself and moving through my parents, family, friends, acquaintances, enemies, strangers, and finally, all sentient beings. As I move into each outer ring, I like to think of specific people, because it makes the process feel less abstract. So when I’m on “family” I might think of my sister or my grandmother; when I’m on “strangers” I’ll recall someone’s face from a dance class; on “all sentient beings” I’ll think of a mouse or a rhinoceros or a Somalian pirate.
Rarely, however, do I dedicate an entire session to establishing lovingkindness. In fact, if I’m going to be honest, I find the whole thing to be very difficult. Even though I’m thinking the four lovingkindness slogans, and almost every day at that, I don’t often physically feel that loving attitude in my body, nor do I act upon it when I do. But I guess that’s the thing about practice—the results pop up when you least expect them. And I suppose there really is something to faking it ’til you make it.
One of my friends texted me this morning, “Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s not just for lovers, but also for the people you just love.” I love the way she phrased that: “the people you just love.” No expectations, no analysis, no wondering what you’re gunna get in return. You love ’em, because….well, you just do!
So, Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody. Remember: don’t stress. Spread the love. May you be happy, healthy, safe, and get through Valentine’s with ease. I haven’t meditated yet today, but I’ll be thinking about all of you during my pre-meditation lovingkindness sesh tonight.
—Emma Varvaloucas, Associate Editor
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.