What is Polyamory? It’s Not Exactly What You Might Think

The root of polyamory means literally “many loves.” Now, immediately people often think this only relates to our intimate relationships, but at the heart of it, it is about every kind of love – platonic, family, friend, intimate, social – the whole spectrum. It is about not seeing love as something we can feel towards our partners only, and opening our hearts (that is, our compassion and kindness) to a much wider circle of people.

It’s funny then, that when this kind of aim becomes our goal, the openness and naturalness to have lovingly intimate relationships with more than one person seems to arise organically. That doesn’t always happen, of course; it depends on the person, but that was my experience.

Now, I think it’s worth stressing. Even though the multiple, loving intimate-relationships thing is what usually takes all the spot-light in the discussion, it is really just one effect of this philosophy. It is not the essential purpose. Whether you prefer to have intimate relationships with one or more people is not the point. If you’re not interested in loving people and you just want to have sex, you can call that kind of situation swinging, or openly dating, or a free lunch, but it’s not polyamory. Polyamory is a philosophy on love. It includes the love we have towards one partner, towards two or three partners, towards our friends, strangers, and society as a whole. But maybe we need to take a step back a minute.

This may all sound completely crazy. It’s hard to say. What does it mean to try to love everyone, not just our romantic partners, but our friends – strangers? To disassociate sex with love and to love people completely, not just maybe 10 or 15 people in the world, but 50 people, 100 people – everyone we come in contact with in our life? Is it possible to even love like this? Now, if we’re talking about romantic love, I would say no. Physically that is probably not even possible. The kind of love I’m talking about is the kind of love we can feel towards anyone. Love, as I would define it, is the *will* to take kind actions; it is that quality inside of us that compels us to be compassionate and thoughtful towards the people in our life.

Now, usually the number of people that would make this list is pretty short. We usually afford our compassion and thoughtfulness to a fairly small group of friends and family, and of course, most prominently, our significant other. But for the longest time I’ve asked myself, why is it so easy to love someone I’m attracted to, but loving someone I don’t like that much is this incredibly difficult thing? I close my heart off to them, and everyone else does this as well, and so it becomes this accepted norm in our society.

Our capacity for empathy and compassion for others seems very limited. I can see this in myself, like most people I would have to guess, and I want to know if it is possible to love more than this small circle of people, to keep my heart open to more and more people in my life until one day I can feel in some real, physical sense a love for everyone in the world. I want to find out what the limit really is. The question is: how do we make the leap from loving this very small circle of people, to opening our hearts to everyone?

If I had to take a stab at it, I think loving others unconditionally is the secret. Loving someone, even knowing their flaws, even knowing their boring sides or whatever sides – you see them as you see yourself.

You can love them, knowing who they are, just the way they are, as if who they are doesn’t even matter.

Just by their existence, they are a part of you and all of it. I am not separate from him. I am not separate from her. We share the same basic desires, hopes, fears, sufferings and dreams – the same basic humanity. Intrinsically, just looking into someone’s eyes, while they’re talking or doing something very ordinary, without them knowing what you’re thinking about, just looking deeply into their eyes with mindfulness and that sort of conscious intention, aware of who we all truly are – it would seem hard not to love them.

It could be a moment like this.

You could look into one of these person’s eyes, and love inside them what is common in all of us, to appreciate the beauty of that. For me, the breakthrough came when I asked myself, “If I can love so-and-so with such ease, why not this person? Why not these people? What’s really the difference?”

It’s funny that it has always been easiest to work on opening my heart in this way to women whom I’ve been intimate with at some point in time (whether in a polyamorous or a monogamous context). That is just the way we are taught to love, so it is what feels the most natural for us.

Quietly, though, the voice inside my heart knows that my love must not be one-pointed. If I want to find out what it means to love fully, completely, not just to love sexually, in this very limited way, then I must love the world before it becomes particular shapes, or particular people.

Love the parts, because you understand the whole.

If I can love a woman in this way, should I not then be able to open my heart to others? Am I not able to love all my friends, strangers, acquaintances, and lovers in this way?

Using this love, this openness as a template, I can apply these feelings to everyone.

This to me, is what polyamory is about – opening our hearts to a wider and wider circle of people, no longer limiting our love to a select few, no longer cutting off existing loves when we meet someone new, no longer seeing love as a limited commodity. To explore polyamory is to tap into that deep, limitless well of loving energy that resides in all of us. And from this point, the desire and willingness to explore polyamory in our intimate relationships (when a good situation arises for it) becomes one of many new great adventures.

This last statement makes a subtle point. Many people are surprised when I tell them that, philosophically, I’m polyamorous, but that most of the time I prefer to pursue monogamous relationships. I’m sure some brains are exploding trying to compute this. 🙂 But the difference is flexibility. If monogamy is the best fit for the situation, awesome, I’m all for it. But if a situation arises where it would work better to explore third-dimensional options (which would bring a greater mutual happiness to everyone involved) then I’m all for that too. There are so many times that I’ve experienced or that I’ve heard about when being flexible in a situation can allow so many more joyous possibilities. And these possibilities are simply unattainable when we stick to the “one winner and one loser” outcome, where a person is stuck in the tragic dilemma of having to choose between two people she loves. And I find situations like this happen all the time.

But whether we prefer to be in monogamous relationships, or we want to actively work on cultivating loving, committed relationships with two or three people, that is simply our personal preference. What makes a person polyamorous is our desire to simply be a more loving person, to love everyone we come in contact with in our life, and to want to discover what is truly possible.

For me, it all starts from understanding the essence of the love that we all feel in our monogamous relationships, seeing the pathways that allowed us to open our heart to this person, and then working to apply this same path to everyone.

It’s a good template to work from.


Why Do We Do Drugs?

I suppose if you don’t do any drugs at all you can stop reading this. But for many of us, perhaps most of us, we all do something. When our drug of choice isn’t pot it’s certainly alcohol. And when it’s not either of those the national standards for our consumer society is, of course, shopping. More than likely it’s probably both or all of the above.

But for most Americans, shopping fills the void and thrills the would-be thrilled. In fact science now confirms this.  Several research studies have found that when people go shopping, a brain chemical known as Dopamine is released into the body, the same chemical that’s released when people drink alcohol, sniff cocaine or fall in love. Dopamine acts on the brain’s reward center, and is what gives people a “shoppers high” when looking for new things to buy. I’ve experienced this subtle euphoria many times while standing in the checkout isle at that final moment of purchase. It reminds me of the quick-cut shots in Requiem For A Dream: pupils dilating, chemicals hitting the bloodstream, eyes dimming as the drug washes over the user. Not surprisingly,  shopping provides a much more safe (though far more expensive) fix. Indeed, for the well-adjusted and law-abiding, shopping is one of America’s favorite past-times.

Not to say buying things, or smoking pot or drinking alcohol is bad in and of itself. They’re not. It’s our habit of getting addicted to them that’s cause for the question: why do we do drugs? Doesn’t matter if your personal drug is socially acceptable or not. Television, gambling, sex, video games, sports, eating, prescription drugs, work, Facebook, wealth accumulation, relationships – the point is that culturally, socially, very few of us are not addicted to something.

If you want to be cynical you could say that what you’re addicted to is what makes you – you. Truthfully, though, most people are addicted to the same things. From a social perspective, it’s what makes these addictions okay. It’s what makes them not seem like addictions.

But why do so many people get addicted to things in the first place? The benefit of getting addicted to something is, in essence: escape. We get so narrowly and compulsively focused on something that we block out the rest of reality. Now, why would be want to insulate ourselves from reality so fully that our behavior is destructive to other aspects of our lives?

I believe, inherently, that the structures of society are driving us mad. Though most of us believe ourselves to be fairly well-adjusted, healthy individuals, we are all patients in the asylum together now. Except for anthropologists, we don’t have the kind of broad cultural perspective necessary to see our society objectively. If a hunter-gatherer saw how we behave towards each other (at work, at school, in politics, with strangers), he’d think we’d all gone nuts. We lack the perspective to even question the sanity of things like banks, schools, bosses, employees, capitalist economics, and needing money in our society simply so you won’t starve. Modern life has become a frenzied, stressful, and overwhelming place. Our mental environment is polluted with advertisements and commercial intrusions of every kind.

Most of us do not think there is a connection between the basic structure of our capitalist society and the increasing social and mental problems that we in the affluent West have become affected by. If you’re depressed, for example, the problem isn’t the environment that made you depressed. If you suddenly flip out and want to shoot up a school or fly a plane into a government building, the problem isn’t society. The problem is you. Fortunately, we have a capitalist solution for that, too, of course. It’s called Prozac. Let us know when you’re back to enjoying the work-and-spend cycle like the rest of us. 🙂

“I’m so scared of not having enough money, I can’t stop working.
Comfort, safety, company, security… the extent of my life’s needs. Even just security and company – that’s all I need.”
– Anonymous

Now, beyond the more visible examples, there is a much more subtle neurosis at play here that affects all of us. To get a handle on this, I believe we need to seriously question the fundamental insecurity that is caused by needing to “get a job” simply to survive. It is the basis of our entire civilized paradigm. We’re kicked out on our own when we’re 18. Our parents do this as a sort of “tough love” – to build character, of course, though really it only causes the adolescent anxiety and insecurity. Regardless, they’re forced to get a low-paying job to pay rent every month, sucking away monthly income that never allows them to get ahead. They get in to debt so they can go to school (a requirement now to get any decent-paying job). After graduating, they’ll hopefully have good enough credit and be able to to make enough money to buy a house (which means more debt). A mortgage on a house usually won’t be paid off for twenty years, keeping them in debt to the banks for half of their adult lives.  And all of this, all of this just so they can have a stable roof over their head – to fulfill the second most basic necessity in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

One of the most endearing memes in our society is that if you just work hard enough, anyone can make it. But despite how many people work earnestly in this system, it’s still not enough. We get in to debt with the hopes of graduating college and getting a good job. We keep paying rents or the mortgage, but millions of people still find themselves devastated by the loss of their home or their job or both.

When you add it all up, I just have to ask what kind of psychological harm this is doing us. With all the anxiety, stress, isolation and insecurity that stems from this basic fact of civilized life, it is no wonder so many of us become addicted to one form of drug or another.

So, here’s what I would really like to ask: would we feel the desire to use our drug of choice so much if the world was different? If there were fewer problems, both on a personal and global level, would we keep looking for happiness at the bottom of a bottle or in the halls of the shopping mall? If there were new mediums for our society to derive meaning and happiness, and less social oppressions conforming our lives into little boxes of paying rent and toilsome work – would we hold onto these drugs in our free time?

It may not be easy to imagine a world so amazing that smoking a joint or having a drink would somehow lesson the experience. For a moment though, let me argue that if we were to live in communities with radically different social and cultural structures, many of us, though not all I think, would have far less desire to take these consumer opiates, or at least not as much. If you are high from the excitement of a more spontaneous, authentic life – pot, alcohol, consumerism, TV and all the rest do, truly, make you “stoned” and more numb in the long run to more genuine forms of happiness.

Now, you might be saying, that’s great and all, but it doesn’t change the fact that we all have to work to live, the society around us is still mad and that’s not changing anytime soon. True. But here’s the problem: every time we use a synthetic or commercial means to produce a good time for us whenever we want to relax or escape for a while, we are giving up the possibility of a radically more positive and saner future – if not for us, then for our grand kids. Beyond that, on simply a personal level, we are giving up the means to find happiness from within ourselves. If we chose not to watch TV, drink, or go shopping when we wanted to have fun, we would have to think of some other activity, like going biking, or going to the lake with friends, or drawing, or countless other activities that require our participation to create the experience. Whatever it is that we like to do, they would be activities that would rely on ourselves to find contentment and fun, and I think there is a certain worth in being able to create happiness independent of external forces. Substances that do most of the work of creating happiness for us create dependencies. Granted, it’s certainly a lot less work, but I don’t think these solutions are very healthy.

It’s like when a person only feeds their body fast food. Because most fast food contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a fat that is synthetically manufactured and not found in nature, your body doesn’t know how to process the fat and convert it into energy. But if you eat fast food long enough your body will manage to process it, however inefficient, just the way we are learning to process the low-protein high-fat entertainment we take in everyday. Because it doesn’t really work that well, we just need more of it to satisfy us, more to find that moment of immersion. More infotainment, more intoxication, more personal Hollywood scandals, more absurd and violent TV shows, more shopping – more visual and physical stimulus.

Amazingly, the way these partially hydrogenated fats work, they also block the processing of healthy fats, making us more dependent on the bad ones. We are reaching this crisis in society today: where real hearty forms of joy and happiness are becoming more and more scarce. The beauty and joy once appreciated and gained from connecting with nature, for example: getting out into the wilderness and enjoying the intrinsic quality of a local place is becoming a rare and misunderstood outlet to finding more joy in life.

Kids today living in urban jungles are increasingly growing up without this fundamental connection. Nature is something “out there,” read about in textbooks and more and more seems boring and uninteresting in comparison to the frenetic entertainment of TV, video-games, and the cellphone-shopping mall life of today’s kids. Kids are fed a constant data-stream of media representations that are constantly addressing them, putting them at the center of attention. In the world of media representations, it’s all about You You You. Naturally, when a mediated child has their rare encounter with an umediated experience, out in the wilderness where nothing was created specifically for them, and things just are – the child may find themselves at a loss to know what to do with themselves. What’s the point of being out here again? The fun kids perceive they want to have nowadays is almost always commercialized, packaged, and purchased at a store.

Of course, this is true for all of us grown-up kids as well. The myriad forms of entertainment produced for us has become remarkably proficient at its task. A glossy shine packages all of the promises that the consumer/work/spend paradigm offers. Billion dollar ad agencies and the brightest young minds straight out of school have meticulously studied the art and science of stimulating our desires. The older we get, the more natural this mad society becomes, and the more content we are with what it has to offer. Conditioned to accept this culture’s escape routes for long enough, it’s possible we wouldn’t even recognize a better life if we saw it. And if we could see it, I’m wondering if it would appear so alien to us that we would choose the comfortable and familiar over the less known, even though we secretly hate it. What if we have gone too far, and lived so long this way that we now identify with our addictive habits so much that we see them as a part of ourselves? Toxic as our culture may be to our health – with all its drugs and distractions – if these drugs have become our comforting friend, could we let them go?

Ladies and gentlemen!: Has our bread has become baked?

Well, maybe. But if we were to wean ourselves from the fast-food opiates of our culture, I think it’s possible we could begin to discover new mediums for creating meaning in our lives, and possibly a source of joy that is far more valuable than any transient satisfaction.

Now if we want to dream big, let’s dream big. In the future, I see a society where the basic needs of every human being are guaranteed: food, shelter, health care – cradle to grave security. I see a future without the need for money, without the need for toilsome work, without nation-states, without rulers and ruled, hierarchy or war. You think this sounds like a fantasy, but it is possible now. The problem is not technical, nor creative. It is a problem of cultural lag – of the outdated institutions and values of our time not being able to keep pace with technological advancement.

But to realize this kind of future, however impossible  – to imagine anything better than what we presently have – it means we must wake up to the problems that our generation must deal with.

Part of the apathetic nature of our generation lies in our awareness of large problems and our in-action to do anything about them. Indeed, this behavior, this conflict of mental awareness and physical inaction is in large-part what creates apathy. When one has ideals but doesn’t live by them, it creates a subtle but long-term conflict of self, because it’s not authentic living. Apathy is a coping mechanism for this conflict. Either you have to take action or you have to stop caring. One has to happen for your inner psychology to not go nuts. To suppress that empathy and anger in the face of or awareness of oppression is usually the path of least resistance.

Yes, if we do seek the other path, we will get angry. Yes, there will be difficulties and we will be face to face with the true injustices of the world as they exist today. But ultimately, this anger can be a good thing. If we can channel it into creating new systems of living and cultivating the positive values we believe in it will be a hell of a good thing. So trust your instincts. Tap into the feelings you have in your gut, because an amazing thing happens when you do start to take action – your cynicism dissolves. Suddenly, everything isn’t hopeless, and you realize we can change the world. Suddenly, you have the power to choose for yourself. We can do it if we just work on doing it.

Now, let’s skip ahead a few years. You’ve gotten engaged. You’re reading alternative news. You’re involved in at least one local activist group and are working on projects that will affect change on multiple levels of society. You’re a damn awesome person! …in other words, and probably better in bed, too.

But, there’s a danger here. After a while, drugs can pose another potential problem. When we get fired up to change things and have begun to do the work that it’s going to take to make it happen, the changes we seek will still not come to fruition for some time. The large paradigm-shifting change we envision may be more than a generation away. What we will experience until then will be many small, sometimes large, but often immediately intangible differences that won’t be noticed until they have begun to stack up.

I noticed that after I had begun to do some of this work, it seemed like partaking in some of my old favorite hobbies was okay, now that it was accompanied by some more substance. I’d do the work, but a week later, many months later, now a couple years later, the big problems are still all there, so in the mean time it made sense to go out and party.

The danger is, when going out to “find release” from our Monday morning problems, or our global-local problems, we risk depleting the energies we could otherwise give to solving the problem. We need energy to solve issues or think creatively, and partying like a rock-star will very well make us energized for the night, but likely burnt out in the morning.

What is required for us to be successful is a sustained effort. Major powers have so far always won out because of their sheer momentum to keep on churning – it’s what led the hippie generation to burn out and finally pick up day jobs and it’s what has led the rave generation to become equally jaded and apathetic, among other sub-cultures.

What was once a groundswell of potential creative energy and fresh thinking has again been diminished to what looked to be a passing fad of idealistic youngsters. Again, I think because we did not have the sustained, patient effort to turn our ideals into reality, and because these sub-cultures spent more time on drugs than working on solving root causes.

By doing drugs, we have potentially committed a gigantic fraud upon ourselves. Like our parents of the hippie generation, we are close to subduing the vibrant and powerful spirit of our bodies to the point of quiet bickering, to complaining quietly until it may have almost found solace in the only mediums it has been offered. It may now have almost accepted small pleasures and transient moments of commercial entertainment as enough – as if this was all there ever was.

Our generation, whether they subscribe to higher ideals or not, is quickly and dangerously reaching the point where it is enough to “just get by”: to get a job, watch movies, have sex and buy more stuff. We can leave these problems to someone else. Content with the barrage of entertainment that consumer culture has to offer, and overwhelmed by the daunting challenge our generation faces, there are enough distractions to keep us comfortably numb well after we’ve forgotten what real life is all about.

Now, it’s true. Even eco-minded activists like to watch movies or get engrossed in the occasional videogame, go out for a few beers – whatever it is. It’s certainly fine to enjoy these things. It’s just important to keep these forms in balance with everything else in life.

For me, activism, drawing, making music, dancing, biking, photography, culture jamming, writing and other creative arts are forms of enjoyment that will resonate with me long after the activity itself. And more specifically, these are cyclical activities that rise like a spiral towards some goal unnecessary to define. That is the problem for me with ingestible or entertainment drugs. They lead only back to themselves. Taking the drugs, finding the escape and release we find temporary solace. Then Monday morning comes; we turn on the TV, and we are confronted with the same problems. We have not grown wiser. We have not sought progress towards any alternative. The only recourse is another drug, to find oblivion once again the next weekend and do it all over again, week after week after week.

This cycle is likely filled with inspirational moments, rousing declarative moments to change and wrestle away the bouts of apathy. The moment reading this may be another one. But affirmations are not useful by themselves. They must be followed by focused, practical action – action that reinforces our beliefs of who we are. To be aware of the traps that lead back to the same looping cycles is a good start. From there, we can choose what step we want to take next.

An Experiment: Loving More, Judging Less

The next time you think about rejecting someone, try loving them instead.

You’ll find it is more difficult than you might imagine. If you usually pride yourself on loving many people, you may be caught by the sudden contradiction of your behavior, when you find it hard to love someone when it does not come naturally.

Even after ten years reading books and working on myself, I still catch myself subtly making separating distinctions and judgments that offer me a rationalization to close off my heart. Only in the last year and a half can I say that I have loved others and acted responsibly towards all the people I’ve gotten involved with, even throughout changes in the relationship. Handling a change in the relationship form (what others might sometimes call a “break up”) is probably the most difficult time to maintain ones mindfulness and compassion.

And it is difficult, in this case, because loving this person would not be based on our own selfish desires. You see, loving someone is easy when it also fulfills our own selfish desires. That is not really true love. Loving someone in this way is a form of self-deception. We say, “I love you,” but we only say it because they make us feel good. When we try to love someone we may want to reject, we realize that true love isn’t selfish. It isn’t about us, and how they make us feel. True love is about showing kindness towards another despite how they make us feel – good or bad. If they are fundamentally a good, decent person, we have no excuse not to love them, other than for the want to fulfill our own desires.

Now, maybe you’re not interested in loving people in this way. If that is the case, please stop reading. Go on and drink your beers, party it up like nothing else matters, and keep pursuing your own little needs. This wasn’t meant for people with that kind of attitude. If you are still reading this, it’s because you have a desire to challenge yourself, to become a better person – to love more, to be kinder, to be less judgmental, to be less selfish and more other-oriented.

If you want to grow, evolve – then choose to love the next person you subconsciously or consciously want to judge and reject.

When our view of the other person is not filtered through our own desires, we realize they are just another person like ourselves. Equally deserving respect and kindness, just as we do, so long as we are not a jackass. If we act like a jackass towards our friends, towards our ex-partners, or to people we don’t know, then maybe we don’t deserve much extra consideration. But at its essence, we were all an innocent five-year-old child once, and we all fundamentally deserve respect and kindness on a basic level.

If you cannot do this, then all your words about how “I love lots of people” will ring hollow. It’s easy for our minds to congratulate ourselves with such narratives, when the behavior in actual practice falls short of the hype. The mind can easily create blind spots that hide our own contradictions, if we’re not mindful of what’s going on up there in our heads.

A true measurement of a person’s character can not be derived from how they treat those they like, but how they treat those they have written off. The act of writing someone off, in a way that lacks love and kindness, is proof enough, that that person has a lot of growing up to do.

February 2010

Everyone We Know is a Mirror of Ourselves

Every person we know and relate to is a mirror of ourselves. What we reject in someone else we reject in ourselves. What we love in others we love in ourselves. The outer is all a reflection of our own psychology. Our own hang-ups, our own aspirations, beliefs, attitudes – our shortcomings and beauties, joys and fears – they are all right there staring you in the face when you look into the eyes of everyone you know. This is especially true with those in our lives that we are closest to. With this realization I’m not sure what exactly happens… Maybe it is compassion.
March 2010

The Right Time for Now is Now

Example: You’re not in a relationship with anyone at the moment because the right thing to happen right now is happening right now. When the time happens that I’m in a relationship, that’s what will be right for that moment. For that moment, but who can tell what will be right in the next?

I find that things have a way about working out. It’s just the nature of life that there are good fruits to life and there are bad fruits. And unfortunately, we don’t very much like when what’s right for this moment, isn’t what we want it to be.

So whaddaya do?

For every fruit that comes, good or bad, there will be a thousand others just down the road. I already feel like I’ve experienced so much, and yet, so much awaits me. There’s so much to look forward too. It’s like you’re on a train to happiness – to whatever you want in life. You know you’ll get there, eventually, so you can be free to enjoy the sights you see out the window at the moment. Ooh, what’s that? You see yourself suffering outside the window? Well yeah, it happens, and I’m sure there’s a good philosophical reason why that’s alright, but I don’t think it actually matters. I mean, try not to suffer Tim – if that’s your thing – if that’s what you want to do. But again, you’ve just got to be real. “Here I am, suffering.” Or: “Here I am, happy because I realize this thing that seems to make sense about how things are.”

Or whatever. Say it. And laugh. And love. Because really that’s all you’ve got, Tim. That’s all, really. Just fill yourself with love, and you’ll be alright. It really is quite amazing. Because when you do let go of all the buts and the shoulds, and you just let yourself love – that’s all there is. That’s all that matters, and you can deal with anything.

The hardest part, I guess, is loving what you don’t like – loving your suffering, loving whatever or whoever you are, completely.

Right now, I do love myself. I love suffering Tim and angry Tim and happy, vibrant, loving Tim. They’re all welcome in my house.

Now, I know I’ve heard this all before, but really, you’ve got to really try to try to not try to try to not forget! 🙂 I mean, it’s really going to take some effort, if you want to have… whatever you want. Things don’t happen on their own (although they do, at the same time… funny that.). You just have to remember this simple point, and try to remember each time you forget, and slowly you’ll be “sleeping” less and less, until you get to a point where you’re happily aware that the right time for now is now – as much as you want to be. Whatever feels comfortable. Because really, you have to get some sleep. You’ can’t be in this state of mind all the time. You have to fall asleep so you can enjoy waking up. Right? I’m pretty sure you do.

Now, I recognize the inherent dilemma at this age: Because you’re so young and have yet to experience so much, how can you stay awake for very long? Temptation grabs you. But I think that that is necessary. After all, what is happening now (the temptation) is the right thing for right now. So, those parts in life can’t be all bad. And really, they aren’t at all. It’s all a part of the dance. It’s all a part of life.

January 2003

I Am a Man Who Lives by Agreement and Understanding

Two worlds: different agreements/different understandings.

In a traditional monogamous commitment, we agree to only be intimate with the other. Because we agree to not see anyone else, we expect our partner to do the same. To break the agreement would be unfair and cause suffering because (as in all normal committed relations) we become attached to our partner, attached to them being faithful. We feel possessive (in other words: exclusive), attached love. If we have an agreement I will put my trust into the pact and uphold my word.

If we agree to love each other without making a traditional commitment, then I can just love my partner, and cultivate feelings of true (non-possessive, non-attached) love. Her dating others arouses no jealousy because I can do the same, and I want her to be happy. We’ve agreed we can date others freely, love freely, with openness and honesty, and thus, there is no bond to break. No drama. No hurt feelings. Our agreement is different, and thus, my approach and understanding towards the relationship is different. I can cultivate the spirit of true love – spiritual love – inside myself, which nurtures an understanding that allows me to see arguably the same event (her romance with another) with love and compassion, rather than betrayal and loss.

July 2006

A Life Exercise for When We’ve Been Hurt by Someone

Visualize the face of the person who’s hurt you. What do you see?

You may first see their expression in the moment of the event that they hurt you. It may be a face of anger or frustration, but keep looking at them longer and their facial expression will begin to change.

See their face in other moments. Visualize their face in moments where they have felt suffering. See her crying, perhaps, in one moment, with you holding her in your arms. See her laughing, in moments where she felt free and spontaneous. See the moments when she was doing something very ordinary, and you saw how beautiful she is. See her face when she is angry, and see how her vulnerability and suffering is masked behind her angry words and expression. See her in pain, when she sprained her foot while hiking. See her in the throes of passion and pleasure, the expression on her face at the height of orgasm. See her face anxious, worried about finding a job or getting the right grade in a class. See her face in love, looking into your eyes, looking out at the world. See her face in moments of true happiness, when she’s not even aware of it.

Visualize this person, and see the forms of emotion morph from one to the next over the transparent image of his or her face. Watch the individual images blur, quicker in space and time, gradually, until you can see all of these faces of the person at once. Until finally, all you see is the person itself.

You see her just as she is: a painful yet beautiful expression of every emotion that belongs to the human experience. Transient, striving and searching, trying to live the best she can, find happiness, find love, traveling along a long path of burning desires. She is of the same nature as your self. We are intimately related.

Then, apply this process to others in your life. Take a moment to see each person important to you in this stream of events. Widen your circle farther until you see everyone in the world like this – all manifestations of the human condition, including yourself.

When I realized this, everyone became my brothers and sisters. Everyone became family.

Love Unlimited

It was amazing reading this article in New Science about polyamory. I had often questioned the necessity of restricting our love to only one person, and had shown a desire to experiment with open relationships in the past, but wasn’t aware that this philosophy had an established name, or that there was such a strong community of like-minded people all over the world. It’s just a striking feeling to read about individuals who have arrived at an almost exact understanding of an idea independently of your own. It only demonstrates the universal nature that exists within us.

It also validates my feeling and interpretation of love. Other people have discovered the spirit and potential of a loving, polyamorous philosophy, tens of thousands maybe. It’s hard to know for sure due to a lack of census data.

But by all accounts, the number of people exploring a polyamorous philosophy seems to be trending upward. I just read an article that said discussions on polyamory had found its way into German Parliament, with a member of the Green party advocating that the government “abolish all positive discrimination favoring heterosexual marriage, and to treat it equal to all other forms of living together, because social realities have changed.”

It seems that people, unencumbered by social or religious mores, show an overwhelming inclination towards diversity in relationships. It IS natural to want to love and share your life with more than one person. And it does take off all the pressure of trying to find “the one” – this idealized person who will be able to fulfill all your needs. But no person can stimulate all parts of your brain, and by enjoying the stimulation, fun, and growth of being with multiple people, you get that well-rounded sense of fulfillment, and are that much more satisfied and appreciative for each individual relationship.

I love ____ for her spontaneity and passion for outdoor activities and her love of nature. I love _____ for her deep insights into philosophy, sociology etc and challenging late night conversations. I love _____ for the way we can communicate our deepest feelings openly and honestly, in words and without words, making love, dancing, cooking delicious food – simply having fun together.

I can love all of them for who they are. Each love unique; each love equal to the rest. The manifestation is different (that is, our interactions and dynamics being with each other are different) but the quality is the same.

The beautiful gift of this openness is that it allows you to have more loving relationships, and fulfill the complete range of each persons dynamic personality and needs, and it takes a tremendous burden off the other person, because no single person has to be everything to their partner. They can be just themselves, loved for just themselves, without an expectation more.

Can one understand, appreciate the beauty of this?

Summer 2006

Society, Love and the fear of Loneliness

How many of us seek out a relationship, want to find companionship with someone because we are afraid of loneliness? How many of us think that we could be with anyone we want but are, in moments of doubt, afraid that no one will love us?

How many women fear the image of one day being old, alone, and with nine cats – being known as that “old cat lady”? However silly this notion is, the root of it is actually very important to look into. What is the cause of this fear?

The most beautiful women with the most amazing personality and intellectual curiosity, depth for learning, and interesting hobbies – this most capable and wonderful woman may truly be able to find any man or women she wants to share her life with, and still she is afraid in some moments of not being loved. She questions, doubts, asks: “What if I am a bitch? What if I am secretly unlovable, and just don’t see it?”

This is a very common fear – it is common to women and men. I think everyone in our culture shares this concern. We may have had our heart broken by someone we loved, many times perhaps. We may not feel truly loved in our present relationship, and we take all this as evidence that perhaps it is me – that I am not lovable.

But here’s the thing: it’s not about us. Our inherent lovableness or unlovableness has nothing to do with us.

I once looked into the eyes of a young women who was at the moment troubled by this fear, and all I could see was the most beautiful being – in spirit, in mind – on every level. I thought, “How could anyone not love this person?” Is there any reason, on some intrinsic level, that a healthy, sane, conscious person could not love her? And the voice inside my head responded, “There is none.” She was completely and utterly lovable just as is. Her boyfriend would love her ten times over if he had the eyes to see it. But most men and women do not have these eyes. An ordinary person might look at this same woman and see nothing remarkable about her (if in my description I have conjured in your mind the image of some idealistic beauty). No, many people might account that her beauty is very ordinary. If you were busy walking down the street you might not notice her.

And yet, a great beauty is there, for those who have the eyes to see it, for those whose eyes and hearts have not been so wounded by the deep malaise of our society.

It may be difficult to see this, I am not sure. Our society has been so deeply wounded by the insensitivity and brutality of our modern life. It has many wounds, accumulated through centuries of war and conflict. We have built so many walls between nations, religions, the sexes and races, even our sports teams embitter zealous conflict. All of these walls necessitate building even harder psychological walls to protect ourselves from all of this inherited cultural suffering.

And all of this, ultimately, has severely limited peoples’ capacity to love.

This is true for men and women alike. That a man or a woman does not love you says nothing about you. It says more so something great about our society. The man who cannot love his girlfriend, the woman who cannot love her boyfriend – it is a symptom of our society’s illness.

Love, I have found, is a choice of the will. Sometimes we have the sensation that “we just fall in love” or, “it just happens.” But this is usually because we are simply not aware of the complex number of subconscious decisions we are making, the preferences and social conditioning that all influence why we choose to love one person and not another. It is still a choice, even if we are led by a subconscious drive more than a conscious one.

Many times, after the passion of the “honey-moon” phase has worn off, the euphoric feelings that we experienced are no longer enough to make the relationship feel “effortless.” True love, as we come to find, is a choice of the will, and building a healthy relationship over the course of many years does take a concerted effort no matter how compatible you are. To love someone deeply for a long time, to make a commitment to one person, and to be there for them through the good and the bad, to support them and care for them even when it means you must make personal sacrifice, that is all a choice.

What is our internal experience of love, if it is not the will to take kind actions and support someone and do all of those things that we associate with a long-term committed relationship? What is the vow of marriage, if not the decision you’ve made to love the other for the rest of your life? To treat them as your own family?

When we realize it is a choice to make that kind of commitment to someone, we also realize it is a choice we make to not love others.

Usually this decision is made for good reason. The world is full of uncaring people who would jump at the chance to thoughtlessly take advantage of such a loving person and then disappear as soon as it becomes inconvenient to reciprocate or the feelings wear off. We get hurt when we love someone and we are not loved back, and so we become very careful that the people we love will not hurt us. We become cautious and do not lower our bridges to just anyone. We do this to protect ourselves. We put up walls so that we will be insulated from the possibility that our partner will betray our trust.

If we don’t love our partner as much as they love us, we will be safe, we think. It is a prisoners dilemma. Both could benefit greatly if they both chose to lovingly cooperate, and a relationship will fail completely if both betray each other and refuse to open their heart and love. But the middle way is the safest bet – coax your partner into loving you more than you love them (or secretly remain distant) so that you get all the benefit but do not risk yourself getting hurt.

It is an unfortunate emotional game that we play, most likely subconsciously. This tactic is simply a culturally-conditioned defense mechanism that we have adapted so that we can survive in a society that is so scarce on love and support. If real emotional intimacy and connection was in abundance in our society, we would not need to guard the love that we have to give so carefully. If people did not have so many karmic wounds that perpetuate the cycle of getting hurt and subsequently passing on that hurt on to future relationships, we would not need to put up so many walls to protect us. We would not need “six months” to a year to love someone. We wouldn’t even need a few weeks to open our heart to someone. We could bring them into our inner world and consider them the same as family in very little time.

We could become capable of loving someone instantly. Just as I looked into the eyes of this person mentioned before, there would be nothing to keep me from caring for her. There would be no need for a culturally conditioned wall to be put up that says, “You’re a stranger, I don’t know you. You’re just a friend. I’ve only known you a couple weeks.” None of that matters.

There they are. Right there in front of you. A complete manifestation of everything that is common to you and the whole of humanity. Your dreams, desires, loneliness, suffering, hopes, fears, passions, striving – all are within her. All are within you and everyone you see in every moment.

The capacity to love is right there when you’re looking into his eyes, into her eyes.

We’ve all been in shitty relationships that have more than likely conditioned our personality in negative ways, and so we all walk around with these wounds of the heart, but everyone deserves love. Everyone deserves love. The cycle has got to stop at some point.

The cycle of hurting others because you’ve been hurt by others – it’s a cycle that constantly perpetuates itself. But someone’s got to incur the last blow and just let it go – start afresh and love as if you’ve never had your heart broken.

And until everyone in the world has read Teachings On Love, we can’t expect that person to be the other. It’s got to start with us.

Love Journey

You meet them, you get to know them, you date them, you learn about them. You have sex with them. Finally, you love them. You live with them. You marry them. You have kids with them. You grow old with them. Is this, the love journey? Is it the only one?

I think usually when two people are getting to know each other they are very careful about what they say and do. They are careful to not share too much or give too much. This is what the ego does to protect us. It puts up barriers and walls that keep us from becoming attached or involved, so we don’t give too much of ourselves away. We do not want to let ourselves go, for fear of being hurt. We do not want to suffer, and when we let down some of these walls, we open ourselves to suffering – we become vulnerable.

That is why (especially after being in the game for a while) we become very careful and cautious as to whom we lower our bridges. I understand this. People’s natural inclination is to hold back. They do not want to let themselves get too close too soon. This is the way it goes. After a while, you get to know the person better (knowledge wise) and so you feel that now, you may be able to trust them, and you can begin to open your heart.

And yet, when deciding who we can lower our bridges with, I do not believe that knowledge is as important as the vibrational sense you can get from a person. When you are totally present to someone, you can feel their energy, their presence and demeanor. You can sense the quality of their intentions and desires and where they’re at completely in that moment, all from looking into their eyes and their overall expression. It is why most people tend to avoid eye contact in socially awkward situations. The eyes reveal too much!

In any case, I think people may sense this quality in me, that I am not afraid to lower my defenses immediately. I think some people find this dangerous, but I do not. I know that by lowering my bridge to you I may attach myself, or I may be hurt or suffer, but this does not bother me so much. It is okay to suffer. If suffering is looked at as an opportunity to challenge oneself and grow, in many ways it can be a good thing. A very good thing.

But the main reason I do this, the main reason why I feel that this is worthwhile, is that, although ego defenses may protect us from suffering, they also keep us from experiencing real, True, love. For when you do let those walls fall away, you open your heart to love, and the love just pours in.

It is true that a great deal of trust is needed in this situation. And in many instances, I have put my trust into people who ultimately did hurt me. But in all of those cases, I have learned and have grown from the experience. Every time, I learn a little more and become a little wiser. It is finding that balance, that is the key – to let go of those ego defenses and separating emotions (thus allowing myself to experience this quality of love and unity with beings) but to do this without becoming attached to my desire or the person or anything; to act, and to love, but without expecting anything from it – to do each act, solely for the act itself.

This is the love journey: To let my heart open to all things, and include it all in my heart. To realize that we are all one being, we all suffer and all live a life on this earth. To realize that there is nothing different, nothing separating you from I. To completely love and accept “myself” – Tim Hjersted; and then, to realize the nature of the universe, that is, my true self, and thus love all things. That is the journey.

It reminds me of something I said to you one day ago, that is, “When I don’t know who I am, I love you. When I know who I am, you and I are one, and there is just the quality and feeling of love. No self. No other. Just the universe, looking back at itself.” In realizing this, my arms will reach out to the world, farther and farther until my heart includes everything, and there will be no sense of a you and I. There will just be I, just US. And in this space, WE ARE THE LOVE. And that’s it, that’s all there is, nothing but the unity of love that is everything.

Spring 2001

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