I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality. It's March 18, 2021, and on today's episode we'll be discussing the role of love in our spiritual lives as the finale of our 7 episode series on emotions in spirituality. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Here we are, the very last episode in the series on emotions in our spiritual lives!
Yesterday was St. Patrick’s day, shout out to all the Irish pagans out there, still kicking it despite efforts to the contrary. And we’re almost to Ostara as well, we’re about to be on the other side of the spring season, barreling towards summer. Not that I’m excited about Summer, per se. Not my favorite season at all. And I always feel like Spring just flies by every year!
But anyway, in my personal wheel of the year, spring is about focusing on relationships and emotional energies and creativity and things coming back awake after the cold of winter. It’s a water season, and summer is fire. So after Ostara there’s a look forward to all the energetic connections and new creative ideas and such shifting into action for summer, so it’s getting ready to get stuff done, go places, jump into life. So I do have a ton of ideas brewing, collaborations I’m working on, stuff germinating that is going to bloom here before too much longer, and I’m super excited to bring some of those to life. Ideas for the podcast included in that. Exciting stuff coming.
So jumping into this last episode in this series, I wanted to do a bit of a summary to put everything into context as a whole. We’ve talked about six emotions so far: fear, joy, anger, curiosity, sadness, and shame. And I think the traditional ecosystem of emotional energy in spirituality is centered around fear, anger, and shame. Fear tends to sit in the center, we tend to build up our spirituality around our biggest fears, we let anger shape the beliefs we claim and hold onto, and shame keeps us focused on the things we need to change about ourselves to live up to whatever our spirituality is about, then. And the aftermath of that is that curiosity gets stifled in all that, and joy and sadness get sort of pushed out into the edges, where we hope that if we get the rest of our spirituality right we’ll have less sadness and more joy and they’re just barometers, really. If we’re not happy enough, then we’re back to the fear and shame and anger trying to figure out what we’re doing wrong.
Which isn’t every spiritual life or religion or path, of course, but it’s an awful lot of what passes for spirituality out there, right?
People striving to be something they aren’t because they feel not good enough, trying to shape the world according to their fear and anger to get rid of the things they don’t like about reality, or at least working to separate themselves from those things.
And here’s sort of an interesting thing about my whole spiritual worldview. I’m an atheist, technically. I’m not so much an antitheist, I’m not against the idea of spirituality or religion, obviously, but I am an atheist which gets confused for the same thing because there’s often significant overlap. But where a lot, a lot of atheists and especially antitheists have a problem with religion or spirituality is in the mere concept of the existence of a supernatural god we’re supposed to worship or obey or whatever.
That’s not where my concern is.
My problem with most religion, most spirituality, is that it’s unhealthy for us. It’s a mechanism of control. It’s a societal force to make us conform and behave, and often that force is abused. Because that’s what we’ve ended up with after all this time of evolving spiritual and religious beliefs in human society: a spiritual life wrapped up in anger and fear and shame.
How is that good for anyone?
And it’s not just Christianity, either. Not just the Abrahamic religions. Definitely a cornerstone of those, but also it’s so incredibly pervasive in modern spiritual thought, even in new age, pagan type spiritual stuff. Even in magic. We’re not good enough, our lives aren’t what nature intended for us, aren’t we afraid of what’s coming and what’s out there and aren’t we angry over what other ideas and groups have pushed on us, so here’s the solution, here’s what you want to do about it, and that means embracing this culture and these standards and finding enlightenment and higher vibration and all of that by becoming just like everyone else on the path.
Sound familiar? Sound about right to your experiences along the way? Where is joy in all that? Where is curiosity? Where is connection?
Where is love?
Well, I’ll tell you. In a lot of paths, a lot of ways of being in spiritual terms, love is like an object. We want to have love. We want it like it’s a thing. Love, in most people’s lives, is something they want to acquire. We seek it out, right? We want it to be the byproduct of our spirituality. If we nurture our spirit the right way, we find love, we get love, like there’s a machine in the universe that exchanges religious devotion for love. Like it comes out in a little plastic bubble.
But love is also a verb. And it’s a form of energy, a feeling we feel. And it’s far more important that our spiritual lives involve love in action and love as a feeling more than love as an object.
If you're enjoying this episode of Waxing Soul, subscribe to the show! Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. Check out last week's episode for the sixth episode of this series on emotions in spiritual life where we talked about shame. And come back next week when we will answer the question, "Are you obligated to use your spiritual gifts?"
I’ll be honest, I usually shy away from talking too much about love in spiritual settings because I find it really uncomfortable to slog through all the crazy obsession with romantic love and soulmates and twin flames and all of that which exists in modern culture as a whole. And, I mean, I get it, I’m happily married to my wife, we’ve been together for almost two decades now, being in a loving relationship with someone is great, but man are we as a society totally messed up about it!
You know what’s even more great than romantic love? Autonomy. Independence. Comfort with oneself.Tweet
But luckily, that romantic idea of interpersonal love not the kind of love we’re going to be talking about today. Because our obsession with finding a love partner in life is a cultural factor, right? It’s not really about our spiritual selves. It’s about this idea that somehow we’re missing something, incomplete, whatever. That’s the root of our current attitudes about what most people think of when they think of love. And not just romantic love. Family love. Friend love. When we think of love, we think of relationships. And when we think of relationships, we tend to approach them as something we need, something we want to acquire, something our life is less without.
Which, yeah, living a life of solitude isn’t psychologically healthy for humans in general. But this is more than that.
But what I want to really get us thinking about is that love as an energy, love as an emotion, is internal. Emotions are internal and personal, right? I can be in a relationship defined by feelings of love that we have for each other, but what I feel is internal to me.
No one can MAKE me feel love for them.
And, you know, vice versa. Sorry. Love spells are one of those things I just hate the idea of. I think they’re unethical at just about every level.
But love is something we feel, a form of energy, and when we love something we’re initiating an energetic connection from within ourselves. It’s us opening ourselves up, giving that energy of ourselves towards the thing we love, anchoring ourselves to something energetically. Which, yeah, is similar to what happens anytime we have a positive energetic relationship to something, but there is a difference between love and other good emotions like joy or awe.
Not to channel Haddaway here, but we need to dig into that question a little. What is love? There are so many different definitions of love, and what I’m definitely not interested in doing is trying to figure out which one is right because when it really comes down to it, I think they’re all right. Love isn’t one thing. Love isn’t an emotion caused by connection in one set of circumstances. Lots and lots of things engender feelings of love. I love my wife. I love sushi. I love creating things. They’re all different situations, but the feeling is fundamentally the same. It’s a stronger connection, a stronger energetic tie than just about any other emotional form of energy, a pull of attraction and a connection that literally anchors us to the things we love, and it’s a connection that’s significant enough that we give it its own word and feel it almost like a compulsion.
Now, I mentioned before that love is also a verb, an action, and I want to differentiate between feeling love and showing love to someone. Because we can, absolutely, be loving to someone without feeling that deep, warm love emotion ourselves. Love as an action is often about providing someone else with experiences, things, care, whatever in an effort to engender a feeling of love in them, maybe towards us but often just, you know, in general.
And sometimes we are loving as an action because of the love we feel towards them as well. And this is important, absolutely. That whole, spirituality is what you do and not who you are thing comes into play here.
But I do want to focus on the emotion of love that we feel because that’s the point of this series. And the things we feel love about are widely varied. it’s not all romantic love, it’s not all about other people, it’s lots and lots of things. I think we have this weird thing about love being rare and serious and some hugely sacred thing, that we should only feel love about important, serious things. But love is something we’ve romanticized and idealized and I think pretty much lost touch with.
Love is, if we want to be really simplistic about it, the strongest positive emotion we can feel, and it’s defined by the strength of it not the particulars of the circumstances that cause it.Tweet
So when it comes to figuring out where love fits in our spiritual lives, it’s not a matter of what things we should love, what people we should love, what types of love are important or not. It really comes down to this idea of forming the strongest energetic connections, nurturing them.
Spirituality is all about energy, and it’s only natural to enshrine our strongest, most powerful energetic connections in our spirituality, no matter what form they take.
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Authenticity is my big thing.
And a big part of that big thing is love.
Because one of the most inauthentic things we can do, and it’s alarmingly common in all areas of our lives, is to deny ourselves the things and people we love and substitute things other people want us to love instead. Whether that’s pretending you don’t love Taylor Swift’s music because your friends will laugh at you or whether it’s not having relationships with someone you feel strongly about because that type of relationship or that person in particular isn’t going to be accepted.
Our spiritual lives especially, if they’re going to help us grow and evolve, have to be built on a foundation of authenticity, and that means all the things we truly love deserve to be embraced rather than rejected.
Now, here’s an important thing about love, something that sets it apart from a lot of other emotions. It’s mysterious. It’s illogical. The things that cause us to feel love – not just joy, not just pleasure, those things we can logic ourselves into finding something fun or pleasant or whatever – but love? Love just happens.
The vast majority of the time we don’t decide to feel love about something. Love can take us by surprise in a way that other emotions don’t. Even when we’re talking about love we feel about doing certain things, experiencing certain things, even love we feel towards types of objects or places or whatever, we rarely logic our way to love.
We only feel it.
It’s an instinctual connection, and it’s almost like whatever it is we feel love for, it’s like that thing reaches in and pulls that energy from us. And it’s that kind of instinctual, inexplicable, spontaneous connection that really belongs to spirituality more than anything else.
We think of love as one of the most powerful emotions, and it is, but not in the sense that it binds us together with a soulmate. That whole concept makes very little sense anyway. But love does strongly bind us to things and people and ideas and experiences, stuff that resonates with our deepest selves. And the most important part of love isn’t that we are loved by other people, it’s that our own love connects us to pieces of the universe. Not love for a person or love with a person – that’s part of it, but if we focus on that when we talk and think about love, we’re missing out on the infinite other energetic connections we have to all the other things we feel love about.
I think we’re too obsessed with feeling lovED by people that we forget about feeling love for all sorts of things in the world around us.Tweet
Including spiritual things.
That’s the big shift here that I want for everyone. Being loved by other people is a different feeling from our own feelings of love, and being loved by someone doesn’t make us actually feel love within ourselves automatically. That’s where we get mixed up in modern society. What we often think of as love is really us craving that show of love from someone else. When we get that kind of attention from someone else, yeah, it makes us feel emotions, but the vast majority of them aren’t love.
When my wife shows me love, I feel contentment and security and joy and lots of other things. It’s when I feel that pull to connect with her and show her love that I’m actually feeling the emotion of love.
See the difference?
Those powerful energetic connections that bind us to the universe through illogical, instinctual reactions – if we’re neglecting them to chase validation from other people we’re harming our spirit, harming our soul.
So all these emotional connections we’ve been talking about in our spiritual lives, where does love fit? We’ve talked about how, in a healthy and authentic spiritual life, we remove fear from that centerpost position and use it as a barometer of where we might be disempowered, we remove anger from it’s spot in the driver’s seat on our spiritual path and cultivate mindfulness around it so we become more authentically connected to our ethics and motivations, we shape our daily practice by embracing those things which bring us joy, we expand and evolve our understanding of self and the universe by following our curiosity, we come to understand shame and sadness as part of the experience of being in relationships and being connected to the universe, and at the center of all of it has to be love. In that place where, for a lot of us, fear used to sit. Centering our spiritual lives not on the things we want to be protected from or that we want a higher power to fix or that we want to bring our spiritual abilities to fix, but rather on the things we love.
Which is what the download for today is focused on.
We want to put the very strongest, most spontaneously significant energetic connections we feel in that place of supporting the rest of our spirituality. Because then, if you remember when we talked about fear and how if we put it in the center of our spirituality, then we get into the situation where we can’t really address and overcome the fear without destabilizing the rest of our spirituality? That’s not what we want fear to be, but it’s exactly what we want love to be.
We want the love we feel, the things that cause us to feel love, we want those things to be non-negotiables. We want that to sit in that tentpole spot where they can’t be dislodged without bringing our whole spiritual practice down with it. Those things you love, those very most authentic energetic relationships that connect to your deepest self, that’s the structure on which you build everything else.
Which means getting deeply in touch with that feeling of love.
Those things you love doing, the things you love talking about, the people you love being with, the places you love being, the stuff that you’re drawn to even if you can’t explain why, those connections that just feel natural to you, like it’s part of your base programming. That’s love.
It’s not something you chase, it’s not something you find and get and cause, it’s something that wells up within you. And that’s the core of an authentic spiritual life. Because it’s from the core of your authentic self.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.