Reprinted with permission from "If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook to Finding Love on a Spiritual Path," by Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D., Penguin/Arkana, Ltd.

Gamble everything for love....
Half-heartedness doesn't reach into majesty.
You set out to find God,
but then you keep stopping for long periods
at mean spirited road-houses.
Don't wait any longer.
Dive in the ocean,
leave and let the sea be you...."
- Rumi, from "Say I Am You"

New love is a rich time for the spiritual warrior. Not only are we challenged to face our most primitive feelings of longing, hunger, love, loss, and fear, we are challenged to welcome feelings of pure joy, ecstasy, sexual pleasure, and bliss. Many people are afraid of expansive energy washing through their body, cracking the boundaries of their limitations. By allowing yourself to feel this energy, you will be richly rewarded.

If we can realize that everything is made of one energy--our hearts, bodies, minds, thoughts, emotions, feelings, hurts--it will be easier to jump into the spiritual fire. Nothing is better or worse than anything else. It's all part of the cosmic energy, the what is

of life. No matter what we've done, how much we've been hurt, how ashamed we feel, it's just energy, just stuff that separates us from our perfect essence.

Part of the false core we have developed and maintained through our stories puts limits on the free flow of energy in our bodies: be careful, don't get too excited, don't be so loud, so exuberant, so passionate, so wild. My colleague and friend Marylee and I often joke about WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) damage. Keep a firm upper, a tight lower, don't slurp your soup or suck on an orange, don't indulge yourself in more than one fudge brownie, and, for God's sake, don't ever let anyone hear you fart. How on earth do we go from this kind of conditioning to becoming an open-hearted lover? Physical lovemaking is messy, juicy, smelly, rowdy, funny--there's always an extra arm.

To allow ourselves free-flowing energy is to say "Take me, I surrender. I'm open to feeling everything inside." This does not mean we are without discipline or good judgment. It means we fear nothing that is human and natural.

Surrender actually makes us feel safe, because there is nothing left to hide. When we are open and unafraid, we cease being half-hearted with each other. We release ourselves from the misery of holding back and playing it safe.

In the process of opening ourselves, old childhood feelings may be laid before us. Suddenly, we feel like a hurt three-year-old. We want to cling. We start worrying, we get scared, forget our responsibilities, and churn with anxiety. Our growth begins when we realize we are facing parts of ourselves that have always been there.

Remember: you can't accept what you haven't experienced and faced. You can't release what you won't grasp or feel. If you're always trying to make life smooth, you won't meet your dragons. You're big now, you can open the closet door, turn on the light and see that fearsome thing, which is probably a little paper dragon trying roaring to stave off fear.

As we make changes, our ego taunts us: "Don't let him see you so close, he'll know you're defective and bad." It's the paper dragon again. When the ego wants life in all its little compartments--predictable, neat, secure--smile and answer back, "I understand you are afraid, it's all right. I'm big, I can protect you."

We sometimes tell ourselves the story that because life was easy before we met a lover, our anxiety and agitation is the fault of our new partner. Remember, love brings up anything that's hiding. While life may have been easier before, it may help to remember that the possibilities for spiritual growth speed up immensely when we become vulnerable and engaged with someone.

Stay in the Spiritual Fire
Let it cook you
Be a well-baked loaf,
and lord of the table.
You've been a source of pain,
Now you'll be the delight.
- Rumi, from "Like This."

Don't take Rumi's encouragement to stay in the spiritual fire to mean you should stay in a painful relationship. The spiritual fire is one of transformation, not third-degree burns. We seek a partner to walk beside us, cherish us. If we press our edges too hard and get thrown off course, it's good to back off and rest. Find your edges, lean on them, nudge yourself, but if you become overwhelmed, take a breath, relax. Remember, it's all a story being played out and you are the author.

Being able to take the heat of the spiritual fire takes practice. I've met many people who live an isolated life--reading books, watching TV, or sitting at a computer--yet fantasize about suddenly having a fine relationship. How's it to happen? It's unlikely. We don't suddenly bare our heart to someone when we haven't talked openly in years. We become more natural and relaxed with people through spending time with friends, revealing ourselves, settling conflicts, and taking on adventures. Our path is not so much to find a lover as to be a good lover of life, of all people. There isn't just one magical relationship, there is the honesty we bring to all relationships. How can we tell someone what we want in bed with our clothes off, when we're scared to invite a friend to the movies? It's a process. We can't play a concerto after our first music lesson. We need to practice.

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