Embodied Intimacy, Transformative Inquiry, Creative Emergence

That Abrupt Waking ~ Love’s Fierce Initiation

Posted by on Feb 6, 2018 in Featured Writing, Lifeletters & Articles | 4 comments

That Abrupt Waking ~ Love’s Fierce Initiation

Offer the most love to whatever most disturbs you, in your parents, yourself, or others.
~David Deida

Now that I am an elder, I realize for how many years I’ve been watching people fall down and flounder around in the ocean of intimate relationships. This includes myself, my friends, my family, my teachers, my clients; no-one is immune. I have seen many brave and intelligent people come to a place of deep and profound disappointment, of heartbreak, of shame, of hopelessness, in this arena of human life.

What a place to meet yourself! On the meditation cushion, at the podium, having dinner with my friends, at the yoga studio, working hard at my job, I can still look somewhat sane and accountable. But with my intimate partner? Not a chance. Everything I am trying to avoid in myself is what I am confronted with here. The relationship I always wanted is not happening-sometimes I find myself in bed beside the one I never wanted to be with.

It’s no secret these days that our intimate relationships are breaking down. The signs are everywhere. What we have to learn here is something so basic, so elementary, that we can’t learn it until we are really ready. Until we are desperate. Until all of our strategies and techniques have failed. Love cannot be embodied through techniques. I used to teach my couples techniques and strategies, many years ago. I noticed that this seemed like a great idea at the time, but in the heat of the moment, such things are forgotten, instantly.

Part of us really does want to learn how to really show up, just as we are, in this moment. It longs to be naked, open, without excuses, without strategies, without agendas. To become fully conscious of what is going on, in the middle of all this suffering. To get strong enough, curious enough, fed up enough, to do the work of deep transformation and healing. And there are other parts of us: young, frightened, deeply hurt or enraged, who are often hidden deep inside. These dimensions of who we are do not want anything to do with this alchemical process of becoming adult and awake.

That abrupt waking

Learning to embody love is quite a practice-it’s like walking through fire. As David Deida says, “The under-appreciation that you felt as a child may continually show up in adulthood. You may face your parents’ worst qualities in your own character, as they have been passed to you through your ancestral lineage of sexual couplings.” Can we turn and face the truth of this? What we have to take responsibility for is nothing we have been prepared for. Nobody taught me anything in school or university about this. The people in my family never spoke of it. Who knew that my parents’ struggles would live on in me-in my bones, in my breath, in the way that I look at you?

I have been experiencing my ancestral heritage with great intensity lately, realizing that I have to gather all the strength, all the willingness, all the sweetness that lives in me, and keep on walking through this fire. Learning to love is ultimately a kind of warrior training, a fierce initiation into becoming a warrior of the heart. Someone who knows that when the dust clears, when everything falls apart, love is what matters. Not my career, not my knowledge and expertise, not my house, not my dream vacations, but the depth of love I am able to give and receive.

When people are dying, this becomes very clear to them. Let’s not wait until then. Let’s help each other, in the terrible messiness of what we are facing, to awaken the intelligence of the heart right now. Let’s strip ourselves down and find out how to move through all this baggage we are still carrying, from generations of our ancestors who did not know how to love either.

The heart has to grow very soft and very strong at the same time, in this process. As we turn towards real help and support, as we slowly learn how to practice in the middle of this fire, we develop new capacities for being with what we are experiencing. These capacities grow slowly, tenderly, with great fragility. Again and again the ancient patterns arise, again and again we move away from ourselves, away from the depth of our pain, our need, our vulnerability. Until we are strong enough and soft enough to feel the pain we have been running from. In the middle of this agony, we realize that we really don’t have to walk around bearing the weight of this accumulation, these slivers of sorrow and rage that get lodged deep in the heart.

When I can really begin to offer the deepest love to what disturbs me the most, I am walking in a new country, an unknown landscape, that was quietly waiting for me to enter it, all this time. It really doesn’t matter as much as we think, whether we stay together or not. I can stay with you and keep certain chambers of my heart shut tight. And I can walk away with a heart overflowing with love.

And how we are all
preparing for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly,
so Biblically,
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love

-David Whyte


with love,

photo credit–Joseph Pearson on unsplash


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  1. Ross Steed

    dear Shaye really very good this one, your writing sharp and incisive. I appreciate the quote of Dieda, for I continue to dip into his work finding inspiration. Yes, death is the certain wall where we more often are likely to drop our bags. Until then we all feel we have forever to hide, as if life was an endless field of tall ferns for that kid to remain hidden within.
    In part, I think we have lost something of the mystery of love and partnering, that which is spoken of in other more romantic languages, english being so technical. As you write, love is not so much about technique but of uncovering what blocks it.

    “…if you were to leave tomorrow I’d be right by your side
    to show you the love we have shared
    free at last from where we hide.
    free in the sun
    free in the wind
    free with with the love
    we recieve and give..

    these are lyrics of one song of mine. What is it holds us back? life is sooooo short. perhaps as Thomas Moore suggests in Care of the Soul, love is not necessarily what relationship is about at all! perhaps it is more that of the ground of soul, soul which is everything but technical and more messy and gravitational, earthy and mercurial.

    thanks Shaye – xo

    • Barb Fehlau

      Thanks Shayla for this beautiful sharing. As I see people facing the ends of their lives on earth every day your newsletter deeply resonated in me and it is also an inspiration in me to not get too comfortable with who I am now but to seek more about my depths, to heal, to live fully. If we don’t do it now, when will we?

  2. Carol Stewart

    Dear Shayla, This piece is awesome in its directness and honesty. I too feel I am in this process right now, not so much with my intimate partner as with the pain of this collective passage we are going through right now…my intimacy as a human being on this Earth right now. There is so much goodness happening and still possible alongside what seems to be such unbelievable ignorance and cruelty. I learned today that Trump wants to have a ‘military parade’ in Washington DC. I am both horrified and ashamed of being a human being now. Facing all this inside me – how my righteousness is no different. it is my own military parade. I see how this righteousness simply seems to cover up a seemingly overwhelming pain that having one’s heart open can bring me into at times. I see the ancestral patterns and underneath that seems the miracle of those ancestors who did not give up, that kept life happening so that we might today, not only have our bodies, but also make use of some of the freedoms we now have to heal those patterns, to be a part of a creation of a ‘new way’.. I am praying that all this is occurring now simply because it is time to do this healing and creating something new. So much surrender is needed but first, as you say, compassion and love must be brought to every pattern of defense that keeps us disconnected from the true love for life in our hearts that make life on Earth possible at all. I thank the ancestors for having faith in us, faith in a future we might create together, that we long for our children to experience…a world where love is experienced as the power to bring ‘reunion to the separated’ as Paul Tillich called Justice. I just keep praying that this pain is evidence of a birth taking place. I’m working hard at just keeping on breathing at times. Reading your article today helps me understand that my breathing may help yours and yours help mine. Much love and respect to you always Shayla.

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