by Lindsay Michko
What to Read this Valentine’s Day
Whether you’re single, in relationship, or “it’s complicated,” February 14th is a day of super-charged emotions: the bliss of being in love, the pangs of loneliness, the bittersweet imperfections of relationship, and everything in between. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, the following titles are sure to heighten your Valentine’s Day.
For the Poet
Love Haiku: Japanese Poems of Yearning, Passion, and Remembrance
translated and edited by Patricia Donegan, with Yoshie Ishibashi
The beauty of haiku is that it slows us down, asking us to bear witness to a specific, fleeting moment in time. The one hundred and forty-seven haiku in this anthology do just this, evoking with vivid clarity the varied and potent feelings engendered by yearning for, being in, or remembering love. Translator and editor Patricia Donegan explains, “Reading each love haiku is a mini-meditation that prompts us to pause, and cultivates love within us, passionate love as well as compassion. Loving energy magnetizes love, and is the basis for attraction and connection to another. These small poems are ‘pausings for love,’ and are ways to remember that source of love within us.” The haiku included in this collection come from seventy-one Japanese poets, both classic and contemporary. The Japanese is provided, in romaji, along with each translation, for those curious to hear the original sound of the poems.
In this anthology, editor Sam Hamill demonstrates the universal nature of poetic and spiritual contemplation of erotic love, presenting a collection of poetry spanning thirty centuries and the entire globe. “But how to know the self-indulgent desires of the flesh from the truest spiritual connections that transcend selfish impulses?” Hamill muses. “Poets have wrestled with this equation since the dawn of language. One way to attempt resolution is to explore poetry of the erotic spirit as a handbook, a guidebook for care of the lover’s soul.” This is the ideal poetry collection for those who rejoice in the divine aspects of romantic love.
For the Wounded
The perfect “first-aid kit” for the brokenhearted, this book offers comfort and wisdom from a Buddhist perspective, in bite-sized chapters. Offering a sort of “choose-your-own-adventure” of heartbreak, author Lodro Rinzler encourages readers to flip to whichever section speaks to their current stage of heartbreak, rather than confining themselves to a linear order. (“If you’re heartbroken you probably couldn’t read a book like that anyway,” Rinzler writes.) Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike can benefit from this book, with its humor and its direct and honest perspective on the nature of suffering and heartbreak.
Here, author John Welwood offers a psychological perspective on our human yearning for love and the sources of disharmony we experience in relationships. Welwood helps readers address their own psychological wounds preventing them from loving and receiving love fully. Practical exercises encourage readers to explore their emotions and expectations more closely, to gain valuable insight into cultivating a healthier relationship with intimate love.
For the Partnered
Right Here With You: Bringing Mindful Awareness to Our Relationships
edited by Andrea Miller and the editors of the Shambhala Sun (now Lion’s Roar)
This anthology of essays offers invaluable insight on how we can bring more awareness to the various stages of loving relationships, from a variety of perspectives. Those looking to be more present for their partner, strengthen communication, or open up their hearts will find great benefit in this collection of essays from teachers and writers including Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Harold Kushner, the Dalai Lama, and many others.
Offering a combination of psychological and spiritual wisdom, author Dave Richo helps readers to bring more clarity and maturity to loving relationships. Richo explores the many forms love can take and emphasizes the importance of loving oneself and understanding one’s need for love. Each chapter contains practices and exercises to gain deeper insight. Whether single or partnered, readers will benefit from becoming more mindfully fearless in relationships.
May these books be of benefit, helping us all to remember the depth of our capacity to love ourselves and each other, not just today, but every day. Love may not always feel like a strength or a blessing, but these titles remind us to celebrate and learn from it, in its many manifestations.