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 shook my heart like wind / on a mountain punishing oak trees” (Eros, p. 40) Fragments though they may be, Sappho’s musings on desire, love, and intimacy are timeless and evocative, continuing to inspire new readers with each generation. Much of what survives of Sappho’s writing is love poems to women. Unfortunately, throughout much of history, Sappho’s work has fallen victim to misogyny, with commentators and critics attempting to explain away the homoerotic content as spiritual metaphor. Today, Sappho is a celebrated lesbian voice whose writings “contain the first Western examples of ecstasy, including the sublime” (xlvi). Whether describing ecstasy or agony, Sappho’s poems strike a universal chord. At some point, we have all pleaded with the goddess of love in one way or another. “On your dappled throne eternal Afroditi, / cunning daughter of Zeus, / I beg you, do not crush my heart / with pain, O lady…” (Prayer to Afroditi, p. 3).
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
In order to fully love others, we must learn to love ourselves. In Heartwork, Radhule Weininger offers meditations and practices to cultivate self-compassion, which “allows your heart to heal and lets you include others in your care” (xviii). Journal prompts at the end of each chapter create space for reflection, and accounts of Weininger’s and others’ healing journeys provide inspiration and encouragement. Anyone wishing to work with their vulnerability and emotional resilience will find this book to be invaluable in deepening relationships—starting, of course, with the self.
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.