Gifts for Valentine’s Day
Sometimes the best gifts are free. By Gillian Osborne
Valentine’s Day can be a time of great joy for some, yet a time of sadness for others. It can be an occasion to celebrate and show gratitude for an intimate relationship; or it can be an occasion that thrusts solitude and loneliness into the limelight, bringing uncomfortable feelings to the surface. If we are thinking about gifts, then finances can also be an issue that may cast a shadow on our aspirations.
But if we are practicing yoga, then it is possible to experience all of what Valentine’s Day represents regardless of whether or not we have a significant other and a healthy bank balance. We can be creative about the fundamental principles of love and connection that underpin Valentine’s and the long associated tradition of gifting, so as to ensure that we can be immersed in the celebration, regardless of how we are circumstanced:
The gift of nature
One of the traditional practices of Valentine’s Day is the giving of flowers, particularly the red rose, which is considered to represent love. But think about that more deeply: what do flowers represent? They are a wonder of nature in infinitesimal splendour. A reminder of our connection to the earth and the unending cycles of birth, death and renewal.
Holding that idea in your heart, give flowers to your partner or to yourself, or spend some quality time in nature with your partner or yourself. Allow the power and beauty of Mother Earth to enter your being and caress your soul. Be at one with her; it will make you more whole than you might realise.
The gift of respect
In yoga circles we often hear about the heart chakra and especially so around Valentine’s Day. We might think it would be particularly appropriate to work on opening the heart or attend workshops or clinics geared towards these practices. And that may well be the perfect gift for a loved one, or indeed for yourself.
But pause and reflect a little. If the heart chakra is not open, there is a reason for that. And it is the reason that needs the attention, not the symptom manifesting in a restriction of the heart centre. Respect yourself or your loved one enough to accept that some things cannot be forced and need to be approached incrementally.
And this applies to everything, not just opening the heart. Whatever we are doing on Valentine’s we can give respect by adjusting our expectations, knowing that everything is revealed in the right time and space sequence.
The gift of community and connection
Tantric practices and partner yoga are often brought into focus at Valentine’s and these are wonderful gifts to bestow and share with those we love. But if we are not in a significant relationship then we can still experience the joy of human connection by uniting with others for celebration and community. The power of sangha cannot be underestimated; it will bring you a connection with kindred spirits that will dispel any sense of lack in belonging. Try kirtan, meditation or satsang; we are not supposed to exist in isolation.
Food for the soul
Chocolates, sweet treats and other aphrodisiac foods are also staple traditions in the Valentine’s gifting repertoire. But what can be more nutritious than food for the soul. Go within, ask yourself and ask your partner, if you have one: what is your heart’s desire? In the spirit of openness and honesty, listen with attention and with genuine interest. Sometimes, when we are really willing to hear almost anything, surprising and profound truths can be revealed that might bring fundamental change for the good, to nurture you and your partner beyond any physical nutrition.
The gift of love
Valentine’s is about love. But genuine love is not about passion, it is an all-encompassing experience of unity and acceptance which can include passion but is not restricted to it. Partnership is about a meeting of souls, with a finding of the self as prerequisite for the finding of another. And with that finding an embracing of what we have discovered. Love opens our world, it does not close it or focus on only one narrow view. It broadens our perspective, it is inclusive, encompassing all. It is forgiving as well as for giving because when we realise the extent to which we are all one then there is no longer any sense in separateness, in ‘other’; that view is reductionist. Love can open doors to which the keys have long been lost and it does that by accepting and not judging. We can never know what is behind the exterior of other people’s lives and we don’t always know what is behind our own. Remembering that will cultivate the perspective that is required to love and be loved; beyond measure and not just on Valentine’s Day.
Gillian Osborne, Chair, BWY (bwy.org.uk)