We are all bound by an invisible field of energy, & that connection is called love. Dr. Joe Dispenza
The ancient Greeks had 7 words for love. With them they laid a framework to explain more clearly the different kinds of love available to us so it is easier to understand.
By contrast the English language offers one word for this complex emotion. It can easily be misunderstood, and with potentially tragic consequences. Many times the subtlties need explanation.
In love we discover the deepest and most tender parts of ourselves, exposing our hearts to the ultimate risk or reward. Somehow we find the courage to take a leap into the possibility that lays beyond human imagination. Sometimes we plug our noses and go for it.
I was intrigued and inspired by this concept and decided to reflect back on my own life. Here are 7 of my most life-changing love experiences based on the wisdom of the Greeks.
PHILIA – authentic friendship
By some act of divine intervention he arrived home alive. The kids, after gathering their dad up from a hospital in Palo Alto, drove him hell bent home to Vancouver with all the heart and determination one might expect of a close family.
A week before he suffered a severe stroke while on a solo road trip to California. When it happened, as luck would have it, there was a cardiac hospital across the I-5, so he left the gas station, drove across the freeway overpass, and managed to pull up to Emergency before it was lights out.
Days passed before he was coherent enough for the doctors to track down his family, and make tracks they did. He was too fragile to fly.
I had no idea what to expect when I tip-toed into the bedroom a day later. He was awake, propped up on some cozy pillows, crazy still, and looking more vulnerable than I was comfortable with.
As soon as he caught sight of me, he flashed his trademark smile and drew me over with weary eyes. Instinctively I laid down on his chest, heart to heart, and together we cried tears of sorrow, grief from the horror of it all.
As the sobbing eased, I pulled up slightly and we held each other’s gaze. His eyes told of pain he could not yet process and a future for which he had no vision.
All I could do was send him streams of loving energy, meant to assure him he was not in this alone. I knew his wife and her friend were on the way back from a vacation in Australia, and in the meantime he would not be alone.
For almost forty years our families had shared a whole lot of living, and inside my head, worst fears shrieked fearful thoughts. He was just too young to leave us.
It felt like it wasn’t his time, and I knew he was surrounded by the kind of deep and steadfast love that works miracles. Besides family and friends his angels were crowded around.
LUDUS – playful and flirtatious love
Was that drums I just heard from the house next door? I was visiting my aunt in Seattle and asked her about it. She agreed I could go over to their rental property and say hello to the tenant, who was attending a local university.
He greeted me with a big smile, and gestured for me to sit down. I stumbled to the chair as if in a trance, and couldn’t understand why I felt suddenly hot and unsteady.
Several minutes passed before he stopped playing and offered me a cheery hello.
“Would you like to try?” But I had never been that close to someone so amazing, and I wasn’t sure I could speak never mind operate the drum sticks.
I waived him a weak no. At sixteen, my experience with boys was limited to the occasional motorcycle ride and pizza and a movie on Friday night.
That summer I went to Seattle more than once, and he made the short trip up to Vancouver a few times. We kissed and kissed and kissed. It was passionate but our relationship remained innocent.
He graduated that year and returned to his home in New York, but not before asking if I would come for a visit on summer break. I was flabbergasted when my parents said “no”. Couldn’t they see how mature I was?
But there was no looking back.
EROS – romantic and passionate love
Three years later I met my first true love. We bonded over beer and blue cheese, oblivious to our friends and other pub activity. His laugh was deep and resonant and I couldn’t get enough of it. And the way he looked at me?
At some point he must have asked me for my phone number, but I have no recollection. Somehow I knew we would see each other again.
The attraction grew quickly into an intensely romantic one with all the loving making we could make happen. Since we both still lived at home, that required some creativity.
For four years we grew up together, loved and cared for each other, and shared moments of great beauty and connection. We were completely in love.
Then one day, inexplicably, we started to grow apart and a certain restlessness settled in. The great love we once shared started to slip away.
Twenty-five years later he told me if it made me feel any better, he didn’t get married til he was 38. Timing is everything.
We’ve kept in touch over the years and our once deep and passionate love turned to affection. I married, he married, but the golden thread of our romance did not entirely fade.
The truth is we still don’t know why we broke up. There were just too many strong feelings about the future that neither of us was ready or able to express.
In a recent email he said “how grateful he is that we knew each other in the springtime of our lives.” Oh yes, and he once gave me a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets. He set the bar high.
STORGE – family love
When my daughter returned home from the hospital with her first baby, the baby was two days old. She was also my first granddaughter. I felt a kind of love for this little one that made me gasp and left me speechless. Even when my own kids were born it was not like this, beyond earthly comprehension.
My role was to help, so I went about the house, busying myself with laundry, cooking, bringing water, snacks, a clean diaper, whatever was needed. I was good at hovering and so grateful to be included in this most precious and fleeting of times.
My daughter, already the best and most beautiful mother in the world, was sitting up in bed completely disheveled with a tragic look on her face. When I heard her crying I went straight in, and couldn’t imagine why she was so distressed.
Following her gaze to the baby, I could see the baby nestled in the dip between my daughter’s legs, all topped up and sleeping blissfully.
Trying to stay calm, I asked
“What’s up, my sweet?”
She paused to look up at me, and then said, almost as if in pain,
“I just cannot handle how lucky I am to have this little human in my life”.
Her awe and gratitude were palpable and so heart wrenching, in that moment I wondered if my own heart was going to need a jump start.
PHILAUTIA – self-love
A nasty rear-ender several years back unleashed all the trauma I had carefully stashed in my body since I was a little girl. While I tried to deal with the anxiety attacks I set myself on a mission to understand what the heck was going on and heal make it better.
What I discovered is, once the central nervous system becomes disregulated, anxiety keeps it activated just below the surface until the next event sets it off again.
Over time resilience to relatively normal events weakens, and relatively usual life occurances are able to easily hijack health. It’s starts with an emotional response, but what’s important to understand is that the sickness that follows is biological, and makes recovery a two pronged approach.
It’s easy to feel like a loser at this point, but there must be no shame. Life just happens, and we all do our best.
What did I do when I hung up the phone that night? As soon as I felt the hot poker going up my neck and across my shoulders I acted immediately
Repeat: I am safe, until your spirit accepts it.
Ask for help: My son gave me a strong neck and shoulder massage. He kept going until he noticed my muscles respond as he could feel they resisted at first.
Have a hot bath: With empsom salts. Lay a hot facecloth over your eyes and forehead. Add your favourite essential oils. Stay there til the water cools off, or refill if not ready to get out.
Go to bed: No matter what time it is. Turn off all media, don’t try to read. Sink into the mattress and let morfeus do his job. There is no guilt. You will discover that silence is indeed golden.
Call a trusted friend or counselor the next day: don’t be afraid to talk out what happened. There is also emotional repair. Good grounding brings one out of fight or flight and back into the body, the only place recovery is possible.
Effective self care is needed long before life falls apart of course, and in fact can prevent it from happening. Back in the day we used to laugh about needing a mental health day in order to stay home from work unless we were throwing up. I think each subsequent generation is getting smarter.
We must give ourselves permission to rest and love ourselves enough to know we are worthy. I don’t recommend learning this the hard way.
Changing automatic thoughts and old habits doesn’t happen overnight. But as I practiced, I found calm and confidence, and my big heart found balance.
PRAGMA – long-standing love
THE LONG GAME
Best laid plans. Even with the best of intentions my marriage did not achieve stated intentions uttered sincerely at the alter. It had some longevity, 22 years, produced 2 wonderful kids and lots of good memories before the talking stopped and holes sunk the ship.
Bad communication is a critical flaw in any type of partnership.
Of course I might be able to offer advice on how one might avoid a mismatch to begin with, my only area of expertise, but I think even that is best sorted out between the two lovers before signing a contract. Every situation comes with different strings.
The Greeks considered pragma to be longstanding love. A couple entering into this arrangement knew they were expected to make a lifelong committment. In doing so they were vowing to offer each other grace, respect, tolerance, forgiveness, and perhaps some freedom, in order to grow old together and reap the benefits of all the hard work. A tall order with the best of matches, and I do admire those able to accomplish this with a level of happiness.
Now “in the autumn of my life”, knowing myself better, it’s possible life may yet deliver me the one love that has eluded me. At least I have a lifetime of loving to know myself better and what I want. And I have no regrets.
AGAPE – the unifying love for all people, all living beings, and beyond
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
At 7 pm the church was sweltering hot, almost 100 F, and humid. Except for the odd empty space, each bare wooden bench was lined with adorable, mostly older women, dressed in simple black dresses with matching kerchiefs.
I felt warm smiles follow us as we entered and found an empty spot somewhere near the middle of the sanctuary. The happy chatter and laughter carried on until the priest appeared to settle us into silence.
There we sat, my tall friend and I, taking in the energy, the culture, and the stunning architecture, waiting with anticipation for the ritual to begin. This was my first experience with a Greek Orthodox service.
After a few minutes I was overcome by the temperature and humidity and every pore in my body simultaneously opened up. My light summer dress was quickly drenched. Luckily I had a face cloth in my purse having already discovered my body was not adjusting easily to the mediterranean climate. Still, it would not keep me cool for the next hour or so.
Unexpectedly, I felt a light tap on my shoulder, and turned to look. The tiny Greek mama behind burst into a brilliant smile, and turned to point at the back of the sanctuary. There, floating above the congregation, hand over hand, came a fan, obviously intended for me. It was perhaps not the first time they had rescued a tourist.
These kind beings could see how uncomfortable I was. One was prepared to sacrifice her own comfort for mine. I noticed the fan was slightly faded, with a hand painted picture of the city on it. It was black with black lace trim and obviously well loved.
At the end of the service I tried to find the owner to thank her and return it, but an excited group of hands gathered to push the fan back into mine.
I was stunned by their kindness and so honoured to receive this expression of love for a complete stranger. As my holiday continued I came to know further, the generosity and loving spirit of the Greek people, and knew I would be back.
We each have our own love stories, dreams and desires. I enjoyed reflecting on some of my own golden memories and could see how heart was at the centre of each. I hope you enjoyed these 7 love stories as much as I did sharing with you.
My wish for you is that the gift of love graces your lives in all its forms, and continues to warm your hearts.
To read more about the 7 ancient Greek loves, you might enjoy:
Greek words for love include 7 types you can experience | Well+Good (wellandgood.com)
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