My partner says I have a hole in my love bucket. He says the same of our Fox Terrier Cowboy, whose response to any affection is a demand for more. Cowboy reminds my idle hand to continue scratching his fur. No matter how much love is poured in, it is never enough.
Likewise, while my life is full of love from human and non-human creatures, I often feel like my bucket of love has a slow leak and yearn to be filled with more, pure, unconditional love. The hole is an old wound in which love was conditional and based on how good and helpful I could be.
While I’m aware of the hole and its genesis, it still persists. Complicating my journey toward wholeness is the troubled time in which we live. My heart breaks open every day from the unbearable weight of being on this planet. How can I keep my bucket filled, AND stay present to the weighty concerns of those in my life, AND the suffering of all my fellow creatures everywhere?
Several people I know in helping professions report feeling energetically drained lately - not only from holding the pain of those they serve, but also from taking in a “heaviness” in the world right now. Even if there were no hole in one’s love bucket, how can one heart hold the enormity of pain without burning out?
A few ideas:
Edit: Like a museum curator, I edit what I hold and let others tend what I cannot. I’ve given myself permission to NOT keep up with every NFL game, every natural disaster, and every presidential tweet. How can I be a “Marie Kondo”, the guru of tidying up, and keep my mind tidy by editing where I place my attention?
Ground: Smelling a rose in the backyard, noticing the breath drawn in and released, savoring a drink, and scratching Cowboy’s fur are acts that bring me back into this moment when my mind is preoccupied with woes I cannot control. My grounded heart/mind/body naturally knows what is mine to tend and what is not.
Release: Brief journaling early morning and/or before bed to release onto paper all that my heart has been holding, or what has been shelved because it was too much to bear in the moment. Once written, I can bless and release it. Throughout the day and at the end of the day, I also brush off my body as a symbolic ritual to release all the energy that is not mine to tend, giving it to God/Universe to hold.
On a very human level, these practices help me maintain a rhythm of soul. I am giving and receiving love. Yet, I don’t overwhelm and exhaust my caring soul. I am choosing where to place my precious time, energy, attention and love, and I am choosing what to notice, bless and release.
In the freedom of that release, I notice a Sacred Loving energy flowing freely through me. And a deeper question emerges: What if I trusted that Sacred Loving energy so much that the hole in my love bucket healed? What if the entire bucket became obsolete?
Jesus followed the flow of his Sacred energy toward an intentional death. Only someone convinced that Love is truly infinite would invite death as a way to prove that no system, or religion, or personal trauma can diminish Love.
In doing so, he eliminated the bucket, that limiting container for love. He embodied a deeper truth: we are Love. That is our essence beneath the doubts, fears, neuroses, and leaking buckets. We are Love. We are already that for which we most yearn. My “life lesson” is to trust that Love-identity when my anxious thoughts, my weary soul, and our suffering planet look and feel otherwise.
These two “truths” work together. I ground, edit and release out of compassion for my limitations as a human critter. I also ultimately identify not with those limitations, nor with the leaking bucket. From the soles of my feet, up through my heart, up through the crown of my head is a current of Love. No need for a bucket to contain my limitless essence. I AM the Love flowing through me.
Even though immersed in suffering, ignorance, and injustice, Jesus still laughed, partied, and loved recklessly. He was neither numb nor burned out. Rather, he had a rhythm of engagement and withdrawal, grounded in a limitless love that is our common essence.
Maybe my love bucket will always have a hole in it, but when submerged in an ocean of Loving Essence, the hole simply doesn’t matter anymore.