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14/02/2019

A spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day with Alison Murdoch, Tibetan Buddhist, writer and editor.

A spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day with Alison Murdoch Tibetan Buddhist, writer, & editor.

Am I alone in finding Valentine’s Day a bit of a challenge? When I was young and single, it would be dominated by the fear of missing out, certain that everyone bar me was having the perfect romantic evening. In a new relationship, I anxiously waited to discover whether the latest man of my dreams was going to find an imaginative and witty way to rise to the occasion. And now, I’m married to someone who quite understandably thinks the whole occasion is a fraud and refuses to buy flowers on the most expensive day of the year. Logically I know that Valentine’s Day is a dubious creation of the greetings card industry, and yet somehow I still allow it to niggle.

From the Tibetan Buddhist point of view, genuine love is the absolute opposite of a fixation on whether somebody is going to do exactly what we’ve decided will please us. On the contrary, love is defined as the wish for other people to be happy, and it doesn’t just apply to the people we feel close to, but to every other living being on the planet. Buddhism – along with every other major religion - proposes that altruistic rather than romantic love is the superhighway to happiness. Neuroscientists are beginning to say the same thing, as their research increasingly suggests that broadening and deepening our capacity for love can improve not only our mental but also our physical health. For example, studies at the University of California suggest that altruistic love helps to activate the vagus nerve, which in turn will strengthen our immune system.

On this basis, the best Valentine’s gift we can give ourselves – or anyone else – is to be as loving and caring as we can towards as many living beings as possible. Let’s pray we can all put this into action today.

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