My little monkey makes me feel more love
A few weeks ago, I left my little stuffed monkey at a family reunion. He belonged to my long gone friend, Michael, and though he’s a physical object, he makes me feel love.
I took the courage to explain to my sister-in-law that the little monkey was a comforting travel companion. She got it—and not only sent him back home to me, but crafted him some personal travel accessories. That little monkey increased the love between people as well.
When my kids were young, they would only volunteer “I love you” when they felt loved. Maybe after an ice cream treat, a little foot massage, or reading Stellaluna at bedtime for the gazillionth time.
The acts of giving and receiving support each other.
This is also true for adult love
Over the past few months, I’ve been paying attention to loving my little stuffed monkey (he might need a name!). When I straighten my bed in the morning, I put him under the covers so he can see the day. At night, that moment of love is reflected back to me when I go to bed. I feel cared for—even if it’s just in my imagination, my body registers the love.
Remember Marie Kondo, the woman who did the straightening book and show? She encourages honoring a personal relationship with things you own. Does your red plaid shirt bring you joy? If not, thank it when you send it to Goodwill.
But did I have to wait until giving things away to have a relationship with them? I played with thanking my toothbrush, cast-iron pan, and house—telling it goodbye when I was taking a trip.
My little secret
It was a bit silly… and also soothing. But my embarrassment was overridden by feeling more love and connection with the things I choose to be in my life.
We all want to feel loved, but often don’t know how to take it in. If you want to play with more love in your life, it doesn’t need to be a little monkey. You can create a relationship with any symbol you can connect with. Maybe a stuffy, a pillow, the hat pin holder from your grandmother, your car, your favorite pen…. Or deepen it with your beloved pet.
Create a benefactor
Another path to feel more love is to deepen the beginning of metta or loving kindness meditation. In metta practice, you typically repeat phrases like, “May you be happy, may you be safe, may you be free from suffering.” You first focus on yourself, then shift to loved ones… to acquaintances… to those you have difficulty with in the world… to creatures seen and unseen in our world.
But unless you’re practiced at feeling love, metta may feel more abstract and frustrating than healing.
Instead, try starting the metta practice imagining a benefactor loving you. The benefactor could be your dog or cat, favorite tree, teacher who loved you in fourth grade, someone like the Dalai Lama who expresses deep care for you… or your little monkey!
What does your body say?
What does accepting love feel like for you? Does it reconnect you to your body, create a sensation in your heart, change your breathing, bring up resistance, or perhaps openness and energy? Play with it, and see how that loving connection shifts over time.
We can’t always rely on people to reflect how we feel loved. Your daughter might be snippy, your partner may have the blues, your cat might be standoffish when you want him to be cuddly.
But feeling love and giving love to what’s in our lives—even if it is “just a thing”—is a good way to increase your capacity to feel that love is all around, anyway.
And even moments that may feel embarrassing, like being a grown adult and leaving behind a stuffed animal, can bring love and joy to the people I care about too.