Filed in Family, Relationships

Love Becomes Her

Nicole Daedone thought she wanted a bicycle. What she really wanted was love.

Nicole Daedone

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Michael S. Wertz for Tricycle

I grew up an only child in suburban Los Gatos, California. One of my closest friends, Maria, came from a large, warm, rambunctious Chilean family. I envied the love that seemed to surround her. Maria’s most cherished possession was her bicycle. She rode it everywhere and took very good care of it. She had such a passion for that bike that she learned everything about how it worked and what it needed, and eventually got a job repairing bikes for other people. The love she felt for her bike made it glow—made it seem like the most desirable object on earth.

I wanted that same feeling. In fact, I wanted to feel even more of it than she did. I figured that if I bought a better bike than hers, my bike would glow even more. So I begged my mom to buy me one that was top-of-the line. But somehow the glow eluded me. I rarely rode it, and its presence in my garage began to feel vaguely reproachful, a thorn in my side. I almost came to hate it. In my mind, this was definitely the bike’s fault.

One day, Maria’s beloved bike was stolen. She borrowed mine and rode it everywhere. To my amazement, it began to have the same magical glow I had so envied in her old bike. Naturally, I wanted it back. But once I got it, I still didn’t really feel like riding it, and it soon resumed its accusatory sulk in my garage. It refused to glow for me.

A lot of people approach looking for love as I approached bike shopping. We want a top-of-the-line model. We have a list of desirable qualities and imagine that the glow of desire will arise when we find someone who possesses those qualities. If love is absent from our lives, we may believe it is because we have not yet encountered someone sufficiently lovable. We are expecting our love to be activated by the object of desire.

My bike didn’t satisfy me because a bike was not what I truly wanted. It was a symbol of what I found so enviable in my friend: the way she was so rich in love that even inanimate objects were animated by it. She had a power to connect to her world that I seemed to lack. I imagined I could attain that inner state by imitating its outward form. A burgeoning spiritual materialism was at play: I tried to make a physical possession the source of my love, rather than finding the source in the love itself.

Our knee-jerk reaction to desire is to focus all our efforts on obtaining whatever it is we think we want. While that is happening, we experience the feeling of desire and the object of desire as inseparable. Had you asked me, “What is the true nature of your desire?” I would have responded, “I want a bike.” So long as we are in hot pursuit of the object, it appears as simple as that. Rather than feeling the pure burn of desire, we get caught in what the Buddha called tanha, in craving the object of our desire, believing we must have it to be happy. Tanha translates roughly to “thirst.” We think we are thirsting for an object—for the person or the bike. But what we actually desire is intimacy—the hydration of direct experience saturating our cells.

We believe that love is to be found within another person. But, in truth, love is found in the animating quality of our attention. In Buddhist practice, we discover that mindful attention can reveal a deeper truth in whatever object we are paying attention to. The same is true in romantic love. When we use our attention to touch and open the deeper truth in a person, we not only catalyze the experience of love, we become love. The source of love is revealed to be within us; we no longer have to go looking for it somewhere outside.

What made any bike that Maria possessed seem so desirable was the very love she lavished on it. The glow was not in the bike itself, but in her relationship to it. Like bicycles, people become more desirable when we are attentive to them. Their most lovable qualities reveal themselves to us only after we have begun to love them. Loving is the polish. Loving draws out their Buddha-nature. Anything and anyone we cherish and care for comes alive with the glow of our attention.

Image: © Michael S. Wertz

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shannonstoney's picture

I wish this were true. Loving people doesn't always make them wonderful, unfortunately.

sallyotter's picture

Are we loving them as they are or are we "Loving" them to make them into what we want them to be? To love someone doesn't necessarily mean that they belong in my life.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Buddhism teaches the oneness of life and its environment. Maria's environment, which included her bike, glowed because inside Maria's life was glowing. Nicole observed her environment, which included her bike, as reproachful because deep within her life was reproachful. Our exterior is a reflection of our interior.

jackelope65's picture

Somehow, I think romantic love is the object of our desire: beautiful appearance, attractive, sexual but nothing that gives rise to a durable relationship and persistent desire. What about the relationship that survives differences of opinion, aging, illness, infirmity, and ultimate death? Earthly love, as described in Tristan and Isolde,' springs from compassion and giving, creating more lasting, Bodhisattva love for other and oneself, earthly love. Letting her use your bike was compassionate and gave us a wonderful story to develop these perspectives. Thank you.

ITSJUSTALILA's picture

Recently discovering that I am transgendered I've become aware of how much I love and attend to being femme. Living my life in a feminine manner is an object of my intense desire. I've changed my name at work to Lynn as it just feels so very right for me. I have very long hair and ear rings. I don't really understand why these outward expressions are so incredibly important to me. I've been meditating since 1972 and somewhat know about the joy of no-self, emptiness & non-dual experiences. I'm confused about my intense desire to express as a woman, the power of my identification with the femme juxtaposed against non-dual samadhi. Can anyone explain my confusion to me?

d7massry's picture

perhaps your confusion doesn't need an explanation, but attention instead? if desire is an expression of ego, it can be in service of deeper understanding of reality. ultimately, our bodies are vehicles, but they are also messengers. you are perfect with or without your desires, but they do, i think, help guide us along our particular paths. may you be at happy and at peace :)

summerleaf's picture

Perhaps by giving expression to another side of your self, your femme side, it makes you feel more whole?

FWIW I remember watching a video about an FTM transexual (I think his name was Charlie) saying that he could ironically relate to women better after he began testosterone. I wonder if you might make further peace with your male side if you continued to transition to female.

If you haven't you might want to research shamanic traditions, because it is/was fairly common for shamans to be transgendered or genderqueer. Such individuals are believed to be better able to tap into mystical dimensions than single gendered people.

fishman.ellen's picture

Perhaps you are just in transition and what has been denied now seems more than just middle path but to the extreme. No one can know what your experience is bringing up but I have found when I am that troubled seeking professional help has been fruitful. May you have an easy journey.

xilindsay's picture

This article is thoughtful, helpful.