'How long has it been since you wrote a story where your real love or your real hatred somehow got onto the paper?' Finding the truth of our authentic passions is the key to forming the foundations of a writing practice, according to science fiction author Ray Bradbury.
This sonnet by American poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay is addressed to a lover and to the latent sense of impermanence and loss built in to all moments when one becomes conscious of great love or great happiness.
Simone Weil lauds 'unmixed attention', which she likens to prayer, and reflects on the quality of attention, expressed as 'patience, effort and method' to 'understand with our whole self the truths which are evident.'
In this extract from an essay about bhakti and devotional love written in the late 19th century, Swami Vivekananda - the 19th century spiritual reformist and teacher of Vedanta who was instrumental in popularizing Hinduism and yoga in the west - makes the difference between empty religious ritual and the burning desire for union with God, which is as real as any hunger or thirst.
According to David Whyte, solace is the art of asking the beautiful and often difficult question of ourselves, something that also requires courage.
Why is self-acceptance so hard and self-criticism so deeply wired in us? Psychologist and teacher of meditation Tara Brach reminds us that self-love is one of the most neglected areas of our psychic landscapes.
Brian Doyle's essays are accessible and uplifting to people of all and no faith inclinations. His humorous and poignant prayers touch the details of our lives and the beings that we often overlook: in this case, shop cashiers, herons and international terrorists, but also sunscreen, chess and the state of Iowa.
For the former Unitarian minister, relations with other people evoke in us the call towards both truth and tenderness, asking at their highest level not for daintiness, but for the 'roughest courage.
Sheila Heti's novel 'How Should a Person Be?' asks that candid and naive question with honesty, humor and sincerity. During the course of the book, she especially looks at love and all its difficulties, and in this passage she talks about the kind of obsessive sexual love that pushes us over cliffs and into the death drive, that longs for 'annihilation, comfort and death'.
Friendship transcends mere companionship to reach a more elevated goal - that of a shared vision or a common question.