Can we expand our capacity to love?

By Tom Bartley

For 28 years, often in the very early morning hours, I was blessed and grateful to expand and increase my physical stamina and fitness through riding either a mountain or road bicycle with a very accomplished triathlete and long distance athlete. 

Looking back from when I first started riding with my long time training partner and friend Bob in 1982, I marvel at what transpired through a steady and consistent practice to expanding my capacity for physical stamina and fitness. Could I have known when I first started back in 1982 what was ahead of me, or all that I was going to challenge myself with in the ensuing 28 years of 3-4 days every week for 28 years? Not even close. As over the years of my steady and consistent physical fitness practice, my expansion and growth pleasantly surprised me. Additionally, I am not the usual “bike riding size” person, as I stand 6ft 2in tall and weigh 210 +/- pounds. I quickly learned my friend Bob was not a flat lander.  We rode in the northern California foothills and elevation where size and body mass are not your friends. I was usually willing and open to the possibility, although there were definitely moments whereby I questioned my ability to expand to the distance and challenge Bob was proposing next, although my physical confidence and fitness was always continuing to expand and increase since day one of our training practice.

Since the moment I was given the gift of meeting Staci four years ago, and now being her husband, best friend, and business partner, I have been challenged again to expand myself. However, this time it’s not in the exercise and fitness area, rather in the equally or more important area of love and relationship.  Mine and Staci’s love and family creation, and all its wonder, is filled with many moving parts. We have 8 children, 11 grandchildren and we both come from large, loving families too. Staci and I also realize our “clan” will be continuing to grow and expand for many years to come; we are just getting started as we do the math.

Have there been some “bumps” in our road, often navigating our daily moving parts...oh heavens yes. Similar to my growth and expansion in my physical fitness journey, I have challenged myself to navigate our many moving parts with a view of love expansion, rather than love contraction. For those of you who exercise on the regular basis, you know the key to expanding our ability for increased fitness and muscularity is to stress our bodies, in a variety of disciplines, resulting in an expanded capacity for biking, weight resistance training, yoga, Pilates, dance, etc.

Are there times in the past when I have been concerned and challenged at my ability to expand my capacity to love my now larger family, and its human tapestry of life stories and journeys, and what I know is coming in our ever expanding family…of course. I also know deep within me, it’s never too late to learn and expand anything for which we have a potential and possibility within us. I also know deep within me, we cannot exhaust our ability to grow and expand our capacity to love, provided we are open, willing and ready for the challenge. One opportunity, one test, or one relationship at a time.   

We all have the potential for love. However, I’ve not ever seen true potential realized without work, practice, demonstration and expression. This work does not have to mean pain, or a renewed love practice filled with shame, guilt, or blame. This is often times our “story” around relationships, especially around relationships that may have ended. I know my ability to expand in love is learned, practiced and expressed best in wonder, in joy, in peace, in living, and a commitment to keep on keeping on, even when I sometimes question my capacity to expand and grow in love. How about you?