An Expanded Map of the Route to Romance

"I'm willing to look under rocks and find something that doesn't appear shiny at first," the younger man said on our first phone call. "What appears dull can change with time and attention." While true, I wondered what this had to do with my answer to his question. He'd asked what I desired in a relationship. I had felt empowered and quite shiny expressing my vision. His disconnected response confused me. In speaking with a friend, she clarified: He likes to polish rocks and you're already polished.

I laughed in appreciation of her insight. Without the real-time experience of being able to read a full body of response, the beginnings of online dating can be so confusing. First meetings by phone or email leave you with so many unreadable or ambiguous signals.

In the same conversation my friend told me of an upcoming offline event that explored the field of love itself. Patricia Albere was introducing the work of her Evolutionary Collective in the space which connects us all. There would be experiential learning inside this shared space, this we space. One practice would include eye-gazing. I felt my New Yorker's resistance soar at the thought of maintaining prolonged eye contact with someone I had yet to know.

As I had been feeling the impulse to expand beyond my personal space, I summoned my courage. Following my desire for something greater to downtown San Francisco, I arrived at the event highly anxious. Eye-gazing has been in the media recently. Two men friends on opposite U.S. coasts had simultaneously sent me links to a New York Times article.

While this Harvard study was more psychological than spiritual, it also involved four minutes of gazing into the eyes of the person you had just been engaging with a series of intimacy driven questions. I remember grimacing as I read the article.

Eye-gazing seemed threatening despite four decades of living in northern California. While sitting with my fear waiting for the event to begin, I drifted back to my wedding ceremony where I disappeared from my parents' Long Island backyard; falling into my groom's eyes and back to ancient dwellings of the middle ages. I believe that the ritual bonding that occurred contributed to my staying far too long in that marriage.

Having recently tossed my laundry list of characteristics of my ideal partner, I've been attempting instead to embody what it feels like to be in a reciprocal loving relationship. Inspiring each other to grow into our best selves was as noble a goal as I could manage. In the light of the collective's mutual awakening in contribution to the field of human consciousness, I imagined that my own comparatively paltry agenda would be glaringly visible. When gazing into another's eyes, I was sure they'd be able to see through me. Evolutionary, indeed! Just another 60-something woman looking for love. You don't belong here!

I considered heading for the loo to text a friend into talking me out of heading for the exit. Just then, Patricia Albere extended her greeting, masterfully creating a welcoming and safe environment for newcomers. Her fascinating introduction lead into two minutes of eye-gazing. We were advised to simply be present, looking into the eyes of one partner before moving onto the next. Discussions and additional practices were brilliantly woven together as three hours flew by. The event concluded with 20 minutes of being mutually present for a single partner sharing our individual and collective experience of the space between us.

By the time this longer experiential took place, I was fully present and enjoying it all. It didn't hurt that I was gazing into the eyes of a charming, young Frenchman.

While the event offered a sliver of the collective potential for humankind, my smaller self brought it back to the personal. It amused me that friends' suggestions to start including younger men in my love search seemed to bring them forward wherever I showed up. Yet, it was the mutual exploration, the feeling of safety, of curiosity, of being wrapped in love with the potential for contributing to the field itself that felt so exquisite, so inviting.

Exploring the Field of Love with partners was just the experience I needed. The focus on mutually exploring our contribution to the world was a welcome change. I felt part of something greater that also enhanced my individual journey.

I'm eager to explore further. But, not before answering a message from my next match. He noted that "you play well with others." While not certain how he deduced that from my profile, I smiled, thinking of the event I attended and how I am proving that to be true.