I met Hendrix on April 1. It was the beginning of spring, and ideas and experiences were stirring in me, waiting to be born anew in the true spirit of the season. Hendrix and I crossed paths in Los Angeles while visiting my sister and her fiancé in their new home. The visit was a true family affair, due to the fact that my sister, her fiancé, her fiancé’s mother, his sister and her 5 year old son Hendrix would join both myself and my own mother making a full house of seven folk for the week. Hendrix was at once the star of our family entourage, shining with pure exuberance for any and everything, and his ridiculously cute face had the effect of casting a spell on most people instantly.

On our first day together, the whole gang loaded into cars and made our way to Sunday brunch. Once we arrived at our table, I noticed Hendrix experiencing the beginnings of a classic 5-year old a meltdown. He had hoped to choose his own seat at our table, but when his mom chose his seat for him, it must have seemed to him like world’s end. I watched as his mom whispered something in his ear to soothe him because his expression changed, and he soon began to settle and instantly bounce back to his regularly scheduled joyful state. Oh, the power of a mother’s loving but firm words. Shortly thereafter I got up to use the bathroom, and when I returned to the table, Hendrix jumped out of his chair to greet me. He opened his arms wide for a giant bear hug, and embraced me like he had known me forever rather than a couple hours. There was a ripple of delight and knowing laughter from his family, but for a moment I was surprised at the zeal with which Hendrix hugged me. It was as if he had sat counting down the minutes to my return for the duration I was gone. It was remarkable and infectious and I could not help but respond in kind and squeeze him back. And this was only the beginning…

My week with Hendrix was a true revelation on the embodied expression of love, and its unconditionality and unabashed nature. Every morning, Hendrix would come to my room, and if he didn’t already see me, he’d eagerly inquire, “Is Crystal up yet?” And if I wasn’t he would wait as patiently as possible for his “5 and three quarters” year old self before returning only a few minutes later to confirm whether I was still sleeping or whether I’d stirred. Over the course of the day, I’d get several spontaneous bear hugs, and Hendrix would find my hand and hold it when walking through malls, parks and from the car to the restaurants we dined in. I now had a new friend, always by my side, and ready to do everything together.

Hendrix’ seemed to be acting on instinct with his uninhibited expression of love, with no fear of rejection, no fear of being judged for demonstrating a need for connection, touch, and attention, and no fear whatsoever about how his loving effusiveness toward me or anyone else was perceived by others. He was just being who he is: love. This lack of self-consciousness in Hendrix made an indelible mark on me that week. I have taught children and adolescents for years, and most do end up adoring me in time if not instantly, as I do them. However, there was just something revelatory for me in spending the week in such close proximity with little Hendrix.

My curiosity led me to wonder about why Hendrix shows up in such loving ways, and this answer was easy to discern. His environment was so full of love. I got to see his mother extend herself to attend to his need for attention and engagement. She spoke to him in ways that honored his intelligence and his curiosity about what was happening around him. She saw that he was thoughtfully nourished and that his body would grow strong (as evidenced by feeding him a vegan diet since birth). She gave him language and information to articulate why they ate this way, and supported him to determine over and over again at restaurants and in people’s homes what was acceptably edible or not based on their dietary needs. She also emphasized strengthening the body through Leslie Fightmaster yoga videos that they did together online, and Hendrix and I had a great time practicing together! When I taught him Crow pose, it was as if the Heavens opened up for him, and we were truly bonded forever after that. Soon thereafter he came up to me and said, “I wish I was your little brother.” I think my heart actually melted in that moment. It was clear that Hendrix was such a loving human being in large part due to the loving relationships he shared with his extended family as well. His uncle and grandmother all engaged in loving ways with him by actively listening, talking, joking, laughing, playing with him throughout our week together.

At one point my mother shared how remarkable the bond was that Hendrix and I had made that week,stating, “There is something that you two seem to need from each other.” Her observation was astute. Instantly, I realized that what I needed so desperately to be reminded of that week in LA with family and through Hendrix’s example was that I, too, am hard-wired to love and be love made manifest. We all are, and when we grow in environments that are generously, unconditionally and reciprocally loving and kind, well look out world! Yet, something happens to most of us along the life path that steers our nature to desire human connection and in this uninhibited way off course. Hendrix reminded me of who I am: a deeply loving human being whose life is meant to be an exploration on how to foster loving connections to myself and to others. And perhaps what Hendrix needed was to have his loving nature be reflected and affirmed by those around him.

Yet, there is another side of this story. While the great spiritual teachings and field of psychology assert that love is our birthright and connection at the heart of human nature, one day Hendrix will be taught by someone who loves him deeply that not all expressions of love are appropriate for all settings and with all people. Getting to know Hendrix began an inquiry for me into what tools I have learned and have yet to learn about keeping an open heart in a fearful world.

As I dive into this inquiry, I invite you to enter into it with me through this series of blog posts on love. Hendrix will continue to be a source of inspiration for what open-hearted love can look like and why it is important, but in it I also aim to probe the following big and small questions in a  curious and open-hearted way, sharing as much and as often as possible what I discover along the way:

  • What is love?
  • What did I learn about love as a child?
  • Who defined love for me and gave love words?
  • What are the dimensions of love found in my relationship with myself?
  • What are the dimensions of love found in my relationships with others?
  • What are the obstacles that arise and block the loving pathway between myself, others and the world around me?
  • What qualities of being are present when I observe the loving relationships of others?
  • Are different “types” of love, truly love?
  • What does love look like in public with people I do not know well or people I may never meet?

Most importantly, during these next several months, I will challenge myself to think, speak, and act in ways that foster love and connection with the intention of releasing conflict, stress and being right, and repair and take responsibility for the harm caused when I fall short of this aim. I would love to have you join me on this “journey to love” and share your thoughts and reflections along the way.

AND even more thrilling, consider joining myself and fellow yogi, Lauren Solomon, in Tulum for our Embodied: A Transformational Yoga Retreat where we will take a deep dive into the topic of love for a full week with yoga, mindfulness, pristine Tulum beaches, Mayan culture and ruins and community. I hope we will soon meet along this journey to deep, meaningful and transformational love!