This is the ancient and eternal law."
Love your neighbor as yourself.”
My first thought was, "How cool is that?" Since she is quite a collage artist, I must admit my next two thoughts were, "I hope I make the cut," and "I'd love to get one."
I don't know how it plays out in other languages, but it seems to me that in English the word love is amazingly imprecise. The very same word, "love," applies to both the ultimate self-sacrifice that Jesus spoke of when he proclaimed, "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life, " and the most possessive and jealous form of desirous grasping imaginable. The very same word, love, casts a net that includes both the enlightened activity of the Bodhisattva Green Tara -- and the painful flailings of folks ensnared by the Green Eyed Monster!
Yet, we have it on "good authority" (see introductory quotes,) that the key to the Real Deal is Love. So, what does the word "love" really mean?
Yikes. Here we go again: What does the word "mean" really mean?
Its "meaning" runs the gamut from ultimate significance and purpose, to simply being nasty! It reaches from the perfection of the Aristotelean (and Buddhist) Golden Mean to the obnoxious underwater antics of the Blue Meanies.!?
Damn. I mean give me a break here.
It's Only Words...
Love? Meaning? These words certainly seem important, yet getting to the Truth of the Matter seems a bit problematic, no? Conditioned as we are in a world that stresses the importance of conceptual thought, of words, much of our awareness is tied up in the stream of thoughts that dominate our attention. Yet it's obvious that those words can be quite sloppy, even paradoxical. Perhaps, words are not all that useful in our quest for fundamental clarity.
The Zen tradition stresses this point.
At one point, during a teisho in sesshin years ago at the Rochester Zen Center, Bodhin Kjolhede Sensei asserted, "Every time I open my mouth, I'm lying!" He had obviously -- and very passionately -- opened his mouth at that moment. I sat there bemused.
Was Sensei telling the truth in that assertion -- or was he lying?
You tell me!
The Real Deal
The Practice actually provides a way to address that question.
The cultivation of Mindfulness offers us an opportunity to widen and deepen the scope of our awareness to include a quality of consciousness that doesn't rely primarily on words -- or even emotions. With Practice, we come to experience for ourselves a boundless realm that most of us have been conditioned to ignore. It shines through each moment beneath and beyond emotions we've repressed and belief structures we've adopted, consciously or unconsciously, as we learned how to be "normal" in our ego-driven, modern capitalistic society.
With Practice, we become attuned to a finer range of sensibilities. We come to see directly that we are capable of deep levels of intuition, empathy, and understanding. If you're paying attention, the truth, even a personal or relative truth, has a certain energy. Then, at certain points along the way, the Truth, the Real Deal, the One Love, becomes obvious. Those moments are beyond belief!
Giving ourselves the opportunity to meditate regularly can be the key to that Gateless Gate.
Simple But Not Easy
The act of bringing our attention to the actual sensations of our breath and body and our mind seems all too simple -- until you try it. The momentum of our own conditioning, supported by the collective consciousness of today's sped up world, is quite powerful.
Yet, as we "get out of our heads" to bring ourselves more fully into the actual experience of the present moment, things shift.
As we notice that we are thinking, we are no longer lost in thought.
That is a qualitatively different mode of consciousness!
Gently returning to the simplicity of our breath again and again, we find that there is a quality of consciousness available to us in each moment that is fundamentally spacious, clear, calm, kind, and compassionate.
Often experienced as a "calm exhilaration," it seems to me that Mindfulness could, perhaps, better be described as Heartfulness. A warm loving Presence, it brings with it both a sense of knowing and a sense of curiosity and wonder. Expansive, spacious, accepting, affirming, I believe it to be our True Nature.
So, what's Love got to do with it?
You tell me!
Originally published, February 14, 2014.