"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Love. Love. Love.

"The moment we give rise to the desire for all beings to be happy and at peace, the energy of love arises in our minds, and all our feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness is permeated by love: in fact, they become love."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Teachings on Love

"All you need is love."
-- The Beatles

We have it on good authority. 

Jesus and Buddha, as well as the other sages and saints of the world's religions seem to agree with the Hippies -- and the Beatles.  In the final analysis: All you need is Love.  

That seems simple enough.

So, what's the problem? Why are so many folks suffering and why does the world appear to be going to hell in the proverbial hand basket? 

First of all, what many folks have learned to believe is love, the terrain of much music and Hollywood Movies -- isn't love.  What is presented as love is a very human blend of desire, biological attraction, and attachment.  It's pretty clear that "I love you so much that I'll kill anyone who looks at you, then you, then myself." is not exactly what JC, Buddha and others had in mind, right?

The form of "love" that our culture promotes has a lot more to do with fulfilling one's own individual ego needs for sex, security, status, and self-esteem than the quality of consciousness that emerges from what American Buddhist Teacher Pema Chodron calls an Awakened Heart.  True Love is not the profound passionate grasping of deep attachment. True Love is much grander than that.  

True Love emerges, and is essentially inseparable from, Pure Being.  It is identical to the One Love that exists beyond the illusion of disconnection that characterizes the realm of relative reality.  Flowing from and returning to our Essential Oneness, True Love emerges as the compassion, joy, ease, and clarity that exists in our heart of hearts. 

Unlike the common contemporary understanding that views love as something we just fall into (and, so often, out of),  in the Buddhist tradition, love is seen as a mode of consciousness.  Our connection to that love can be consciously cultivated.  Although we may stumble into glimpses of Oneness through an intimate connection to "the other" in a romantic relationship -- especially in its initial honeymoon phase -- ultimately, True Love emerges from a fundamental choice to embrace Life itself, to let go of who we think we are and open our hearts and minds to the actual experience of the present moment.  

Although this can happen with the very next breath, the process of actually becoming a loving person generally doesn't just happen.  It is a Practice.  Erich Fromm characterized it as an art in his classic work, The Art of Loving.  Like any discipline, True Love takes commitment, a set of skills, effort -- and patience. 
Cultivating True Love

In the Brahmavihara Practices of Buddhism, True Love is presented as having four qualities: kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.  Known as the Four Immeasurables or Divine Abodes, each of these "sublime qualities," flows from our Connection to the One Love.  Each can be explored and developed in deep and lasting ways on the meditation cushion -- and the results will effect our thoughts, words, and actions in the course of our day to day lives as well. 

The Brahmavihara Practices use silent mental recitations as the primary object of meditation.  Perhaps, the most familiar is the widely known "May all beings be happy." Although the specific techniques and phrases used to cultivate each of the qualities of True Love vary among the various traditions, generally a practitioner is instructed to begin with oneself (May I be...), then move to specific others, (May you be...), then move outward to all beings.  

In some traditions, this becomes seven stages. We move from ourselves, to specific "loved ones", then friends, then neutral persons, then "enemies", then groupings of each, then move outward to encompass all beings.  Although the traditional phrases used can be useful, I've also found it quite helpful to put the aspirations into my own words as well, especially when I focus on someone who I know well.  (I try to keep it real as I radiate the invisible energy of love to them. LOL)

These mental recitations are not the same as affirmations or self-hypnosis.  Although a major part of one's attention is focused on the statements that articulate one's aspirations, some attention is also focused on what actually occurs in one's body and emotions.  Although feelings of the goodwill may immediately emerge, when we turn our focus to more challenging relationships, they may not!

Yet, in the cultivation of True Love, our willingness to be present for the more troublesome feelings and resistances that emerge is important.  Relaxing to hold them
with some degree of gentle kindness is a means, in itself, of cultivating an Open Heart.  In the teachings of Pema Chodron the message is loud and clear: we must first cultivate unconditional friendliness toward our own challenging emotions before we can fully experience an open mind and open heart towards towards others.  

Over time, the focus and concentration involved with staying with the mental recitation of the phrases, the dedicated "time on task" of being present for the entire experience, will have its own effect in establishing a calmer, kinder, more compassionate, and more spacious quality of mind.   

This practice works -- if you work it.

And in the End

"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." -- The Beatles

Papa Lance and GrandBabe Keaton Izzy 2015
I'm grateful all the teachers in my life that have brought these practices into my life. At age 73, I can honestly say that I am a much more consistently kind, clear, and compassionate human being than I was in the past.  

Although a day doesn't pass without me noticing times that I could have responded with even more kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity than I did, there has been a deepening ability to see that, to understand how and why it happens -- and move into the next moment more easily with greater kindness and care.

It just takes Practice.  

May all beings know True Love.

(Here's a brief collection of phrases used in Brahmavihara Practice)


Sue said...

Yes, yes, yes. Thanks so much for your wise post!

Developing a personal set of phrases and drawing on them in the midst of challenge and/or aggression, especially when it is directed toward me, but even when it is my midst, has been the single most powerful way to drop the reactivity (and accompanying resentment, hurt, anger, etc.) and find my back to compassion.

And, indeed, it is a PRACTICE to create these pathways back to the heart.

A bow to you,

Don Karp said...

Yes! An important and well written message on Love. Thanks!

I've heard that all existence is Love and Light, and that we all are connected to it and each other as One. And that everything else is illusion.

Do you agree?

This sounds simple, but actually believing and practicing it seems hard for me.

Carol said...

This is the time of year that love is colored more clearly in gratitude here in NE for me. Energy Recycling takes place and it is breath taking.
If love was a gold fish bowl and I was inside of the bowl, then I would be 'in love.' I am creation in the universe, and universal creation is love, So I am 'in love' all of the time. To love someone or something, to me, is just expressing that it stands out enough to me to mention it. I love my cat, I love sunsets, I love this person, I live here 'in love' and express that I love, using the word, love. Does that make sense to you? Seems that's what Christ meant when he said love your Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul and all of your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Not be in love with God, I am already in love, in God.

Lance Smith said...

Life is quite full these days, and I never got back to read these three comments. Sorry.

Susan and Dan, Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you found the musings useful. Dan, I would add Space to Light and Love. I guess that gets us to some sort of trinity again. LOL

Carol, thanks for the wonderful expression of "in Love." Yes, we are all "in Love" whether we realize it or not -- and Love is in us in return.
One Love,