"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

Friday, November 4, 2022

A Love Affair

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You're able to keep your eyes open,  
your heart open, and your mind open.
 ― Pema Chödrön, 
Practicing Peace in Times of War

We now see that the only way that we could love ourselves is by loving others, 
and the only way that we could truly love others is to love ourselves. 
The difference between self-love and love of others is very small, 
once we really understand.”
― Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion: 
Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong

First: The Good News.
As I've mentioned before, here and elsewhere, I think the Hippies actually had it right.  It IS all about Peace, Love, and Freedom.

In the Collective Kensho of that era, many of us were catapulted to the mountain top.  Whether it was being touched by the heart and soul of the civil rights and antiwar movements or the direct impact of psychedelics, whether it was the influence of one of the Asian teachers who came to the West or the communal baring of souls (and bodies) at Woodstock or elsewhere, our hearts were opened and our minds were blown.  
The Spirit was upon the land. 
In that era, many of us glimpsed directly, if only for a moment or two, the Real Deal.  We realized that not only are we all in this together, we are all this -- together.  In those days, we saw clearly that on the most fundamental level we were inseparable from all that has been, is, and can possibly be.  We saw that each of us were emanations of the One Love that permeates and transcends the Universe.  We knew that Love was the answer.

And, Then.
As time went on, it became quite clear that seeing it -- and even believing in it -- isn't enough.  The task of freeing the mind from it's deeply conditioned patterns, the process of opening the heart to actually BE a peaceful and loving human is no mean feat.  It takes deep commitment, effort, discipline, courage, skill, time,  --  and patience.

It takes Practice.

In the Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist worlds the term "Love" isn't generally used to refer to the Ultimate State of Being. They approach the Ineffable with different concepts and understandings. I think that is actually helpful to us Westerners.  We are incredibly sloppy with the word love.  It has a wide range of meanings.

In English, love could be the word that attempts to describe the spiritual glow that emerges from the ethereal domain of unconditional, unselfish agape on the one hand.  Or,  just as readily, the word could be used to indicate the self-absorbed fiery emotion that erupts from the nether realms of green eyed monsters and wrathful, jealous gods.  
So, what's the deal? It's pretty clear that "I love you so much that I'll kill anyone who looks at you, and then you," isn't exactly what Jesus and Buddha had in mind when they taught about Love.  Right?
Love Is More Than A Four-Letter Word!

Love is a state of being.  It emerges naturally as we refine our ability to be fully Present.  

With Practice, Love is not experienced primarily as an emotion. It is a quality of consciousness that is open, clear, bright, equanimous, and non-judgmental.  When we are Present to Life, moment to moment, we experience the Presence of Love as a warm, spacious, calm exhilaration.  The mind states known as the Four Divine Abodes  in Buddhism, compassion, equanimity and joy, emerge naturally.

Opening our hearts and minds to what is, not just to what we want it to be, we connect with the Heart of Reality.  There, Love is all there is. 

Just Sit On It, Buddhy!

It may seem preposterous to claim that Just Sitting Still could ultimately lead to the realization of True Love but, for some of us, a meditation practice has been essential. Through Practice we train our attention to operate in different manner.  The ability to be Present to one's own breath, bodily sensations, feelings, thoughts, intuitions, and energies, allows us become aware of realms of our experience that had previously been subconscious.  The ability to relax and open our hearts to it all connects us to the Heart of Reality.  There, we become the Love we are seeking. 

It's just that simple.  

Of course, simple doesn't mean easy.  A regular meditation practice takes commitment and courage.   It takes the willingness to face yourself -- and all that you've denied and repressed -- openly and honestly.  It takes getting out of your head and into your heart to face and embrace all aspects of yourself and others -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Again and again and again.

Yet, with persistent and gentle effort, our ability to be Present with a clear, non-judgmental awareness emerges and deepens.  With Practice, our minds clear and our hearts open to  explore all the patterns of feeling, thought, and action that diminish and distort our ability to be kind, peaceful, and loving.  Over time, both on and off the meditation cushion, we see clearly that the our own deeply conditioned patterns of grasping and pushing away are the primary cause of our suffering.

We also come to see clearly that, like everything else, those thoughts and feelings are just energies.  They are fundamentally insubstantial and impermanent.  They are just clouds passing through the infinite expanse of a vast, clear sky.  At a certain point we know that we are that clear sky.

This changes everything.

There, in the embrace of Mindful Awareness, Reality asserts itself.  

There, all that separates us from ourselves, from one another, and from the One Love that permeates and transcends space and time is seen for what it is.  We see for ourselves that this sense of separation is illusionary, the product of our own conditioned ego. With this insight, its power over us dissolves.  Our True Nature emerges into full view -- and we are free to Be who we truly are.   

At that point, Life itself becomes a Love Affair.   

It just takes Practice.

Originally posted, April 24, 2015.  Revised.

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