"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

Monday, February 13, 2023

What's Love Got To Do With It?

"Hatred never ceases by hatred. It is healed by love alone. 
This is the ancient and eternal law."
-- Buddha

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your strength and with all your mind. 
Love your neighbor as yourself.”
--  Jesus of Nazareth

With the candy-coated, commercialized carnival of Valentine's Day coming up,  I find myself again musing about True Love. 

I don't know how it plays out in other languages, but it seems to me that in English the word "love" is astonishingly imprecise.   

The very same word is used for 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, jealous flailing of folks ensnared by the Green Eyed Monster!

Yet, we have it on "good authority" (see introductory quotes above) 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 Aristotle's (and Buddha's) Golden Mean to the obnoxious underwater antics of the Blue Meanies.!?


It's Only Words...

Love? Meaning? 
These words certainly seem important.   Yet using these word to get at the Truth seems a bit problematic, no?  Conditioned as we are in a culture that stresses the importance of conceptual thought, much of our awareness is tied up in the stream of words that dominate our attention.  Yet it's obvious that words can be quite sloppy, their meanings even paradoxical.  Perhaps, words are not all that useful in our quest for fundamental clarity.

The Zen tradition points this out.  Repeatedly. 

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.  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 through Simply Sitting Still offers us an opportunity to widen and deepen the scope of our awareness to include a quality of consciousness that doesn't rely on words -- or even emotions.  With Practice, we come to experience for ourselves the spiritual dimension of our being, a boundless realm of awareness that most of us have been conditioned to ignore.  Present with an open heart and clear mind in the moment by moment experience of our own life, we perceive a Presence.  We can sense it beneath and beyond the emotions we've repressed and the belief structures that we've adopted, consciously or unconsciously, as we learned how to try to be "normal" in our hyper-individualistic, ego-driven, capitalistic society.  

With Practice, we become less blinded by our own conditioning and more 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.  It can be quite subtle.  Yet, if you're paying attention, it's palpable.  In meditation, we cultivate our ability to pay attention to that

As the Practice deepens, there will sometimes be certain awakenings, moments along the way where Reality Asserts Itself.  As we probably did at times as children, we get out of our freakin' heads and in touch with the Heart of Awareness.  It may happen on the meditation cushion or emerge elsewhere in the midst of our life.
There, in the embrace of open awareness, the perfect connection is made.  There, the Truth becomes obvious.  What we may have yearned for or may have intuited,  what we had possibly conceived of intellectually, we come to know for ourselves.  Sometimes, an awakening may appear as a big bang perception of beauty or perfection, or love, bringing us to tears.   Sometimes it may appear as visions or voices, a mystical or paranormal experience.  Other awakenings may emerge with boisterous laughter.  Some may simply evoke a smile and a gentle sigh of deep contentment.  We each experience the miracle of the Real Deal in our unique way.
Whatever word we may chose to try to label the source of that experience -- God, Nirvana, the Tao, Allah, Christ Consciousness, Krishna Consciousness, etc.  -- we know what Buddha, Jesus, Lao-tse, and a myriad other sages and teachers were pointing at.  The One Love that is the source, ongoing essence, and fulfillment of our life is experienced directly.  In True Love, we know for ourselves that each of us is inseparable from all that is, has been, or could ever possibly be.
Those moments are beyond words, beyond belief!  
Yet, sitting here at the keyboard blogging away, an old song comes to mind.  With a grin and bow to Bodhin Sensei -- and BeeGee's, "it's only words, but words are all I have...🎶"
Simple but Not Easy 
At age 76, I've come to understand that knowing that True Love is the answer is one thing.  Becoming a loving human being is another.  It takes commitment and effort, a set of understandings and skills -- and patience.  Lots of patience.
I've found that a daily meditation practice is extremely helpful.  With Practice, I've been able to deepen my ability to open my heart, relax my body, and clear my mind enough to love more completely and more consistently.  It hasn't been effortless.   
I was born into a capitalist society,  one that glorifies "rugged individualism."  The collective consciousness that I have been conditioned by since I was in my mother's womb is steeped in centuries of white supremacy, patriarchy, "rational" scientific materialism, and a distorted form of religion that pivots on the emotional energies of condemnation, guilt, shame, and fear.  It's a devil's brew that has this world poised on the brink of catastrophe.  (It seems other cultures have their own variations of these themes that propel human beings toward what Buddhism calls the Three Poisons: Greed, Enmity, and Ignorance.)

So, a large part of who I am was conditioned by, and is still being influenced by a set of conditions that tend, moment to moment, to create a way of experiencing myself and the world that  prioritizes thinking.  I can get "lost in my thoughts" -- a lot. 
I've also been conditioned to react emotionally in certain ways. Entwined with a set of acquired beliefs about myself and the world, some of them emerging from my chaotic and traumatic childhood (these often operate subconsciously), these emotions, and the bodily tensions associated with them, continue to impact on the way I experience and interact with the world around me.   As a matter of habit, I've often reacted to the world (as most people in our culture do) judgmentally.  Feeling stressed out, impatient, frustrated, depressed, I've hardened my heart and blamed myself and others, even life itself,  for my unhappiness.
Without Practice, I'd have continued to oscillate between being a total jerk and a basket case most of the time.  
Now? Not so much.
It Just Takes Practice
I meditate most every morning for an hour.  I've done this for decades now.  I've also made a point to compare notes on mindfulness, meditation, life, and spiritual practice with dozens of fellow travelers for the past ten years in the Mindfulness Circles I host.  I've also poured through the literature and scripture of the world's religions, modern psychology, and quantum physics.  So, I think I can safely generalize about a few things: 
As we learn to "get out of our heads" and bring ourselves more fully into our actual embodied experience of the present moment, the quality of our experience shifts.  Even with the simple recognition that we are thinking, we are no longer lost in thought.  We access a different aspect of our own consciousness.  Each noticing is a moment of mindfulness. 
Simply Sitting Still regularly, we gain a bit of control over where and how we focus our attention.  With Practice, we can learn to relax, expanding our gaze beyond the tunnel vision of conceptual thought.  Getting in touch with our breath, our belly, our heart, we can experience the actual energies and sensations of the conditioned patterns that close our hearts.   
At certain moments we see that we don't even have to actively "let go" of the clusters of constricted dark energy that emerge in our awareness. We can simply relax and breath it into our hearts, and let it be. With our intention to be compassionate and kind to ourselves and others, our hearts open, and the darker energies will dissipate in the infinite open spaciousness of the our own boundless awareness.  True Love is all that remains.  We can then send this out as a prayer for the welfare of all.  

It seems to me that Mindfulness could, perhaps, better be described as Heartfulness.  Fully engaged with the present moment, on the meditation cushion or in the midst of our daily activities, we can experience a warm, spacious, expansive, affirming,  Presence.  There, our eyes see.  Our ears hearOur hearts love. 
With Practice, we may even be able to roll up our sleeves and help make the world a kinder place.
How cool is that?

It just takes Practice.

Originally published, February 14, 2014. 


Dharma Bum69b said...

The hardest time for me is on the phone with a "Stupid" AI trying to resolve a complicated situation and you can't get a REAL person on the phone - i ALWAYS have to meditate afterwards!

Anonymous said...

As always thank you. Definitely thought that and going zero to 9000in my head. Especially not having a quote Valentine this year when I've always had one since I don't know 15 LOL it's different and you are absolutely right. Being in the present moment is extremely difficult but it's the only place to be. And love to talk with you more you know where I am :-)

Anonymous said...

There’s five meanings and separate words for love in Greek. Where we only have one word for the five different meanings. Truly a language barrier that we have been imposed upon to figure out ourselves. Sometimes a lover says “ I love you “ and it really comes down to “ I am obsessed with you “ This can show when the person refuses to the work it takes to have a healthy relationship.
Thanks for your transparency Bro. ♥️