The Practice of Love on the Path to Love
We can be encouraged along our path of fundamental change from the evidence that humans receive intrinsic rewards – experience love and joy in various forms – when we experience a sense of unity in three central areas. When we experience that essential unity, we experience it in three fundamental ways.
*** Individually, humans instinctually (according to our genetic disposition) strive to be one with the free flowing, liberated universal energy, the spirit of the universe. We may feel this unity, this at-one-ness, in the majestic presence of a mountain range or gazing into the essence of a single flower. We transcend time and space. We need no supernatural force, no supernatural essence, or no supernatural being to have these experiences. We have the power to become one with that universal energy or spirit. When we are so connected, we transcend our egos which isolate us. We, in the form of our separate egos, do not exist.
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
*** We also strive instinctually to be whole and integrated within our individual beings – these moments of wholeness and integration, these moments when our observer and our observed are one, these moments when the different parts of our brain are integrated, in harmony, in balance, are moments of enlightenment, or profound inner peace, or of the feeling of coming home – returning to our essential being. By our existential nature each of us has the capacity to have direct experiences and create symbols (most often language) about those direct experiences. Parts of our brains experience concepts and essences of phenomena and other parts attempt to translate those concepts into words. Each of the poles of these polarities, and other similar polarities, separates our beings from the other pole. In these states of separation, which is the most common state for most of us, we are in a state of dis-ease or stress. Instinctually, we yearn to be one, to be whole, to end the separation. In order to establish greater integration of our experiences, the neocortical part of our brains creates stories – myths, fairy tales, allegorical plays, and the like. The neocortex seizes on the images available to it to create these stories. In an ecstatic moment in a beautiful forest one person may see the beautiful goddess Diana gliding through the forest while another person may feel that Khidr, the mysterious guide of the Sufis dressed in shimmering green is speaking to him or her. These stories can be empowering if we accept them for what they are – creations of our individual and collective minds attempting to integrate and explain the mysteries and experiences of life. With that acceptance we will more deeply understand and accept who we are and do not give away our power to Diana or Khidr.
*** The final piece of this instinctual trinity is that we strive to be deeply connected with, to be one with, to be in emotional resonance with each other – when this connection happens in a mutually empowering relationship, we are in love – in one of the many forms of love among people. Most of us know the power of this drive to connect with others. Unfortunately, this very life-affirming instinct has gotten lost and entangled with the confusion that most of us have about human sexuality. Through mutually empowering relationships including open and honest communication we can work and dance with each other to get to a clear and beautiful honoring of this instinct.
One of the best ways and perhaps the most inherently rewarding way to increase our connection with others is to act in service to another person or other people. If we see every human interaction in the context of mutual empowerment, then we have actually created for ourselves and for all who will engage with us a practice in which we can continue to learn how to act in love while at the same time we increase our experiences of being in love. Looked at this way, we can see how, on the other hand, it is so counterproductive, destructive, moving away from love to have our interactions with others characterized by competition, by striving to increase our power-over at the expense of others, or by expressing our power-over to the displeasure of others. No matter how small, our actions when taken in these destructive modes move us and our society away from love and perpetuate injustice. Positively stated, our actions taken in the mode of mutual empowerment or of service to others, no matter how small move us and our society towards love and justice. I suggest that it is the extremely rare individual who has not felt at least some experience of the joy of acting from this source of love. We know it is possible to do so.
Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it. Mohandas Gandhi
Even while we know it is possible to act from this source of love, most of us act contrary to that way because we have accepted, usually unconsciously, that this is just not the way the “real” world is.
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.
Sixteen thousand years of our society’s learning can be turned around quite quickly by a substantial number of us taking whatever incremental, everyday steps we can in order to increase the times that we act in the context of mutual empowerment or love.
No one knows how big or small this substantial number of us needs to be. Some sociologists have suggested that it may be as small as 5%.
While the 16,000 years of society’s learning can be redirected quite quickly, that does not mean that all of our society’s institutions and structures will change immediately. However, what can happen immediately is the formation of mutually empowering relationships at all levels that will begin to engage with the questions of how to establish new institutions which are based in and which support mutual empowerment and love. The beginning of that process and the inherently rewarding experience of millions of people involved in that process would produce a communal sense of combined love and power that would probably be impossible for the forces of cynicism and darkness to turn around.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.