Saturday, February 15, 2014

What does it mean to say, "I love you!"?

"Love certainly makes the world go 'round." Well, ok, love and its opposite: war (which includes hate, anger, dislike and repulsion). Between these two extremes lies the "soft center" which fills our days with endless preoccupations and activities.

I'm not saying that our daily duties and interests aren't important (to us, at least), but I am saying that they wouldn't exist if it were not for our feelings and our desire for and capacity for feeling.

Do we do anything for which we don't have a compelling "interest," or need, desire, or dislike? Even the most trivial things, like hanging up our clothes, are motivated by some sense of need or feeling for improving or fixing something or avoiding an undesirable result.

So yes, love, feeling, desire, dislike, anger: the emotional and feeling aspect of our consciousness do indeed make us go round and round. Not just spinning moment to moment, day to day, but also, as billions see it and great masters aver, lifetime to lifetime.

"The law was given through Moses, but truth and grace came by Jesus Christ." (New Testament, John 1:17). Or as has been said by others, "love is above the law."

So where does this apparent tangent fit in? Love (ok, "emotions") running amuck are our greatest foe. "Loose lips sink ships." Or, another: "a (wo)man with a six inch tongue can destroy a man six feet tall." All of these cliches point to the power of not just words, but, more importantly, the emotion, feeling, and energy behind our words AND their power to destroy or uplift.

How many crowds of people rioting and making mayhem are whipped into their insane frenzy by slogans, chanting and even martial music? It seems that mass genocide, being itself a form of insanity, dictates such intense froth.

The law fits in to give us a framework of reference and behavior for the channeling and clarifying of our emotional nature. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" my mother used to say!

But that's not possible nor even appropriate sometimes. Nonetheless, calmness, respect, a sense of perspective and even a sense of humor all point to the need to lift the present moment of our emotions into a higher and more impersonal atmosphere. The "law" refers to "right" behavior. Right behavior is calm, respectful and sees the long picture and sees the little self (especially when warped by the intensity of extreme emotions) as biased and even harmful.

When we do respect and feel truly connected to and supportive of another person (regardless of any other aspects of our relationship: child, parent, spouse, employee, employer, etc.), then we are allowed (by the "law") greater latitude to say things which, under other circumstances, would be inappropriate or at best unhelpful.

When we try to tune into divine love, God's love, and when we actually experience a taste of it, we realize both its power and its unconditional, or impersonal, attribute. Oh, it's VERY personal in the sense that "It is I" who am experiencing it. But it's available to all, equally, without personal preference. When I am feeling that love, or even in general feeling "loving," I feel kindly towards others even, sometimes, when they are unkind to me! (A tall order for most people, but not that difficult to experience for those who have an inner spiritual life or are, in any case, dedicated to loving all without condition, for whatever reason or philosophy or inner awareness may motivate them!)

Unconditional and impersonal are more or less synonymous. The "without condition" and the impersonal are in respect to our personal preferences and biases. It is not manifested by aloofness, what to say arrogance, disdain, or indifference! It's the power to forgive, for example. Forgiveness is certainly one of life's greatest tests at least for one who seeks inner peace and divine attunement. "Do not even the tax collectors" love their own friends?, Jesus quipped!

When we say "I love you" our culture and our language tends to reserve this expression for romantic or familial love. Fair and fine so far as that goes. Nor should you go around saying this to just anyone. But what is love, anyway--as distinguished from the forms of relationships it may pour into?

Heck, how mental can a guy get to ask such a question? Well, here I am, and I'm askin' it! What does an orange taste like? Shall we dissect an orange? Love, too?

Heck, why not? Love is perhaps best understood by its synonyms. I say this because of the association of the word "love" all too often exclusively with its romantic or at least intimate forms, such as parent-child.

Love begins within you. If you have calm respect for your own thoughts, feelings and core self, this is a good beginning. Without a sense of well-being (another synonym), you cannot really feel or express love, unless you mean an impure, co-dependent, needy kind of love. And is lust, co-dependency, neediness worthy of the name love? If so, it is only so in the debased and common currency of our culture and language. But not in the language of the soul, of angels, and of the immanent divine within all creation!

What I experienced in the person of my spiritual teacher (founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda), Swami Kriyananda,, was an aura or attitude of one who was loving by nature and by temperament. When we simply and without outer condition including the condition of being loved by another or being in the presence of a loved one, feel "loving," this, for me, is the experience of love.

It is an inner state that is hardly distinguishable from inner joy and it is effervescent. It simply bubbles over, as it were, in a mellow light of kindness. Whereas as joy might incline in the direct of energy, even laughter, and may bubble "up and down," love bubbles outward you might say spherically, calmly, and with warmth. Joy is "gay" and love is "warm." But they are, essentially, like two sides of a coin: distinguishable but connected.

Spiritually speaking, however, it is deemed safer to focus more on joy than on love because we are so invested by habit towards conditional love. At Ananda Village in California (Ananda's first intentional community), a rule, honored in the breach, is that new members in training (who are single) are asked to not enter into new relationships during their year of training. As one enters the spiritual path and the inner experience of meditation, one works on developing and expressing devotion: love for God. In the awakening of the heart's natural love, its long-established habit of affixing itself to an outer, human form too often means that one "falls in love with the first person one meets!" This is very distracting to the one-pointed focus of one's year of spiritual transition! Like Queen Titania in Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer's Night Dram, the pixie dust of spiritual awakening (of kundalini) can accidentally cause us to mistake the form for the spirit behind the form.

This tendency includes the tendency to place a spiritual teacher or other devotees on a pedestal of one's own making. You can guess what the "end of that story" always comes to! The same ending that infatuation comes to!

So, yes, seeking joy is safer. The litmus test of unconditional love has two sides like that coin: the effervescence of a loving nature and the adamantine ability to accept impartially criticism, dislike, hatred and even injury from others without responding in kind.

"I love you" means I love you as a manifestation of God in human form, and as a reflection of the divine love I feel in my own heart.

Happy Valentine's Day (weekend),

Swami Hrimananda aka Hriman aka Terry aka your own Self!