Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Learning to Love

I’m lying in shivisana, the restorative pose that comes after a series of asanas in yoga, and my heart is physically aching. This deep pain reverberates through my body and even as the tears form, captive behind my closed eyelids, I know that it is the pain of growing and not that of breaking.  I can feel all the people I have loved, and still love, settling into the rooms they occupy in my heart.  They have permanent occupancy regardless of their role in my life now. And I can feel all the people I haven’t had an opportunity to love, the people I don’t even know, settling themselves in too. This is my very first experience of the Self which is not connected to my mind or my body; it is the unchanging Self that connects us all.

It's very difficult to love other people when we see ourselves as something separate. Popular teachings encourage us to first love ourselves before we love others but even that is hard to put into practice. I can think of many ways to love myself but the difficulty comes in making that manifest itself into love of others. We start by loving the people we know well because there is some mutual benefit to those relationships. But what about the people we don't know? What about the people who we only meet for a few moments, the people we only see occasionally, or the people we think are annoying; how do we offer them love?

 It lies in abandoning the idea that who you are is unconnected to who they are.

Obviously, our minds and our bodies are not the same. But that is not who we are at our core, so we cannot expect any kind of love to originate there. In the words of Sri Swami Satchinanda, in his commentary of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

behind all these differences, in the Self, we never differ. That means behind all these ever-changing phenomena is a never-changing One.

 Our true Self does not identify with our jobs, our role as a mother/daughter/sister/wife, or our physical characteristics. It is an energy that is completely pure and it is exists in all things. So if we are to understand that the core of who we are is the same as the core of who everyone else is (regardless of the surface differences) it is impossible not to love everyone because it is the exact same as loving yourself. You must not first love yourself, then others, you must just LOVE.

Christy Turlington, in her book Living Yoga, gorgeously articulates this same idea:

When you can see your own soul in another human being you have attained yoga and the world becomes an intimate place where your significance in it becomes clear again.

We often hear that the bible tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. This makes us think that we must do this; it becomes a requirement. When, in the history of your life, have you ever been able to love on command? I love what Jean-Yves Leloup says in his commentary on the The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which is that the teaching has always been that you can love. Not that you must somehow force yourself to do it, but instead that in seeking YHWH, you develop this capacity to love that you could not create through force of will.

There is in us this potential and this longing to love the other as YHWH loves the other, this longing to allow I AM to love us and to allow us to love another.

I believe wholeheartedly that YHWH is that Universal Self that exists in us all.  Seek Him, seek Self, and you discover Love. 
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