Saturday, May 7, 2016

The full-spectrum nature of love



In speaking recently with a friend, I was reminded of the great bias in our culture toward the light and away from the darkness. When we meet with someone who is down, feeling hopeless, empty, or otherwise not beaming and joyful, we can become quickly convinced that something is wrong, that they are “broken,” and that we must act urgently to “fix” them. We scramble to put them back together, to remind them of all the gifts in their life, impart spiritual techniques and philosophies to them, suggesting that they just “focus on the positive,” letting them know that everything will be better soon, and that it will all turn out okay.

It is so natural to want to help another and to lessen their suffering and pain. There is nothing wrong with this intention and with employing whatever skillful means we have to help, to bring relief. But we might also see the subtle aggression in this, this insistence that they come out of their immediate experience and into the one we believe they should be having instead. We can start to see how much of this “fixing” activity arises out of the disconnection with that which remains unmetabolized within us.

It is possible the kindest thing we can offer our suffering friend is to sit in the darkness with them – holding their hand and staying so close – removing the burden that they change, transform, feel better, or heal in order for us to stay near. As we turn to embrace our own unmet sadness, grief, and despair, we remove the projection of our unlived lives from them. We lift the weight that they take care of our unresolved anxiety for us.

As we learn to trust and to rest in the wisdom-field of our present, embodied experience, we see that love is a movement of the totality. It is whole, never partial, and is raging and alive even in the darkness. In the core of the fire, the sadness, the grief, and the despair is something very real, breaking through the dream of partiality. But what this is may never support our cultural and spiritual fantasies of a life of invulnerability. Here, you are being shown that the wild, untamed, creative movement of love will never conform to your hopes and fears, and that things are unlikely to ever turn out the way you thought they would. This is not evidence that something has gone wrong, but of how alive and unprecedented you are.

From the perspective of this radical sort of wholeness, every experience is beheld as utterly valid, totally workable, and an expression of the path itself. Here there is no obstacle. From the center of your being, it is seen that life is not only the joy and the sweetness, but at times will arrive raging as the darkness, in order to reorder your world and to remind you or something you have lost contact with. In this surging of your inner family, the true nature of your experience will be revealed, and the portals to presence will be shown as they are... as infinite.

May you stay close to your suffering and the suffering of others, careful not to cut it too quickly, curious and available to the wisdom as it unfolds in unexpected ways. Open your heart to the golden, full-spectrum nature of love and the jewels hidden in the dark before you discard them, and finally see what it is that they have to say.



1 comment:

  1. "When we meet with someone who is down, feeling hopeless, empty, or otherwise not beaming and joyful, we can become quickly convinced that something is wrong, that they are “broken,” and that we must act urgently to “fix” them. We scramble to put them back together...It is so natural to want to help another and to lessen their suffering and pain. There is nothing wrong with this intention and with employing whatever skillful means we have to help, to bring relief. But we might also see the subtle aggression in this, this insistence that they come out of their immediate experience and into the one we believe they should be having instead. We can start to see how much of this “fixing” activity arises out of the disconnection with that which remains unmetabolized within us."


    As a nurse, this is such a profound approach to my role with my patients. In nursing school, I learned of nursing theories that go exactly along these lines (Margaret Newman's "Health as Expanding Consciousness" was my favorite).

    But it's easy to forget. While taking care of a paraplegic in the hospital this week, I had this sudden awareness of the "old dualistic me" and the "new nondualistic me" smack dab in the middle of our interactions. It suddenly struck me that I was approaching her as something broken that needed sympathy and "help." Naturally, this is a condescension she picks up on from caregivers, and it causes her to react with disrespect and cynicism toward staff, which had become a vicious cycle of disrespect and animosity between nurse and patient.

    When I realized what I was doing, I apologized to her candidly for my attitudes, and this opened up a door. She suddenly dropped the cynical, demanding demeanor that the entire staff had come to expect, and we connected simply as two humans who were intersecting on a neutral path intended for the greater good of us both.

    I've been processing that situation ever since, realizing that I need a new mindset toward people like her as not being broken at all, or sad, or "less than" or "underprivileged." My social sciences degree touched on this, but I still go into that default sympathy helping mindset that has been ingrained in my in an "us and them" society. However, these "deviants" from social norms are not broken, they are just not what the group has decided is normal.

    I am starting to get in touch with the idea of not approaching patients like I have something to give them or that I can "help" them.

    Anyhow, loved your thoughts on this and thought I would share how I applied them to my current real life.

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