Stay in Touch

February 2018 Musings

“If you don’t see God in the next person you meet, it’s a waste of time looking for God further.” Gandhi
Someone in the Sangha called into the radio show recently and asked the Guide an extraordinary question. “Do you have a meditation that would help me keep my heart open when I encounter someone who I know is physically abusive to another person?”
Namo prajna paramita hridaya! Homage to the wisdom in the heart.
Only the heart would ask this question, for only the heart operates from that ancient law, “Hate cannot heal hate, only Love can heal hate.” Only the heart compassionately comprehends a surfeit of ego as an absence of love and seeks a meditation to offer love. Only the heart wisely takes responsibility for the one experience it can affect, its own, and joyfully embraces its “task to seek and remove any barriers” to loving unconditionally. 
Confusion arises when we leave the wisdom of the heart to consult conditioned mind about love in inter-action. Now we’re faced with questions such as:
I can see that I want my heart to be open.
I can see that judgement closes my heart.
But how can I love someone who inflicts harm?
“Don’t make it about him,” responds the Guide. “You’re the one that wants to have an open heart.  You can always choose Unconditional Love.”
It is important to note that the Guide did not suggest the caller “Love him Unconditionally.” As a matter of fact, the guidance was delivered precisely how we’re to practice it:
Don’t make it about him.
You can choose Unconditional Love.
This guidance allows us to unlock a conundrum that every spiritual aspirant “looking for God” encounters. It’s not often that we run into someone or something and “see God” in them. More often than not, interactions with “people” are encounters with ego. Even if I think I am really centered, somehow the ego-in-you triggers the ego-in-me and I’m left feeling “disconnected from Presence.” The heart “feels” closed. Love is less available. Loving the person who triggered me (by saying or doing something mean, hateful, unjust, unloving, unconscious, prejudiced) despite what they said, appears to be beyond my ability. One feels somewhat defeated by the injunction to choose Unconditional Love because the conditioned interpretation of this suggestion is that “I must see God in him/her/them” and “I” can’t. Fortunately, as the Guide pointed out, we don’t have to. We are told not to make it about him/her/them!
Let’s explore this further.
We’re deeply conditioned to believe that love requires an object. I love my aunt, babies, pet, flowers, moonbeams, warm spring afternoons, sports, fast cars, spicy food, chocolate, redwood trees. I feel a certain way around these objects so I conclude the object is the cause of my sense of acceptance, tenderness, connection, love of beauty, peace, the feeling of aliveness, sweetness, awe. I don’t always feel this way. In fact, sometimes I feel irritated, urgent, impatient, out of control, judgmental, inadequate, violent. And what makes me feel those things? Well, blame that “object” again. For if love needs an object, so does its corollary, hate. I hate/dislike/am averse to bad driving, long lines, the idiocy of customer service call trees, early morning meetings, mean people, irrational bosses, my uncle’s politics. It’s those pesky people, places, and circumstances that define my experience. In fact, I seem to exist in a state of reactivity, a perpetual victim of my circumstances. What I think/say/feel/do is based on those objects that trigger feelings of liking or disliking.
When we come to Awareness Practice, we’re introduced to a subjective orientation to Life. We’re invited to explore the possibility that “my experience” is really a product of where the attention is. The attention can be on the process of conditioned mind, which makes the entire world an object experienced by an illusory separate “self,” OR on Conscious Compassionate Awareness that experiences existence as is.
If attention is on conditioned mind, “Life” is experienced through conditioned mind. Conditioned mind, to borrow a definition from Franciscan Richard Rohr, is the “small, binary, dualistic mind which strips things down to two choices and then usually identifies with only one of them.” In our Practice, we describe conditioned mind as the process that creates the illusory world of opposites. It divides “what is” arbitrarily into endless dualities: good/bad, right/wrong, moral/immoral, divine/profane. Through this either/or lens, tinted by a specific conditioning/karma, “ego-I” takes a “position” on one or other side of the duality in REACTION to whatever is arising. Implicitly, taking a position is rejecting the other side. Might we call this process “JUDGEMENT”? Moreover, taking a “position against” reinforces a sense of self, defined by what “I” oppose, avoid, resist, condemn. Isn’t it interesting to see that “self” is always defined RELATIVE to the “other”? How I am is BECAUSE of how the “other” is. Is it surprising then that, when identified with conditioned mind, we attribute the cause of “my” experience/feeling/behavior” to the other?
If we contemplate the caller’s situation from within conditioned mind, judgement is inevitable, love is just one side of the love/hate duality, “my experience” is a function of “his” behavior and my choices are dualistic: love him OR judge him and feel bad.
When the Guide suggests not making it about “him,” she’s encouraging us to stop attending to the process of conditioned mind that is object oriented and therefore judgmental, conditional, and dualistic.  The encouragement is to bring the attention instead to Awareness. From this non-separate perspective, there is the ability to “see two human beings” (Life in form), attending to conditioning and suffering. We call this “seeing” COMPASSION. There is awareness that there is “no person” to judge or love, just the process that creates judgment, self and other. What “sees” this is Conscious Compassionate Awareness, the “God in me.” Perhaps a way to reframe Gandhi’s quote is along the lines of “If you cannot see the God in you in the next person you encounter, look no further.”
When we practice choosing Unconditional Love, we’re not practicing “loving the person.” We’re practicing choosing the Impersonal, that which is not ego/taking it personally/making it about “me, him, her, she, them, it.”  The choice then is not to love him or judge him. The choice is always conditioned mind or Presence.
It takes a lot of practice not to identify with the karmic programming and react with judgement, condemnation, and hatred. It’s not easy and is often painful (for the ego), and we sometimes wonder what keeps us “looking for God/Buddha Nature” in the next person we encounter. Could it be that, as we keep practicing, there is a dawning realization that Intelligence enjoys seeing Itself and nothing but seeing it All as Intelligence will ever be wholly satisfactory to It?
Practice Suggestion:
For the next 48 hours, practice being in Gassho.
Gassho means your heart and my heart are one. When we bring our hands together we embody the reconciliation of all opposites. We bow to the “God we see.”
Set a timer to practice Gassho several times each day or practice doing Gassho each time you walk through the door or see the color red. As you bring your hands together drop into the wholeness of heart wisdom, the experience of the joy of Intelligence knowing Itself.
Note: Deep Gassho to the Open Air caller who inspired this Musings. The content of the call is being used to illustrate a teaching. No projection on the caller or their process is intended.