Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. – Rumi
We used this quote to frame the New Year’s retreat and to introduce our first workshop on Lovingkindness/Unconditional love. In subsequent workshops we explored the three other brahma viharas (sublime states): Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity.
Love opens the heart; Love does not allow for hatred, criticism, or judgment. When the heart is open, we can be with life as it is instead of lost in a conditioned conversation about how it should be.
A loving heart opens us to Compassion and to the understanding that suffering is a human condition we are all adequate to. With Compassion we can be with suffering instead of identifying with suffering.
Love and compassion open the door to Sympathetic Joy, such a wonderful combination of words. To be with everything that Life is, is to be joyful in the divinity of all that is and to rejoice in existence itself.
And when we can be with Life in Love, Compassion and Sympathetic Joy, we drop into that last sublime state, Equanimity.
Many of us have been conditioned to avoid feelings, to maintain a false sense of calm, to cultivate indifference in an attempt to blanket feelings of vulnerability and pain. But rather than suppression, Equanimity is a glorious state of Holy Indifference. It contains all human experiences like a body of water. One moment it’s stormy and turbulent, the next serenely calm but with no change in its essential quality as water.
The Buddha taught Equanimity as seeing, accepting, and being with the true nature of life, the glorious impermanence of Life as it is, its heartbreaking transience, its vibrant and ephemeral joy, the wonder in the moment.
Ignorance of our true nature, the nature of life, is the root cause of suffering. What releases us from suffering is knowledge, the practice of seeing and being in life that is different from our conditioned mental process. Aldous Huxley said, “Love is a mode of knowledge. We only know what we love. And we cannot know completely what we do not love.” Practicing Love is the way to cultivate the intuitive knowing the Buddha described. This brings us full circle back to Rumi who urges us to practice dropping all the barriers to Love.
So perhaps our focus this year can be to explore loving as a way of knowing Life. Could there be a more exquisite path of knowing? Our experience of awareness practice might sometimes be rugged, as it often is for most people following a path of awakening and ending suffering. Going up against the ego, against all we mistakenly thought we were, is not always fun. But to look at it from the perspective of loving life can transform the lens through which we approach the burning away of karma.
Which brings me to another brilliant quote from Rumi, “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”
Here is to an “Upping Your Game” 2014 where we practice loving the rub and the sparkling mirror.