07 Sep Explorations on Love
“When you love, give it everything you have got.
And when you have reached your limit, give it more,
And forget the pain of it.
Because as you face your death
It is only the love that you have given and received which will count,
And all the rest:
The accomplishments, the struggle, the fights
Will be forgotten in your reflection.
And if you have loved well
Then it will all have been worth it.
And the joy of it will last you through the end.
But if you have not,
Death will always come too soon
And be too terrible to face.”
Many years ago I attended a retreat in Germany with an Indian woman named Mother Meera. While staying at a small rooming house with other participants, a man from London gave me the above poem by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a pioneer in the work with terminally ill people. I was deeply touched by the poem and have read it to groups in hundreds of retreats I have facilitated over the years. The words and feelings of this writing are always fresh and alive to me after all these readings.
Our conditioning, fears, values of a strongly materialist culture and many the many distractions of our modern word can often cause me loose sight of what really matters. This poem always helps be bring my priorities into sharp focus. When I stop for a moment and reflect on these words there is absolutely no question what matters most – understanding and living real Love is my priority. Nothing else comes in a close second.
My first sense of unconditional love was my early childhood with my grandfather. I lived with him on his simple apple farm in a rural village in upstate New York. He died when I was only 5 years old, but in those few short years I had countless experiences of feeling unconditionally loved. We went for rides on his tractor in the orchards, he took me fishing, we listened to the Lone Ranger on the radio in the evening at the kitchen table, he took me to the soda fountain in our little village, he took me for my first haircut at Henry’s… I could go on and on. I don’t know that I have ever experienced anything quite like it ever since. After he died I lost connection with this felt sense of deep unconditional Love.
I attended Sunday school and church in our village at the local church and heard many teaching of Jesus about Love. I was open and completely agreed with all of the messages, but I was not able to actually feel what this was.
Many years later as an adult and going thru a life transition, I attended a 10 day silent meditation retreat at the suggestion of a friend. Those ten days were grueling. I experienced countless buried emotional wounds, boredom, anxiety, physical pain and cried for much of the time. On the way home from the retreat I stopped at my parents home to spend the night. I was filled with Love. I could feel it in the cells of my body. In a way we had never conversed before, my parents and I had a deep and rich conversation about Love. I told them that I had never understood what Love was, but that I felt I was beginning to get a taste of what it is.
Of course as is often the case, the fullness of that retreat experience began to loose clarity as I got back into the details and demands of life, but the sense of this Love has remained available from time to time when I am able to stop and be present without the endless thoughts/stories the mind generates.
I have attended numerous retreats, traveled to India many times, attended Shamanic ceremonies in the jungles of Peru, read countless spiritual books, been with various teachers in the U.S. and other places and focused much of my life to trying to understand and live what Love is. It remains a “work in progress.” At times this sense of “me” falls away and all that remains is the joy, peace and ease of Being. All sense of separation dissolves. Whenever I grasp for it or cling to it, it’s gone. It seems to be the ultimate paradox: while there is clearly “work” to be done, more more “i” try to attain it, the further away it it. What remains is staying open to Grace, Mystery and Awe. Humbling….
Early on in my search a meditation teacher gave me the name and address of Ramesh Balsekar, who was a disciple of the famous Nisargadatta in Mumbai, India. This was before the days of e-mail. I wrote him a letter asking if I could come to India to spend time with him. A month later I received a handwritten letter from Bombay, India welcoming me. Ramesh ended with the words “Love, Ramesh”. I had always lived with the feeling that we only express Love toward those we have a close relationship with. Of course Love is a couplex subject and an expression of Love toward another can be confusing. But somehow this expression by Ramesh touched me and helped me to understand that my work is to Love everyone, regardless of what we think and feel about them and regardless of whether or not they are close to us. I certainly don’t succeed at this all the time, but it is my heartfelt wish to do so.
This is a subject dear to my heart and I could and hopefully will explore it for the rest of my limited time on earth. Perhaps at some point I will speak here of the Love of those I feel closest to, my wife, Patricia, my children, Luke and Emily and grandchildren, Perrin and Chloe. I could write about unexpected gifts of those situations and people who have been a great challenge to me but this blog must come to a close for today.
“Falling in love you remain a child; rising in love you mature. By and by love becomes not a relationship, it becomes a state of your being. Not that you are in love – now you are love.” Osho
“Courage Is a Love Affair with the Unknown” Osho
“The time has come to turn your heart
into a temple of fire.
Your essence is gold hidden in dust.
To reveal its splendor
you need to burn in the fire of love.”
“Love is what we are born with.
Fear is what we have learned here.
The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts”