This is the third and final blog in a series on Love. Previously I wrote that love is the essence of what you are. To realize this love you must 1) examine your beliefs about love (we all have received so many false messages about love from our culture) 2) work with any unresolved emotional processes that can keep us from realizing love.
Today we look at three specific practices that cultivate a deeper awareness of love.
I want to say two things about a spiritual practice: 1) Practice does not mean doing something perfectly; it means holding an intention on a particular ideal and then acting in a way that moves you in that direction. Practice does not have a specific goal. 2) Practice requires perseverance, diligence and patience.
These practices have two general forms. One form is to sit for a period of time and do nothing but the practice. The other form is to engage in your everyday life as usual and then do the practice as conditions arise and as events occur. I recommend that you do both forms of practice on a regular basis.
Practice is always about self-awareness and healing; it is not about being perfect. Be honest and be diligent--and be kind to yourself.
The first practice is Nonjudgment, or Acceptance. Nonjudgment means 1) to recognize each condemnatory judgment as it occurs; 2) to be willing to let that judgment go. This means dropping your story about someone or about something that has occurred. That same judgment may arise again, if it does simply repeat the practice without any self-judgment. Simply drop the story in this moment and be open to the next moment--with no expectations. (As you engage the practice for a while you might see patterns or themes emerging. If so, this may provide some insight into your conditioned beliefs about what is right or wrong, bad or good.)
This practice does not mean that you should tolerate harmful or toxic behavior. Dropping condemnation does not mean dropping ethical or moral standards, regarding yourself or others. It does mean being able to choose ethical standards for yourself rather than having it dictated to you by past conditioning or by our culture.
As you engage this practice you may see how your judgments separate you from others and prohibit conscious relationships and true intimacy. We cannot be intimate with another (or with ourself) if we are judging him.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
The second practice is that of Forgiveness. Begin this practice by becoming aware of any form of unforgiveness in the mind or heart. Unforgiveness can appear as resentment, blame, condemnation, hatred or guilt. Seeing any of this present you can then decide if you are willing to forgive. Forgiveness must be your choice.
If you are willing, then ask your Higher Power to help you forgive. It cannot always be done through personal will power; sometimes the pain is too great, or the attachment to our personal viewpoint is too strong for forgiveness to occur by simple choice.
Forgiveness means letting go of the need to be “right.” This doesn’t mean that you are (or anyone else is) wrong; it simply means that we “Meet in the field beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing.”
Forgiveness of both self and others usually entails feeling some pain. Often that pain is in the form of a loss or of an injury. The healing of it lies in feeling it—all the way to the end. Healing and forgiveness are synonymous. Healing usually takes time, so it’s very important to be patient with yourself.
The third practice is Kindness. Kindness can be expressed in an infinite number of ways. Virtually every circumstance offers the opportunity for kindness. Kindness practice begins with intention. It requires cultivating an attitude of kindness. Throughout your day silently ask, “How can I be truly helpful.”
Kindness comes from the root word “kin,” which refers to a fellow family member. It means treating everyone as a brother or sister. Kindness can be expressed in words or in actions. Kindness can appear as generosity, appreciation, compassion, acceptance, tolerance or patience--and sometimes just as your presence. It means caring for another as much as you care for yourself.
And, it means self-kindness as much as kindness to others. It does not mean to never say “no” or to not set appropriate boundaries. You can be truly kind to others only to the degree that you are kind to yourself.
Love is what you are. But to realize this love you must remove the barriers to realization. These barriers are in the form of false beliefs and unfinished emotional “business”. You can cultivate the realization of love though certain spiritual practices. All practice begins with intention, in this practice the intention is to be nonjudgmental and accepting; to cultivate kindness and to practice forgiveness. Remember spiritual practice is about intention, not perfection. Be patient, and be kind to yourself.