Let Love Lead The Way

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Much of unconditioning the heart is unconditioning, or reconditioning the mind. While in many ways the heart is a far more intelligent organ, the mind gets to reside over most of the dominion of life. There are many reasons for this. The primary reason is that the mind is a major part of the system through which we understand this ongoing drama. We are educated from a young age to use the mind and it’s faculties to navigate this journey and to make our own impression upon it. All the while the journey through the lens of the heart is often little explored.

Frustrations of parenting and teaching create environments where emoting is stifled. Fears generated through experience of loss and grief and suffering generate environments much the same. Soft hearted language that ignores the painful realities of hurt, abandonment, cruelty, broken heartedness, and just plain old abuse turns the pragmatic and realistic off and away from the good vibrations of love, and who’s to blame them. When you have hurt, truly hurt, no “it’s all good” is going to change that reality. And is it all good?

Spiritual bypass is one of the greatest trappings of spiritual culture in the west. Broken hearts exist. Abuse is real and never warranted. Terrible things happen to innocents every day. The pain of the heart can be almost impossible to navigate when the mind is just a theatre of bad movies. Is it really all good? Is love really at the heart of all creation?

While the rhetoric of all being good may not actually cut it, similar rhetoric that espouses closing off the heart and shutting down the expansiveness of spirit has the same narrowing effect. For evidence of what lay at the heart of it all we can use the faculty of mind to it’s greatest capacity and analyze nature. Sure nature is volatile, destructive, without rhyme or reason. And simultaneously nature is collaborative, cooperative, seeking expansiveness and growth, creating always the best possible environment for life to not only survive but to thrive. And while energy exists in a manifest form it is permitted to exist, until, for whatever reason, it dissolves. This permission exists in nature without condition. No, you have to be a good plant to live here on the forest floor. No, you were a bad zebra and now you get eaten by this lion. Just circumstance, relationship, and Existance in an animate intelligent world.

My mother was diagnosed with cancer just over a year ago. Before her diagnosis I had many theories about cancer. At the heart of all these theories was a belief that there is always a linkable cause. Be it environmental, emotional, genetic, spiritual, mental, something was the reason that any individual human would have to endure such a trial of health and spirit. At her first oncologist appointment my mother espoused to her doctor all the things that she had done through her life to stay healthy, to avoid such a predicament, to keep her vehicle maintained so to speak. Without qualifying her statement in any way the doctor said point blank “cancer doesn’t discriminate.”

For me, upon hearing this wisdom I realized that I had built a false premise in my mind about the rules of the game. Whatever is rising or falling away, there may never be reason or rhyme. Nature is energy and energy wants to transform. There are no rules from a merciless God condemning specific individuals to suffering. Transformation does not discriminate. For whatever reason an environment changes and cells change with it. And just because an individual has to walk through the fire does not mean that love is not beating their heart as they muster the courage to step.

In order to feel love we have to be willing. We have to allow our minds to be willing to expand whatever belief structures that would first condemn us, into something more accepting of the mystery. The experience of pain is not without love, it is just with pain, discomfort, agitation, and the unknown. The beauty of the mystery is that it is a mystery. If we can separate ourselves from ideas of good and bad we can set the stage for experience, experience of multitudinous circumstance, for that is primarily what life is. If we can not try to force ourselves into belief structures that confine nature to limited intelligence we permit ourselves more room to be with nature as nature is, mysterious, powerful, elegant and messy, and surprisingly intelligent. When we recognize the mind for what it is and take the time to step away from its rules and into the spaciousness of our hearts we permit ourselves that much more room to know what beats us all, without condition, in the presence of all circumstances. When we uncondition our minds we uncondition our hearts.

As a side note, we all walked through the fire with my mother on her journey with cancer. It was many things from harrowing, to heartbreaking, and everything in between. She is on the green side of health again and for this we are all grateful. In the wake of this journey more than ever before I am reminded the love is at the heart of it all. To love ourselves in the company of our misfortunes is a great trial and great teacher. To love others in the company of their fear, anguish, frailty, and imperfections, is much the same. And to let oneself be loved by the unknown rather than condemned by it in the midst of such a journey is the great soother, peacemaker, and solace we all get to know if we choose.

With Love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve

With Love

            What’s the motive? Such a wonderful and often profound question to ask oneself or others. In any action, circumstance, desire, what propels it? If we want to truly love without conditions this question must be at the heart of our journey.

            Loving without condition is not loving without boundary or safeguards, but it is loving without motive to receive or change. In yoga this is known as the practice of Bhakti. Bhakti is loving the divine source for the sake of loving, and serving that source for the love of it. Not for the reward of spiritual enlightenment, assured prestige in the everlasting, or perfection in the human form. Rather Bhakti Yoga is pure and reverent arising from the purest state of awe.

            Every time we are loved without feeling bound to some obligation we are graced with the divine that is the nature of love. This is the heart of love. Love without obligation or bais, motive or reward. Love for the sake of love.

            When we approach loving for the sake of loving we are in the purity of motive that is the grace of Bhakti. The Narada Bhakti Sutra’s teach that in attaining the heart space of bhakti a person does become perfected, immortal, and content, but paradoxically this is not a result of selfish motive, because pure bhakti cannot arise from selfish means. So how does one get there?

           

NARADA BHAKTI SUTRA 77

TRANSLATION BY: WILLIAM K. MAHONY (EXQUISITE LOVE 2010)

Sukha-duhkhecca-labhadityakte kale pratiksamanae

Ksanarddham-api vyartham na neyam

Relinquishing happiness, dissatisfaction, self-centered willfulness, worldly gain, and so on, when there is attentive awareness in every moment, not even half an instant should be passed uselessly.

            In gaining awareness of our motives we can ultimately control our desires. The pursuit of which must be endured with every passing and fleeting moment. The reward of which is the luscious sweetness of the ambrosia of love, without condition, without motive, without desire for reward. From bhakti awareness arises the motive to serve in bhakti, to serve in love.

            Again, such love is not love without wisdom, without safekeeping of human body, without safekeeping of human needs. Such love is wise love. Such love is not idle, not waiting to be quaffed, for it is always drawn from and returned to an unlimited source.

With love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve

Ignorance May Be Bliss, But Knowledge Is Power

One of my favorite stories, a story that I find very inspiring, is the story of Socrates and the Oracle at Delphi. Socrates served in the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta. After the war, he devoted his life to the pursuit of truth. His reputation for being a man with a deep love of wisdom spread throughout Athens and beyond. He was told at some point along the way that the Oracle at Delphi had proclaimed him the wisest man in Athens. Socrates, being in constant pursuit of the truth did not believe this to be true outright, and instead he decided to prove the Oralce wrong. Henceforth, Socrates set out on a quest to find anyone who knew what was truly worthwhile in life. For anyone who knew the answer to this riddle was truly wiser than he. Questioning everyone he could find, the quest proved a great challenge indeed. For all that he questioned pretended to know something they did not, and he felt he never got a pleasing or honest answer. Despite his effort to prove the Oracle wrong he decided that the oracle perhaps was right after all. He was the wisest man in Athens because he alone was willing to admit his ignorance and not claim to know something he did not.

Just as much as I enjoy the story of Socrates’ search for a man wiser than he, I am endeared to the note written above the door to the Oracle at Delphi. “Know thyself” and the lesser known second half of the sentence “and nothing in excess.”

Like the story of Socrates, the writing above the door to the Oracle invites one into the never-ending quest for self-empowering gift of knowledge. And what makes knowledge self-empowering?

With knowledge, we become able to make well informed decisions. Wisdom itself is the power of being discerning and making thoughtful decisions. And making a choice in the moment is the only power we ever really have. Therefore, having a broad base of understanding and perspective to choose from we enable ourselves to make the best possible choice for the circumstance, from our most authentic and present self.  This is power. Even more powerful is the ability to acknowledge that we do not know something. In such an acknowledgement, we accept our ignorance and our opportunity to learn. In learning we lift the veils of our ignorance and step more deeply into the power of self-knowledge. This is stepping from ignorance into awareness, this is the great gift of revelation.   

This is one of the many gifts of a yoga practice. Through yoga we are revealed to ourselves over, and over again. To ourselves it is revealed what we know and what we are learning, in our bodies, in our minds, in our breath, in our emotional responses and reactions to the animate world we are living in. The revelation takes place in the friction between our willingness to surrender and our desire to stay attached. Through yoga we get to continue to experience the revelation of that which is true for us at any given moment. And the ultimate truth, that what is true right now, may not be true later, as all things are always changing. Knowledge is power and it is the opposite of ignorance is bliss.

Knowing thyself and nothing in excess allows us to face our ignorance and rather than see it as an impediment, to see it as an invitation. This is beginners mind. This is true flexibility. This is the root of the ability to yoke or bring all facets of our being into balance finding a state of unification in all matters of being, self, and the world. Perhaps it was being in a war that led Socrates on a lifelong pursuit of the truth. Perhaps somewhere on the battlefield he realized it was only an illusion of separation that created a false premise of difference. Perhaps it was there that he realized rather than seeing enemies in that which we do not know, we have an opportunity to see that which we do not know and an invitation to learn something new.

And for the question as to what is truly worthwhile in life. We all get pursue the answer to this mystifying riddle and greatest of quests, with each breath, and each I don’t know.

With Love, Always, in All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,

Genevieve