Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of February 14, 2011

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Directed, Unitive Will: Love

Compassion, Acceptance, Connectedness

(Modes of Will: Part 6 of 11)

We are. We are not alone. Even the proverbial mountain hermit, with no human contact, is not alone. This intuition underpins much of our life, much of what we feel and what we do. Though there clearly exist good evolutionary reasons for a group-oriented mentality (the group protects and feeds us and helps us survive), love goes beyond the need to survive. Love does not come to us as an inherited, genetic trait implanted by the struggle to survive. Rather, survival is a side benefit of love, because our inherent unity allows group cohesion. That fundamental unity transcends everything and ties it all together, forming the core quality of the unitive energy, which we know as love.

When will works through the unitive energy, it does not split apart. Although will is always one, indivisible, its surface manifestation through the lower energies appears fractured. Your will, your individuality seems separate from mine. My own will harbors conflicting desires; I am at odds with myself. These splits grow worse as the quality or level of energy descends. But at the heights of the unitive energy, will can retain its wholeness even in action. The result: love. We experience our deepest unity: unity of will.

Love transcends our similarities of body, which lead to cooperation. It transcends our sameness of consciousness, which gives us the kindred feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood. And it transcends our creative freedom and individual uniqueness, which arouse mutual respect. At the level of love, the One and only Actor acts through us all. This is the source of the unreasonable power of communal action; when we align our will with others, the combination stands closer to the power of the One Will. Acting in concert with other people, aligned in purpose and in action, raises us into a wholeness much greater than the sum of its human participants. We see this in team sports, in communal worship, in group meditation, in political movements, in choreographed dance troupes, and in many other forms of coherent group action.

Although the deepest unity of love seems beyond our usual experience, it touches us nevertheless, as compassion, acceptance, and connectedness.

One form of actively directed will working with the unitive energy is compassion. We see another person or an animal suffering and we suffer with them, as if it were our own. We feel compassion. With the unitive energy, their suffering is our own. One natural response is the wish never to cause harm, because harming someone else feels like harming ourselves. That harmlessness radiates and elicits the same in others. When you meet someone whom you immediately sense as harmless, you more easily feel your natural kinship, your shared humanity. Harmlessness feeds back to compassion, because seeing another personís suffering affronts your attitude of non-harming and invokes your compassionate response.

Harmlessness and compassion are already there in us, in our core. All our inner work combines to remove the layers veiling those qualities. We can, though, directly practice them by acts of courtesy and kindness, by being aware of people as people, their situation and whatís needed, possible, and appropriate. And then we act. Every courtesy and every kindness spread a beneficial influence on our world and on us.

One form of receptive, but directed will with the unitive energy is acceptance, of ourselves and of others. Directing our will toward ourselves, being receptive to ourselves, with love, leads us to accept ourselves completely as we are. Such radical acceptance heals our inner wounds, some carried since childhood. Acceptance turns our inner critic into our inner coach. Rather than berate ourselves for our shortcomings, we see and know and allow ourselves to be as we are. Only from this utter self-acceptance can we find true inner peace and the possibility of real growth. After all, our self-judge, our superego, is part of our ego, part of our illusion of separateness, part of the non-entity that we build and defend and substitute for our self. Letting that go unburdens and frees us to get on with our life and our inner work. To let go of that acid self-critic is to love and respect our self.

Self-acceptance opens the door to accepting others unreservedly. Aware of own inner challenges and struggles, we see the same in others. Aware of our own desires for meaning, fulfillment, service, peace, love, and fun, we see the same in others. We intuit that we are not as different as we appear. If I can accept my own challenges, limitations, and motivations, then I may be able to accept that in my neighbor. If I can accept who I am, then maybe I can accept my neighbors for who they are. Then acceptance can reach such a state that it disappears. The question of whether or not to accept vanishes. We just are, as we are: my humanity, your humanity, our humanity.

With active compassion, we feel anotherís suffering as our own. Because suffering can be so obvious and acute, it can connect us to complete strangers. In the case of someone we know well, we may be able to generalize beyond compassion to feel not only their suffering, but much more of their inner world, their emotions and desires, as if they were our own. Couple that with receptive acceptance of that person and a third factor opens our heart: the unitive synergy of connectedness, commonly known as love. The synergic willingness actively to be one with another person and receptively to accept that person as they are, opens us, in the case of a husband and wife, to true marriage. In other cases, such as a parent and child, this is love: inwardly embracing the other to the point of no separation. What they want for themselves, you want for them also. This love, this non-separation, this connectedness between husband and wife, between parent and child, between mentor and student, and between friends raises the whole tenor of our life. Love toward one leads to love toward others. Accepting and connecting with one person, makes it possible to accept and connect with others.

Of course, life confronts us with issues and apparent exceptions. A child wants something unhealthy or damaging, while the parent wants only what is best for the child. A friend imposes too much, setting love and respect for your friend against love and respect for yourself. Anger, resentment, jealousy and other destructive emotions distract us from the reality of love.

But we can face these and similar situations, difficult on their surface, by allowing love as our motivation. If we do not react, if we stay in peace within, we may hear the sound of oneness that is love. Love is not beyond us, nor foreign to us, nor distant from us; it touches us all through the unified will at our very core. Love is a more fundamental driver of our attitudes and actions than is self-centered egoism. When we do not dwell in separateness, love dissolves our egoism. Yet we do not lose ourselves in love; we are fully ourselves and fully connected.

For this week, practice love as compassion, courtesy and kindness, acceptance and connection. And notice what keeps you from love.


        

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