Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of February 4, 2013

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Being in Love

(Learning to Be: Part 12)

Love is union of the will, a union much deeper than the physical union of sex or the emotional union of attachment. Love asks for nothing in return, not even reciprocity, whereas attachment does ask. If it is union, if it is love, how could we ask something in return from our Self? Attachment competes with love for space in our heart and mind. For that reason, the inner work of love, of becoming able to love, consists of allowing oneself to be imposed upon.

Consider that for a moment. Love, to the extent that it is true, is unselfish, beyond ego. In love, we act toward our loved one in ways that they perceive as positive and beneficial to them. If we are unselfish and not acting from egoistic impulses, then we have transcended our ordinary self, transcended separateness, and love comes naturally. Why then, this formulation that the work of love is allowing oneself to be imposed on? If we are beyond our self in love, then at those moments we have no self that could be imposed upon.

But such moments of purity are rare for us. Our motives are mixed. Yes, we care about our loved one, for and as our loved one. And we naturally care about ourselves. Inevitably, issues arise where the two conflict, where we can either put ourselves first, or put our loved one first, but not both. In love there is no distinction between our self and our loved one. But in our ordinary state, there is. This is where the practice of allowing ourselves to be imposed upon enters the relationship. It is a high and demanding practice that, more directly than other spiritual practices, acts to free us from egoism, which is exactly the condition that enables us to love.

So we take opportunities as they arise to let our self-interest, our self-centeredness, and our attachments to be imposed upon. Yet we do have personal limits we are constrained to honor. We work to push our envelope on this score, work at the edge of what we can bear. But to go beyond that, to try to destroy our envelope, only backfires. We give and give way until it hurts, and then a little more. But we cannot give until we break, for then all giving will cease. So this subtle and demanding work of allowing our self to be imposed upon requires us to understand not only our loved one, but also our self and our current limitations.

Something is asked of us. It is inconvenient or distasteful. We start feeling resentful about this imposition. That is the moment to let go, to allow our self to be imposed on, to acquiesce and do or give whatís required. Who am I? Am I the one who looks to myself and refuses the other? Or am I the one who loves, who is in love?

There is a saying that our being is what we can bear, from which we can see that what we cannot bear is due to our attachments, not our being. But there are consequences. If we exhibit attachment and some of the negative manifestations of attachment to another person, then though they may love us, they will respond in kind, with attachment. Our attachment evokes attachment in them, and vice versa in a negative feedback loop, a destructive spiral.

Love is not blind. No one is perfect. Yet everyone has something in them, something we share, that is perfect. That is the source and object of love. Yet love includes the imperfections, whereas attachment reacts against them.

Growth of being comes in growth of freedom in front of attachments. Because we ask for something in return, because we want our love to be reciprocated, because we become angry, resentful, or jealous, should we then assume that we donít love the other person? No. We should not assume that, because we are mixed, we have mixed motivations. We may have love, whereby we care about the other personís welfare as they would for their own and we care for them with no reference to ourselves. Yet at the same time, we also have attachment, wanting something from our loved one. Both coexist in us, but are incompatible. They show us our levels and they show us what to aspire to, what to nurture, and what not to nurture. They show us the direction of love, of the inner work to become more able to love.

Besides this receptive work of letting go of attachments, of allowing our self to be imposed upon, we can proactively work to consider our loved oneís needs and desires, to serve our loved one as they would wish to be served. We look for and create opportunities to show our love. We act on them. What does this person want? What does this person need? What would delight this person? How can I provide something toward that?

For this week, explore how to become able to love and how to express love in actions.


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