Standing in Love
(Originally written 2014)
A few weeks ago I was feeling especially self consumed. What often results when I get this way is a narrowing in perception and a palpable feeling of " I am alone-ness", all of which are not tolerable to me for any great length of time and fortunately I usually know what to do about it. But my old tricks; prayer, meditation, yoga, time with my family, reading etc. weren't getting me out of my own head and I had the idea that I just needed to pay some more attention to the outside world to put things in perspective. I distinctly remember thinking, "I haven't been listening to NPR, or watching the news", "that may be good for me". Going through fluctuating phases of "being in the loop" and some activism in the past, I have a good idea of what a lack of balance in personal and worldly involvement can mean to my sanity. So I can, with some guilt, say I had decidedly not watched or read much news for some time, primarily because it made me feel so helpless and outraged when I did. Sure, it's a good way to forget about your own problems, but how productive is it worrying about problems that are mostly beyond your control. Of course there is a lot of importance in being informed, but becoming consumed is a different matter. At least if you worry about your own problems, there can be some action towards resolving it. Anyhow, it's been a few weeks since then, since I "tuned back in", and I certainly can't say "glad I did".
I know there is a meaning to this life. For sometime, I questioned it, whether there was or not. I sought refugee in what I could and carried around a lot of pain from the unknowing and the relentless searching for the way out of caring whether there was or wasn't. I know that there is a lot of suffering, felt by millions of people on the search or the unknowing. And the search, and the unknowing can lead them to do terrible things in attempts to cling to some sense of purpose. Maybe they drink, like I did. Maybe it is to join an extremist organization. Maybe it is to just say "Hell with it all! What's next?" And conversely, maybe the search for meaning is a movement in which positive changes occur, perhaps tiny ripples, but nonetheless beneficial for the whole world in some way or another.
When I got sober my eyes opened in a way and in a direction towards love. As corny and cliche as it is, I knew that love was the only way out of the darkness. In my experience of becoming “lighter” which has included and still include practices in meditation and yoga, it was ultimately the cultivating of and the tapping into love was what saved me when it all seemed too dark, inside and out. Such practices, though some may think, are not self centered. It is, similarly to the many quests of countless others, a way out of self and the all overwhelming times we live and a way into the sometimes subtle, yet powerful undercurrent of all things. Sitting around, worrying about what others think about you, what you'd rather be doing, constantly checking Facebook for a hook. This is what I consider self centered. I use these examples because they are my own. I am no diamond in the coal mine that is for sure. I have learned however, that while there may be escape in these acts, there is no greater good being accomplished. I am on a self guided quest of "meaning", or of escape. And while it may work temporarily, I don't get better this way. I just don't. Generally speaking I get worse.
Among attending meetings, my Husband and I, years ago held a mediation meeting at our home. One of the practices our Sanga (spiritual community) would do from time to time was Tonglen. In Tonglen practice there is an intention to connect with the love and compassion within, however buried it may be, towards suffering. Be it an individuals or the collective worlds. The sitting with and breathing in the pain can be intense, but with it can come an understanding that in order to ease the pain, you must love. It is common that when we sit down to mediate, because we are human and have been blessed (and cursed) with minds that don't stop thinking, that we don't even know what the pain that we feel, really feels like until we sit with it. And tapping into that raw un-manipulated pain can be pretty darn scary, let alone tapping into the pain of others. But what resulted in such a practice, is the understanding that while the "feeling" of pain is so often shared, the "being with the feeling of pain" and possible and available subsequent surrender to "the being of love" is not.
When we are present in our own and others pain, we can give into and return to the love that can ease our shared suffering.
It dawned on me today that if there is any balance for me, this is it. This is where I can feel effective. This is how I can be sane. I share the suffering of the world, but I choose to breathe love on it. I choose to get out of myself but to get into love instead. It is not always the most convenient, or even a comfortable place to go. It can be hard work. It is easier to wrap myself up into my own personal suffering and search for a way out when it gets too thick; to watch the news and develop opinions between right and wrong, scour Facebook for others posts to condemn or rally behind, and consume myself with anger and hatred towards the way things are, than to just be with the pain until love catches me. The way many things are in the world, are a damn shame. No doubt. But could they be different? My hope in this life is that a radical shift towards love worldwide occurs, but I'm not losing sleep over hoping. Instead, I am going to do my best to center myself around falling into and living in the source of love, no matter how great the pain, my own and the worlds. That is how I must take a stand, if I am to take one. While the darkness I see, know and feel are real, what makes it too heavy to bare is the viscous, ignorant and reactive commentary that feeds from it’s vile hands, which only causes greater suffering and estrangement from love that is possible for all. And this, I choose to not fall prey to. For my love, is too great a thing to lose and too precious not to share.