"Love is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of demonstration. It is not a question of authority, but one of perception and action.... Therefore, if you desire love, try to realize that the only way to get love is by giving love. That the more you give, the more you get; and the only way in which you can give is to fill yourself with it, until you become a magnet of love." - Paul Twitchell, Stranger by the River
Today is Tuesday, March 26, 2013.
In my mid-thirties, I had this sudden desire to organize my life on a grand scale. Actually, at the time, I wanted to BE organized. But once I thought more about it, I realized that in order to have the quality of organization in my life, I would have to take action. Little by little, I organized all the books, papers and materials in my classroom, all the dishes in my cupboards, all the clothes in my closets and drawers. I organized the bookshelves in my living room and began to keep a personal pocket calendar. I learned to plan what to wear before going to bed, so that I could dress quickly each morning. I learned to take things out of the closet and make sure there were no wrinkles the night before.
It quickly became apparent that I could not just do these things once and be done with it. I had to continue to do these things on an ongoing basis. A few years later, someone said to me, "Oh, you're so organized!" I decided then that I must have finally "arrived" at my goal. This is not to say that my life and my home are perfectly organized at all times, but that I try to keep up with things so that nothing gets too disorganized. The last couple of years that I taught I finally got into the habit of getting my classroom all cleaned up every day after school, so that everything I would need for the following day would be right there on the table when I got to work in the morning. I began to enjoy taking that last look around my room before leaving each day, and walking into an orderly classroom each morning. Now that I'm retired, I have begun to clean up my kitchen and living room before I go to bed each night, and I love walking into a clean kitchen in the morning to make my daily cup of coffee.
At some point, I heard a speaker talk about what it meant for a recovering alcoholic to be sober. He said that in order to maintain the quality of sobriety, in order to BE sober, he had to make an effort each day, each hour, each minute. It was the action of DOing anything else besides drinking, fueled by his intention to remain sober, that produced the quality of being sober. I connected this information with my own experience of having to organize (DO something) in order to BE organized. In other words, the qualities that you manifest have something to do with your daily actions. How many times have we heard, "Actions speak more loudly than words"?
It's true that a lot of people say they believe in something, but their actions don't necessarily show it. They may think of themselves in a certain light, but their actions don't lead anyone else to see them in that same light. All of us have been guilty of this at one time or another. When we wake up to this reality, we begin to match our actions to our beliefs, and we begin the process of throwing out older, and sometimes hidden, beliefs and replacing them with more positive or more productive ones, then learning to act on those beliefs. In short, we begin the process of acquiring the quality of integrity.
Turning now to the subject of love, I'd like to clarify for a moment what I'm talking about. I'm not necessarily talking about human love or romantic love, although much of what I have to say can be applied to romantic love. I'm talking about divine love, or unconditional love, spiritual rather than sexual in nature, the kind of love the Greeks called "agape." (For those of you who don't speak Greek, the word is pronounced as "ah-GAH-pay".)
A few years ago, I attended a workshop entitled "How to Get More Love in Your Life." One of the participants at the workshop stood up and said that in order to be loved by others, she had to learn to BE love, herself. I wondered how you could "BE love." Then my experience with being organized and the recovering alcoholic's talk about being sober kicked in, and I realized that in order to BE love, I would have to take action.
A few days ago, I wrote a blog entry about the subconscious mind and how to program it. While the subconscious mind does work best with pictures, self-talk and affirmations have their uses, as well. In a notebook dedicated to affirmations, I once wrote, for many weeks, "I am love," fifteen times each night before I went to bed. True to form, my subconscious mind finally responded by guiding me to take actions that showed this quality. It took a while for this to manifest, and I have to say that I'm still not perfect. Every once in a while, I have to go back to that exercise for a few weeks.
A visual symbol that is often used by ECKists, followers of Eckankar, is the "Golden Heart." A person who is a Golden Heart has learned to respond with love in every situation. I have often used this symbol in contemplation, and it has been useful in re-programming my subconscious mind. I'm not perfect, but I believe I am more often capable of responding with love. Besides, it's not really perfection that I seek, but rather, the quality of "continuous improvement," or kaizen, as the Japanese call it.
The intention of being love and being a Golden Heart were programmed into my subconscious. But there was more to this programming. Our subconscious not only contains our self-image, but also our worldview, how we see the world and our place in it. Part of everyone's worldview includes the concept of Creation and who or what started it all. Those of us who believe in God have also in our subconscious mind our concept of what God is.
My idea of God has changed quite a bit over the years. I was always taught that "God is love," but then, I was also taught as a Christian, that God occasionally gets angry with us. After all, God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and generated the Great Flood, after warning Noah to build an Ark. God apparently turned Lot's wife into a pillar of Salt and caused the Red Sea to open just enough to let the Israelites cross into the Promised Land, then allowed the waters to come crashing down around the Egyptian soldiers who were chasing them. I had a hard time equating this angry God with a God of love. At the same time, I had a vague picture in my head of God as an old man with a long, white beard, who sat on a large throne in Heaven. I personalized God in the form of a human being. The problem with imagining God as a human being, albeit exalted, is that we begin to imagine also that God has human faults, as well.
There were several years between the time I left the Christian church and the time that I joined Eckankar. In that intervening time, I read a great many books that might be classified, in general, as New Age. I learned, however, that the so-called "new age" teachings come from a number of sources, each with a slightly different focus, and that they have been around for millennia. Many of the teachings were once hidden from the general public. The great mathematician, Pythagoras, for example, taught not only math as we know it, but also spirituality based on the concept of numbers. Some of the math concepts we teach in our elementary and junior high schools were once secret teachings that were only given to those initiated into the group.
As I delved more deeply into these various spiritual topics, my concept of God gradually began to change. By the time I joined Eckankar, my personal concept of God was much closer to the ECKist view than to Christianity. I no longer view God as a little old man, or any human form, for that matter. I view God as a being of Energy that is vibrating at the highest possible frequency. Since I no longer view God as a person, I do not refer to God as He or She. Instead, using what I have from my native English language, I simply say IT. Rather than envisioning a being, I think of God as an Ocean. In Eckankar we often refer to God as the Ocean of Love and Mercy. I do not view God as something "out there," outside of me, far away. Instead, I recognize that all of us, all Creation, is actually "swimming in God," as it were. As Soul, I am a small drop in the Ocean. I am made of the same sort of Energy stuff that God is made of (created in God's likeness), but I'm not the whole Ocean. To extend that metaphor, everyone, every other Soul, is also a part of God and thus connected to me within this same Ocean. After all, the drops of water in the physical ocean, although they can be separated out briefly, are ordinarily connected.
Once we begin to see and know ourselves and others as children of God, we begin to behave differently with respect to them. It is easier to show compassion when another is suffering, to respect each person's journey of learning, to allow others to be who and what they are, knowing that we have been where some of them are now, and that we will one day arrive at a place where others ahead of us are now traveling.
With these beliefs in tucked into my subconscious, I was ready to learn more about the process of BEing love by means of my actions. I learned that the smallest of actions can be the most important.
There is a piece of literature that all junior high school students in Japan are required to read. It is a short story called Kumo no Ito, or "The Spider's Thread," by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. In the story, the Buddha is walking about in the gardens up in Heaven, when he comes to a pond and notices that there is a spider in the water, and that it is spinning a web. In the bottom of the lake is what we would call "Hell," every bit as horrible as the pit of fire imagined by Christians. The Buddha notices one Soul in Hell named Kandata, who did only one good deed in his earthly life: he chose not to step on a spider that was crawling across the road he was traveling on. The Buddha decides to rescue Kandata because of his one good deed, so he takes the spider's thread and lowers it into the water.
Kandata notices the spider's thread dangling above and reaches up to it. He begins to climb the thread in order to escape from Hell. When he looks down, he notices that others are climbing the thread, as well, so he begins to worry that the delicate thread will break. He yells at the others to get off. As soon as the words are out of his mouth, the thread breaks, and Kandata and the others all fall back down into Hell. The Buddha walks away, thinking sadly to himself that no matter how severely Kandata was punished in Hell, he still has not learned to show compassion to others. (You can click on the hypertext above to read the story for yourself.) This story stuck with me because I had to translate it from the original, rather archaic, Japanese when I was at university, and I remember feeling as miserable as the people suffering in Hell because the old-style Japanese was so hard to translate.
In the story, even one small act of kindness was enough to save Kandata from Hell. Similarly, many people have come back from near death experiences, saying that they learned while in heaven that even small acts of kindness to a single individual are as highly valued as acts that benefit many people at once.
So what can we do to show love, and eventually to BE love? How can we become a "magnet of love"? The list of actions is endless, but the key is that we do these things, simply because they are the right thing to do, without any expectation of return.
Obviously, some of these actions work better with those in our intimate circle of friends than with strangers, so we must exercise discernment. A smile, a light touch, a kind word are all that is necessary. Any act that says, "I care," is a demonstration of love. Just spending time with a person is a way to demonstrate our love. So is making the effort to understand how someone is feeling, even if we don't feel that way ourselves. Listening from the heart, without the need to made a comment or fix the problem is a loving action. So is a silent hug. So is offering to do or assist with a job that another is expected to do, when we can see that help would be appreciated,
We can extend this caring not only to other human beings, but to members of the animal kingdom and to Mother Earth in general. We can work to restore and maintain the natural environment to allow animals to live safely in their rightful habitat. We can oppose actions that lead to the destruction or desecration of the earth. We can resolve to use natural resources wisely, and to re-use or recycle as many things as possible. We can learn to leave a light footprint on the earth, as individuals and as a society. We can switch our allegiance from non-renewable sources of energy to renewable ones. We can stop using products and sources of energy that pollute the environment, and start using products that can be recycled and clean sources of energy, such as wind and solar power.
All of these actions demonstrate our love for God's Creation: for our fellow human beings, for animals, who are Soul, too, and for all of life in the natural world.
Let us BE love. :-)