Love is not what we become but who we already are. – Stephen Levine
Pay special attention to what happens to the energy of the space that exists between you and a person or anything that you love as you are experiencing that love. Does it not come alive and connect you with what or who is loved?
Perhaps this insight sounds completely nonsensical, but it is one of life’s most important discoveries and illuminates what Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh refers to as “The Miracle of Mindfulness.” All of Buddhist teaching is aimed at getting us to notice and pay attention to that which we typically overlook but which when closely observed and deeply experienced,begins to reveal the most important secrets of Life, and there is no more vital hidden truth in our culture than that the space between objects is living energy. So too are the objects – even those we conventionally think of as inert – and this energy resonates with the quality of the consciousness of the person experiencing the space and the objects within it. We are energetic beings in an energetic universe with consciousness energy pervading this unity.
So what is love? We might describe it as to hold dear, to feel passion, desire, affection, to take pleasure in something or someone. We know it is a very strong emotion that arises when we are very attracted to and strongly like or identify with something or someone, but does any of this really explain what is happening and why it is happening? We need to know what is happening and why because we tend to have a rather passive sense of love – it happens or not – if it’s there it’s there, if it’s not, it’s not. We don’t have much of a sense of whether we have any active role in creating love, cultivating it and sustaining it and this is unfortunate, for the cultivation of love is quite possible and very necessary for love to bloom optimally. It is very important to know that we can have a very active and creative relationship with love, and that this knowledge contributes greatly to living an awakened life.
So – what is love? Simply stated, it is connection. Is it not? For what is experienced when love is present if it is not connection? But then, what is this connection? As with every aspect of the human realm, there are two fundamental dimensions, and here I am addressing the egoic realm and the very poorly understood spiritual, or realm-of-Being dimension, that which we struggle to find words to describe, for our culture lacks any agreed-upon vocabulary for this most precious of experiences. As we are a strongly materialistic culture, if an experience is not anchored in the material we tend to overlook it, and for this conversation concerning love, we will be entering what we might call the purely subjective heart-realm, and there is nothing material about it.
At the level of ego, that experience of our own separate and insecure identity in the world seeking to be buttressed and comforted, love is of course connection, but the quality of the connection is limited. It is the experience of the ego connecting and identifying with a person, object or experience and seeking its own validation and significance through this experience. It is the “I love it!” in response to a personal validation, victory, enhancement or stimulation, even if the “it” is another person. The experience maintains a strongly dualistic quality even as a unifying connection occurs. I am here – experiencing and loving that which is there. If we pay very close attention, however, we might realize that there occurs an extension of our sense-of-self boundary to include the object of the love, and for this to happen, the space of consciousness energy that is our essence must amplify and now include the object of the love. Almost amoeba-like an extension of the boundary of ourself extends and includes that which was not previously included. To love means to have the sense of self expand to include what is loved – and this is non-dualistic; two becomes one in intense connection. The space between becomes alive with consciousness and connecting energy where it was previously experienced as a separation. What is extended is the essential core of ourself and here we make a discovery: this essential core is love.
As consciousness energy extends and encompasses the object of love, the experience begins to shift from the egoic into the heart-realm, and now there is a very important choice to be made. We can either retain much of our sense of identity in our separateness, continually assessing whether the enhancement of self-experience is sufficient to maintain the connection or we can release into real union – our Self-that-is-love encompassing that which is the focus of our attention. If we remain primarily the separate ego-self, attention will drift, searching for some new experience. We likely will find some deficiency in the object/situation/person, and the consciousness energy will diminish or withdraw completely. We will return to our sense of separate and restless sense of self, and the thing, situation, or person that was loved becomes separate and just ordinary again, as do we. Or – and here we have the opportunity to fully manifest ourselves as loving beings – we can, recognizing that our greatest fulfillment occurs in the state of connected oneness, deliberately energize the connection and sustain and amplify the loving heart-realm that is our truest self in enfoldment. This is conscious loving. We commit to the decision and intent to BE love. Here, we surrender our separateness and commit to union.
To live the mystical life, the awakened life, is to know and practice this truth of the power of love as consciousness energy to connect with all the elements of Life all around us always. It is to love all that passes through our field of consciousness – the bird in the tree and the tree, the clouds passing overhead and the warmth of the sun, even the previously insignificant or repulsive; it is to recognize and love as self everything. This is, of course, particularly powerful and important with people, and of most importance with those with whom we are in loving relationships. The wisdom traditions teach us that ego separates and conscious heart-felt presence connects, and this does not have to be random and accidental. It can be the centerpiece of one’s spiritual practice, which is simultaneously a commitment to sane and healthy living, including our most significant relationships. We can live as loving presence.
For this to occur, we must awaken to the realization of self-as-consciousness-as-love. We have to take the concept of consciousness as energy that connects us to heart-realm out of the theoretical and into living reality and this is the real purpose of our mindfulness practice. To do this, it is most helpful to repeatedly, choicefully, anchor into the present moment through our senses – seeing, hearing, touching the object, circumstance, or person with the intention to love without distraction. We must be really present, as the heart-realm can only be accessed from within the present moment, realizing the present moment is the only actual reality. Only then can silent, intuitive consciousness fully energize and our nature-as-consciousness-that-is-love come fully alive. Presence, full presence without mental commenting or distraction, with full focus of consciousness-energy on the loved one, is essential. Then we can deliberately further energize the space of consciousness with our loving essence to envelope what or who we have focused our loving intention upon to create what consciousness teacher Stephen Levine called The Beloved, a union of what was two that becomes one.
Loving human relationships are complicated. Often they are filled with as much wound and disappointment as with shared beauty and this can be an obstacle to opening and sustaining the connection of the heart-realm in living consciousness energy. Ego wants to hold on to and feed these resentments. This is why all spiritual traditions have emphasized forgiveness and gratitude, and why making a practice of releasing any resentment or negative feeling towards our loved ones and replacing it with reasons for gratitude when the relationship is challenging is essential. This shift from mental focus on the ego’s accounting system where resentment is stored (for the ego is always keeping track of whether it is getting what it wants) into the heart-space where gratitude is realized will open us and allow our consciousness energy-field to enfold and embrace, to shift us from two to one, from “me” to Beloved. The Beloved is within you and right in front of you and all around you awaiting your choice to open and embrace with living consciousness energy, to discover the Beloved IS you. The paradox is that while it is the ego that is tracking whether it is happy or not, the ego has no idea how to generate happiness. It is the heart-realm that is the true source of happiness, both the giving and receiving of happiness, and for it to be actualized, the separation caused by the ego must be bridged and self-as-love uniting with Life realized. When we open our heart-realm, understanding that this is really consciousness-energy, love – that which is our original and true nature – embraces us as it embraces others. The Beloved comes alive as truly do our relationships and the entirety of our life.