The thing that’s in your way
It’s February. This is the time of the year when thoughts turn to love.
Given the turmoil and tensions in the world, it’s important to turn towards love.
But, what does turning towards love really mean when we’re facing big challenges?
Here’s what I’ve observed, on the cushion and in my life:
When the mind is faced with challenges, obstacles, and seemingly intractable or hopeless situations – there’s the tendency is to turn away. To avert the gaze. To distract attention from the fierce reality of the situation.
Another tendency is to fight fire with fire. To push against what’s pushing you. To yell at the yellers. To point fingers at the finger pointers.
Both of these tendencies are natural.
We’re wired for self-preservation. And the primitive centers in our brain have well-grooved strategies of flight, fight, and freeze.
It’s understandable that these patterns kick-in when we’re up against it. But, these deeply encoded patterns of our ancestral neurology aren’t designed to turn towards love.
Whether the context is your personal life or our collective situation, here’s what the wisdom traditions say: that thing that’s in your way – it’s love.
It doesn’t look like love, does it?
It looks like an obstacle. A mistake. A horrible, horrible mistake. I get that. I can open my Facebook feed and in the blink of the eye feel my body roiling with reactivity. Devi can look at me with a particular tilt of her head and my unprocessed emotional history can raise its head in a nano-second . . . >sigh<
But, let’s slow things down.
Instead of turning away, let’s be still, breathe, and look deeper.
Let’s take the time to cultivate our capacity to remain present in the face of the pain, suffering, and violence that abounds; to bear witness; observe fully and compassionately. Not to excuse – but to be present and to allow our vision to deepen.
To see more deeply and clearly what fuels the violence and fear in the world.
Not to explain it. Not to defend or attack it. To see, to feel, and to know it deeply.
This kind of clarity, in my experience, inevitably calls for a willingness to face the patterns of fear and violence that are still shaping my own perceptions.
The more fully, deeply, and non-defensively I can feel into the patterns of reactivity in my own soul – to that degree can I rest in the primary wholeness of my being.
Discovering the primary wholeness of my being reveals the hidden wholeness in others and the difficult situation that we are tangled up in together.
Thomas Merton, the great Catholic monk and mystic, wrote:
“There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.”
To seek that hidden wholeness is to turn towards love.
To find it is to discover, again in Merton’s words, “a silence that is a fountain of action and joy.”
Face the fire. Breathe.
Remember: that thing that’s in your way – whether you look within or without – is the sacred energy, the radiant, generative presence of Life in a wrathful disguise.
Don’t turn away.
Recognize and release the waves of reactivity.
Enter the silence that gives birth to wise action.
Turn towards love . . . with all the fierce gentleness that is required.
We can’t afford to lose ourselves again.
Let’s turn towards love.
What does turning towards love mean to you?
With Palms Together,