Tag Archives: Love

Love is not Soft

Jesus said to Love your enemies. I don’t think he meant that our inability to do so should prevent us from acting. Dismantling oppression is an act of love, and in my mind it is one of the highest, deepest and most important expressions. We can’t wait until our love has matured to act. Our very waiting is the stunting of growth. It is a missed opportunity in a moment when we are being asked to step up.

But, while we fight, what if we allowed our love to grow? Because, after all, He did say it. Love your enemies.

The Love He talks about has room for the oppressor and the oppressed.  This is not a love in short supply at risk of depletion. It is an Endless Reservoir and an ability strengthened by its very use.

Let’s be clear: all forms of oppression must be stopped. This includes the radical hatred of white nationalists and the cruel indifference of sweatshop profiteers. The heart knows this truth, but it also knows this- Love isn’t soft.

It’s not about letting anyone off the hook. It’s not normalizing or minimizing. It’s not false equivalency or taking the middle road. It is simply ensuring that our hearts don’t close.

Since the 1950s the Dalai Lama has practiced Tonglen for the Chinese government, who are responsible for the mass genocide of the Tibetan people. In this practice he breathes in their suffering and breathes out goodwill towards them. When asked if his practice has had any benefit, the Dalai Lama said, “I think it has benefited me.”

I can’t allow my heart to grow cold towards anyone. If I were to find words to state my life’s mission, I might quote Kabir or Maharajji, who whisper at every moment, “Never put another person out of your heart.”

I have heard some of the cruelest, most racist and sexist words come out of children’s mouths like you wouldn’t believe. I have witnessed teens bully and physically attack others with weapons. It’s my job to love kids like that. With a child it’s unsettling. We instantly know those words and actions aren’t theirs, but rather an ill-fitted costume awkwardly draped over the body. But one day, if uncorrected, those very words and actions can shape a large part of their worldview.  The child will grow into that costume and form to its awkward shape, making it seem like a perfect fit.

Love is the antidote for that outcome. I can correct a child’s speech out of love. I can stop one person from hitting another while keeping my heart open to both of them. It’s easy with kids…

But I have also met adults that have been locked up for committing violent crimes, who completely blew me away by their level of compassion, empathy, introspection, and self-awareness. There are Bodhisattvas behind bars at this very moment that are more in touch with themselves than the vast majority of us on the outside.

Those who harm others have been harmed themselves. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” Likewise, those that have healed from harm are those that can assist in the world’s healing. And, it’s never too late to heal. For anyone.

So what I’m asking is this: let’s work tirelessly to end all forms of oppression. Let’s take bold and creative steps to do so. That is Love in action, and we need that.

But, while we’re at it, let’s expand our Love and deepen it. Let’s open our hearts enough that we see the Truth of our own Unlimited Well… because, after all, He did say it…

Love your enemies
(Matthew 5:44)

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This Love has Room for Our Protest

Without me even noticing it, the conversation evaporated into silence. Ram Dass simply looked at me, and I melted into the chair, filled with love. I looked across the room towards him, and our eyes met. Just a few minutes ago he had told me the story of when Maharajji instructed him to meditate like Christ. Ram Dass asked him how Christ meditated, and Maharajji said, “He was lost in a sea of love.”

I was absolutely head-over-heals in love with the man before me, not because he was Ram Dass, but because his presence pulled me into a depth of Being within that could love anything. I realized that this is what it meant, at least in some small way, to meditate like Christ.

Ram Dass often says things like, “I love the wall, and the carpet, and this chair. I love my wheelchair.”

And when he says it, he means it. I saw this, not just in my darshan with him that day, but during following the two years that I lived with him. I would often see him sitting by himself, not reading, or napping, or thinking, or even meditating, but just sitting there, truly present and content. Because of his stroke, he is confined to a wheelchair, and his body is often in pain. Yet, he has a lightness about him that transcends his physical body. There is a joy and a contentment that can be at home with the pain.

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Because the World Needs us.

I have been writing much about suffering, so today I thought I would write about love. It’s difficult to discuss it in a way that is fresh and alive. The word itself died long ago in the coffin of cliche and teenage romance. What good will saying it one more time do?

When I first heard Ram Dass say the word’s “Souls not roles,” I felt my nerves tingle and cells sing. I printed out those words and taped them on my dashboard. When I drove, it seemed the whole world sang their glory. It only took a few days for the song to fade, and then they too were just words.

When I studied poetry in college, I learned the golden rules of modern American verse. The universal is gleaned at through the specific, and the abstract is earned through imagery and sound. Love requires the highest price; even better to invoke it without saying it.

Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir served as a bridge to the devotional poetry of India, which seemed to have its own set of golden rules. It can appear soft and trite for the unprepared. Tulsidas writes for those on the path. His words are earned through years of practice. We prepare ourselves, working our emotions, attachments and mind, so when the gods shower us with rose petals we can appreciate their perfume. Tulsidas takes us beyond the clouds to be obliterated by the Sun.

I don’t know how to reach that depth of love without acknowledging suffering. Maybe it’s protestant guilt, unknowingly inherited through our culture and embedded in a poetry that teaches us love must be earned. Or, maybe its because my Guru once said, “I love suffering. It brings me so close to God.” We know Ram Dass has earned it when he looks from his wheelchair and says, “Suffering is grace.”

In Truth, the world has already earned it. It cries out tears of anguish, desperately in need of that Love.