We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present. ~Marianne Williamson
There are many parts of the psyche that don’t trust love, and perhaps even fear love. These parts have all sorts of reasons why we shouldn’t love another, ourselves, or even the world as it is. This fear of loving keeps us separate. To these parts, this separation is safety. To love, this separation is painful.
Separation is only an illusion, yet to the psyche it feels very real.
As I move deeper into awakening to the true nature of things, and to the divine essence that breathes and expresses through this female body, the realization that I keep myself separate is growing more keen. The ways in which I don’t extend love are becoming painfully clear to me.
Withholding love is painful. Feeling separate from others is painful. Feeling separate from the world is too painful to continue to once it has become a conscious strategy, rather than something I do out of habit.
I feel so much love in my heart for the world, yet somewhere inside there is still a part that fears extending this love. My favorite Mary Oliver quote, I mean my absolute most favorite quote of hers, is this:
I walk in the world to love it.
Yet still, there are places where my heart retracts.
In my last post, I Bow Down to Love, I wrote of the power of love:
“This quiet, yet insistent voice within doesn’t bargain with me. There is no bargaining with it. It only shares one step at a time. It asks us to trust in something greater than ourselves. It asks us to trust in love.”
We are being asked to trust in love, and I sense we are being asked to go into those places where we learned not to trust in love, for those are the places that hold us back, those places where we didn’t receive love. It’s not about rehashing these stories, for I know all too well that the story stays alive as long as we keep breathing life into it.
It’s about feeling. Feeling those old places in our bodies where we stuffed the pain of not receiving love, and perhaps even developed a strategy that feels vindictive, a strategy that says I won’t love because I wasn’t loved. Being with these painful places, as we would be with a small child that is in pain, a child that wants to be held and loved, so she can know that place within herself.
But it’s also about trusting in love, trusting enough in love itself to extend it. Not the juicy romantic kind of love, but the love that is the basis of all of existence, the love that is the basis of life. It is love that calls to us. It is love that is at the heart of the divine mystery in things. It is love that is at the heart of the divine mystery in you. It is not ours to hoard.
Love all of Creation:
When you love all of existence, you discover that mystery within you. I am learning this. Slowly.
I came across this piece from Dostoyevsky, and something became clear.
Love all of Creation
The whole of it and every grain of sand
Love every leaf
Every ray of God’s light
Love the animals
Love the plants
If you love everything
You will perceive
The divine mystery in things
And once you have perceived it
You will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly
More and more everyday
And you will at last come to love the whole world
With an abiding universal love.
I can see that love begins with something true. There are things we truly love. For me, these are my children and grandchildren, my partner Jeff, my family, my dear close friends, my clients, my work. I also love the wind in my face. I love redwood trees, roses, peonies, dogs, cats, make that any animal (except snakes and lizards, which I’m working on). I love painting and writing. I love exploring new places. These are things I feel great love for.
And after reading Dostoyevsky’s passage, I can see that the love within me, the love that I extend in places, but not in others, is not because of those people and things I love, it is the very source of life that moves through me. Sometimes it is easy to think we love someone a great deal because of who they are; rather, the capacity to love comes from within us, and can be extended to all of life. In doing so, we come to know the mystery in all things, that mystery that is no different in the other than it is in me.
A recipe for extending love:
Begin with something small. Begin in the places where we know what it is to love, to extend ourselves. Love the light. Love your child. Love your dog. Love the way the leaves turn riotous colors. Love the way your beloved’s face shines when you listen, truly and deeply. Love the way you feel when you give without needing to get. Love the way your soul moves when you hear that one song that gets you every time. Love the way you laugh. Let yourself love those things you already love, without question. Feel the naturalness of it, the immediacy of that love within you.
Just begin. Notice loving. How it just happens, naturally. In its own way, through you. And when you notice it, allow it to spread to something else. Love the thing that lights you up. Then the next. As your love spreads, as you see how much love is inside you, and as you share it with those things that naturally light you up, you will begin to see it everywhere. Ceaselessly. It doesn’t matter where you begin. Just begin. You see, all of creation is the mystery. We can begin anywhere, and from that place it can spread to new places, if we’re willing to trust in love.
I’m going to follow this recipe over the next few months, consciously dining on the fruits of the extension of love to see what happens, for this extending love brings more love in return.
I invite you to join me, and to share with me here what you find.
image courtesy of Paulo Brandão on Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0