In our last letter we looked at devotion, love with commitment, bringing us into fields of bliss and grace. If it is so amazing, why in our world is it so little in evidence? Why do so few people practice it? The reason I think is fear.
Fear of being betrayed. Fear of being hurt. Fear of someone dying or leaving us. Fear of the authenticity that love demands. Fear of revealing ourselves. Fear of our past hurts being repeated. Fear of opening our heart to another. Fear of saying or doing something that will torpedo the precious state of love that we would hold dear. It is this fear which causes our ego to try and control love, to control the people we love. This may not be conscious and in many instances it is not. Yet because of our unconscious controlling patterns, we can torpedo the very intimacy and close connection that we so crave. Think of the person who wants to help and says they love you but their help is delivered in a controlling and critical way. Sometimes it comes with an aura of superiority and judgment, that drives the beloved and possibly everyone else mad.
It is said in the mysteries that fear guards the doorway to love. It always has and it always will. We are not able to change the basic design of creation.
We are meant to overcome the fears and challenges, the egoic pull to control what we love. Like someone who learns to walk on hot coals and not be damaged by it, we enter the fire of love and through it we are purified and transformed. By learning new skills and examining the state of our closest relationships, and our relationship with the Divine, we can understand much about our unconscious drives and limitations. This is gold if we have the courage to mine it.
In dark times we are often led astray and when love does arise it can be in a field of anxiety, as we valiantly try to be good enough, to be worthy of the love on offer. When we are coming from a place of sparse or non-existent inner love, our learning zones of feeling inadequate or unlovable are likely to draw to us experiences that feel like the exact opposite of devotion.
Most likely, everyone in their life has at some stage been in love. It may be a crush on someone, but that is not yet devotion, it is a crush. This is the honeymoon phase of love, and it has not yet been tested in the fires of the expressions of individual difference that characterise each and every human being. We are still exploring what we have in common and rejoicing in that. But over time the cycle will turn, and we will find ourselves facing things we may not have seen coming. Aspects of our beloved that are less charming. These give us reason to doubt whether we should stay in love, or move onto another relationship instead.
Each time this happens, from a spiritual perspective we are being invited to take our courage in our hands and break through to a new level of love. Open your heart, raise your vibration, bring in more compassion, not only for the beloved but also for yourself.
Self-compassion is an empowering state that is different to egoic self-serving states like self-pity or narcissism. Where the latter states can warp real love, self-compassion brings it to exultation.
Using the plethora of literature that now exists about how beneficial self-compassion can be, we can break it down into the 3 steps that author Kristin Neff has identified. (for more see the wonderful resources at www.selfcompassion.org).
1. Practice self-kindness: This means be nice to yourself and really look at the qualities of self-talk that arise in your mind. Use deliberate changes of mental state to flip these from negative to life affirming, from critical to encouraging. Be your own best friend.
2. Common humanity: know that you are not the only one struggling with this issue, there are billions of other people who are also here on Earth having similar doubts about themselves, making similar kinds of mistakes, and moving through similar situations inwardly. You are not broken. You are not a failure if the path of love is challenging. You are not evil if you discover how your prior unconscious control dramas have upset or hurt others. You are human.
3. Mindfulness: keep your awareness in the present moment and use meditation to bolster the feelings of inner calm and contentment. We do this by going deep into the inner being, and finding our essence. This can be done in a multitude of ways. Find what works for you and practice.
Hilariously, just after writing these three points, I picked up my travel mug, filled at the same time as my morning cuppa, now drained, to go out in the car. I got to the car to find in my hand my recently emptied teacup! Having been focussed on the idea of self compassion combined with where I was going instead of where I was now, I picked up the wrong cup. When I got to the car, I felt a bit annoyed at myself. Then I realised that I had just been writing about self-compassion and started to laugh. I flipped it into joy and went back inside and retrieved the right drinking vessel. I am sure other people do odd things like this from time to time. (common humanity) The instant, quick use of the three steps gave me joy. I hope they give you joy too. They will empower you to love.