[The last pages of the second edition of The Work of Love: Rediscovering Connection and Belonging]
Many people like to start reading a book at the end, in order to decide if it would be worthwhile to begin at the beginning. This is that ending, the conclusion, the goal and hopefully the result of working the 12 Challenges.
Cliff Notes for Self-Activation #1 are contained in the last few pages of Love Always Wins: Hope for Healing the Epidemic of Violence. This further elaboration is similar to, but not strictly limited to, panentheism, the belief that the divine pervades and interpenetrates every part of the universe and also extends beyond time and space. As I stated in the first chapter of this book, the wild, radical, fierce and revolutionary expansion of what it means to be alive has become worshipped as a deity whose names are attempts to point at a quality of energy that is beyond any namable concept and not unique to any religion, an energy that is definitely not anthropomorphic (human-like), nor is it theistic (supernatural). I choose to call this energy LOVE, an acronym for Letting Old Vanity Evaporate, because when that vain sense of separate identity has slowly eroded away, what remains is an overwhelming sense of connection. I believe the following statements to be true:
(1) The amount of Love energy in the universe is constantly expanding.
Energy is expansive in nature, and Love energy — the energy that sustains life — is expanding constantly. There is no limit to its expansion, there is always more arriving every day, every moment, endlessly.
Just as we live in an “ocean of air,” we also live in an Ocean of Love that is much bigger than the planet or even the galaxy in which we reside. Our bodies are not only clouds of tiny whirling particles, we are also the emptiness between the particles that holds all the particles in working relationships. Our bodies and the physical stuff of our surroundings are metaphors, poetic expressions, of the mother-father sexy movement process that created us and continues to re-create us in every moment. We are a process, we humans, we are not entities, we are One Process, One Movement. The greatest joy in life is to bring this Ocean of Love into the attention foreground of those other spiritual beings with our behavior — movement and process — that reflects that truth.
The despair and alienation of western culture — the loss of joy — is the loss of the dreams of possibility. The bad news that we read every day is an expression of limitations that human beings place on that Love energy because they are not capable of absorbing, digesting and transmitting it, YET. They are learning, bit by bit, piece by piece. If we look for the good news, it is right there, hidden only by a thin veneer of violence. The more that we are able to even just imagine that there is a YES underneath the NO, the more it will literally come into the foreground and be as tangible as the chair upon which we are now sitting or the floor or the ground upon which we are now standing. We are capable of “speaking it into existence.” We are both Love and Not-Love, the nothingness between and the teeny-tiny microscopic catalyst needed for both. Free to choose and not free to not evolve. Our choice is to accept and cooperate with our evolution of wisdom, or to resist it.
If we treat information as energy, and we absorb, digest and transmit that energy, then we are able to creatively respond in a “responsible” way to that energy (response-able) and not re-active (repeating old behaviors). This is a possible filter, or lens, through which to view the “bad news.” We are a process, we humans, we are not entities, we are One Process, One Movement. As soon as we forget this, we suffer the illusion of separation and everything that comes with it: distrust, fear, enemies, scarcity, competition, greed and hoarding. We forget the ocean of which we are a momentary crystallization because we forget that we have the gift of attention self-management. We always have the opportunity to perceive movement and process as a unified, expansive energy.
(2) Resistance is futile, you will be absorbed by Love.
You only have a choice about when. Your choice, now or later: you will return to Love. It may be after you are dead, or it could be sooner. If you forgot that’s where you came from, that’s OK, everybody forgets. Our experiences of trauma contradicts the Love story, blatantly, in the moment. Our entanglement with our culture of violence is deep and unavoidable, so deep that to attempt to extricate ourselves from it is — to put it mildly — extremely vulnerable, painful and terrifying.
I capitalize Love because it is a more universal word substitute for all the other words we have for transcendent, divine energy. We can call this energy “divine” to describe how wonderful it is, but not to imply that it may be supernatural. It’s almost inevitable that we not see the awesome beauty and power of this energy that pervades everything including ourselves because our cultural story is that we are dis- connected, separate, a victim of circumstance, weak and dependent. At a deep level, however, all human beings long to belong to something greater than their limited existence, and that longing has the power to shape our lives.
We are in a relentless and invisible participation — knowing it or not knowing it — in a process of learning and adaptation to “right relationship,” the experience of connection with the Love energy. Love is always present if we would simply accept it. We are the ones who shut out the light of day. The barriers to Love were installed unconsciously by us and can be consciously removed by us. When we become aware that we have always belonged to Love, we can create strategies for remembering to remember.
To start removing those barriers, try to re-frame all your conflicts, frustrations and loneliness as your struggle to remember where did I come from, where am I going, and who is with me? Together, we can let go of the vain and obsolete self-serving fears, hyper-vigilance, and rigid beliefs about other people; we can let go of narcissism, let go of self-centered isolation, competition, opinions and judgments.
(3) Time and space are convenient illusions.
Boundaries of time and space are relatively insignificant. Yes, those boundaries exist, and they make it possible for fish and birds to migrate, for crops to produce, for bridges to be built and trains and planes to arrive somewhere “on time.” Yet, these boundaries are permeable and movable. Time and space can seem to be inflexible, yet our experience of them can both shrink and expand as well as seem to disappear altogether.
Consider: where do you or I begin or end? We are the seeds of, and the seeds for, something much, much, much greater than ourselves. The primary stuff from which our physical bodies are made is not matter. There is a something-from-nothing characteristic of the “big bang” theory of the origin of the universe that may be posited as the same something-from-nothing of our original lives, an experience of Love without boundaries (before we were conditioned to expect love as conditional, limited or scarce). Love exists in the primordial feelings and sensations that precede concepts, structures and physical matter. Love has no before, after, or location. It can be transmitted as an energy, but it cannot be found anywhere or anytime.
If Love were a strategy to some other goal than allowing its own self-awareness into existence, there would be more defined boundaries which were knowable, measurable and documented. However, our experience of Love comes from a certainty, not in belief, not in thought or concepts, but in a raw and very transient, ephemeral experience of our own lovability: our awesome, miraculous beauty, power and grace. On the other hand, there is a certain timeless splendor and generosity to this certainty, as if our being has become a giant redwood or mountain that lives for centuries, outliving fire, flood and earthquakes. The greatest thing about Love is that it is both immeasurable and immovable.
It is our experience of this energy beyond time and space that can become the source of an all- consuming lifestyle, an operating system, a predisposition to Love. The daily movements of our minds, hearts and bodies within the accepted boundaries of normal time and space can be a channel for — an expression of — something for which we have no words.
(4) There is no alternative to the pain of learning how to learn how to love.
The pain comes from the reorganization of everything we thought we knew, and from knowing that we have not yet fully learned how to love. Learning how to learn how to love is experiential. Our finest moments are those in which we absorb and then release what appears to be dark energy, discovering underneath it a brilliance of serenity and joy never before experienced, layer upon layer, deeper and deeper into the heart of Love.
We fear the death of our loveless egos so much because we are clueless about what lies beyond. We become paralyzed and depressed by the fear. Depression is a crisis of learning held in the homeostasis of denial because we fear the experience of pain and wish to control it. We must give up the struggle in order to win. We must finally, completely, and irrevocably say to ourselves, “I don’t know what to do next.” It is out of this not knowing that we discover new knowledge. HELP IS NOT COMING. This is totally a “do-it-ourselves” project to uncover the strengths we never knew we had within us, the strengths waiting for this time, this opportunity, this opening, this parting of the veil, to be embodied, made real, made practical.
There is no teacher, no book, no webinar, that can teach you how to let go of the struggle. They can only give you encouragement, which is good, but it’s totally a do-it-yourself, throw-yourself-off-a-cliff, risk of trial and error which will eventually save your life from ennui. Many dark nights of the soul precede the dawns of serenity, which begin as temporary and then settle in as a new normal. Recognition of Truth becomes more natural, more reliable, and at the same time hilariously unteachable. (Sorry about that!)
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” — CS Lewis – The Four Loves
Nobody is especially great or especially small when it comes to Love. We are all bozos on this bus, this journey of returning to Love, and we become better bozos when we admit we are on the bus. A disciplined practice of focus on this simple fact will transform our enemies into friends. Compassion and empathy for our own shadow that desires to be isolated, separate, or violent leads us to understand the universal source of violence for all of us: the fear of betrayal or abandonment. That empathy will lead us to practice over and over again
(1) thinking, speaking and acting from the ground of awareness of unity and love, and
(2) seeing ourselves and others as not only wanting the same security but also infinitely capable of learning new strategies, and
(3) listening deeply to the calling of Love to act without reward or success of intended outcomes, but only for what is needed in this moment.
In other words, surrender to the learning process, and pay attention to the process, allowing the results to manifest as they will, and progress, not perfection, will come naturally.
(5) Evolution is radical
The new species, the new mutations, that guarantee the survival of any group of organisms will develop at the periphery, the outer limits of its variety of expression, and they appear suddenly. Evolution is not gradual, it is punctuated by spontaneous change.
The pressure to change and adapt to adverse conditions is both destructive and creative as multiple solutions are attempted. There are many failures. When a new model tests positive for efficacy, its features are rapidly adopted by the entire networked system of its culture, regardless of how noble and dignified the obsolete system may appear in contrast to the unruly behavior of the emerging mutation.
The evolution of Love is not incremental or gradual. There are no small modifications or adjustments that will satisfy the demands of the Love of Life. Evolutionary changes are uncomfortable, frightening transitions into unmapped areas of existence and those who embrace it first are the ones who are most alive.
The Love of Life has produced many new strategies for survival in the face of global warming and the cascading crises of military, economic and energy disasters. Peace education is one of those that has become mainstream. We are past the tipping point. We have no choice now but to let go of the notion that “we” is a word that does not include “them” or that we are somehow on a polarized continuum with a void in the middle. Awareness of more democratic and life-affirming tactics and strategies are spreading faster than you can say “jump.” The survival technology of letting go of old ideas of separation is catching on and the legitimacy of those who would divide and hate is vanishing.
When we are able to say from our deepest sense of being, “You love me,” to acknowledge the reflection of ourselves in another and our essential unity, we are making a radical leap in the evolution of humanity.
(6) Love always wins
Life is continuously challenged by Love to expand, adapt, learn, self-transform, replicate and belong to itself in all respects, all details, completely, to be a perfect and unitary manifestation of Love. Love always has a mission, a purpose, a job to do. It isn’t random or regressive, and size or duration of an experience of Love are not important. It is relentlessly dynamic, moving around and through all obstacles, compassionately receiving surrender to the reality of Love. There is no standing still, no plateau, no position for Love. The only way to deal with it is to move with it like a surfer. Beauty and Truth are the recognizable signals of Love’s movement.
(7) The Work of Love is effortless.
The “enemy” of betrayal and abandonment is no longer external, it is internal. Letting go of the struggle against external enemies and our status as a victim is not easy because it locates the primary enemy within ourselves, the last place we would want to find it. It is a paradoxical un-learning process to relax and let go of our defensive conditioning that keeps us vigilant and tense, always preparing for battle.
A samurai can subdue an enemy without fighting by putting their attention on their connection — their unity with — their enemy. One of the most ancient principles of martial arts is to become one with your enemy, become empathic in the most extreme way, defeat your own urges to become angry and impulsive, and to continue moving so your enemy cannot hit you. To do this takes training and practice at focusing the mind and removing all fear. Then what is left is only a dance — no struggle — only effortless movement. The enemy, if there is such a thing, becomes exhausted, loses energy, and collapses under its own weight.
Love would have us give up our enemy images, our list of who is and who is not our enemy. While it may appear to be messy and confusing, even painful, there is nothing to figure out, nothing to struggle against. As Yoda said, “There is no try. Do or do not.” It’s a paradox, isn’t it? When we let go of our fixed notions of friend and enemy, we increase the probability of satisfying our deepest needs to contribute, to connect, to grow, to belong, to be in integrity, to play, and to be secure! When we have the attitude, “Anything could happen next,” the world of possibilities becomes infinite, predictability is moot, and our highest potential is expressed by participating in what’s happening right here and now in our relationships by absorbing and radiating the energy of the moment. Participation in the lives of other human beings becomes a party — a joyful, effortless party.
(8) The illusion of separation is the origin of evil.
Our minds can produce endless reasons for violating the integrity of other people, animals and all of the natural world. The illusion of separation then becomes even stronger and self-perpetuating. That is evil self-destruction of the small mind and body that has chosen to be separate, yet the option of self- inclusion is always, always present.
When we empty our minds of all thought, analysis and labels, Love is there, waiting. There is no emptiness where Love does not exist. Our mental activity is appropriate for existence in a 4-D, physical universe and not very well suited for appreciating the meta-universe that is both beyond and within it, the panentheism of a field of energy that permeates everything.
Love is continuous throughout time and space, through all boundaries physical and non-physical, and there is no escaping from Love except as a temporary illusion, a looking away from it. When we look away, when we ignore this energy, we enter into the panic of abandonment and immediately grasp for power, control and security as if we were on a sinking ship.
(9) Life experience eclipses dogma.
The ineffable experience of life is one’s own personal authority that transcends all others. Anyone, including myself, who purports to have expressed edicts, rules or laws governing the behavior of people or things is open to question. Dogma can be usefully re-framed as challenges or questions, themselves. “Is this true for you?” should be added to every dogmatic, sweeping generalization, including the laws of man embodied in the legal/judicial system, for they require consent to operate at all.
There is another science, another “way of knowing” outside of rational logic, that talks about the inter- connectedness of fields of energy and collective wisdom. The Occupy Movement is a global-scale example of this leap into irrational spirituality, the intuitive receptivity of feelings generated from sources other than our mainstream, politically correct and scientifically-validated dogma. Occupy and its spinoffs are a continuation of Gandhi’s teachings about experiments with nonviolence, community- building, personal empowerment, personal response-ability, and resilience in the face of the threat of extinction.
When I reflect on my life experience, when I listen to my own story, then I simply witness what I put myself through, and I see that I am not just flesh and bone. There is something else beyond me, some fifth-dimensional energy that heals me, takes me to the limit of what I think I can do, and then stretches me further. As this movie is going on, I look around and see other people doing the same thing, transcending whatever limitations they thought they had. It’s not just me, there’s a gluey morass of attractive energy in which we are all participating. I need to hear other people’s stories.