Finding integrated meaning in our lives

Posts tagged ‘love’

Kindness

Aldous Huxley once said, “It’s rather embarrassing to have given one’s entire life to pondering the human predicament and to find that in the end one has little more to say than, ‘Try to be a little kinder.'”  Huxley was being characteristically humble, but there was really no reason to be embarrassed about it.  After a lifetime spent searching for the ultimate meaning of life, perhaps he had stumbled upon it without even recognizing it for what it was.

For Aldous Huxley, kindness was the last word on the human condition

This blog is called Love and Harmony and it’s based on the notion that these are the ultimate sources of meaning in our life.  But what about all those times when you’re not in touch with a sense of unconditional love, and you’re feeling positively disharmonious?  What to do then?  That’s where kindness comes in.  It’s something that is always available to us if we choose it, and exercising it will always bring us closer to those states of love and harmony that can provide enduring happiness.

The very word “kind” offers hints of its true depth of meaning.  It derives, like the word “kin,” from the Old English word gecynde, and it originally meant “natural, native, innate, with the feeling of relatives for each other.”  Kindness means acting to someone else as if they’re a member of your family, someone you care about, someone with whom you share a home.  It means recognizing that ultimately all humans are part of the same family, and we all share the same home on this earth.

We share with fruit flies – and all other creatures – the experience of being alive together on this earth

In fact, we can go beyond humans, and extend that kindness to all life, recognizing that we share over 90% of our DNA with all other mammals and 44% with fruit flies.  We come from the same common origins, and we all share the experience of being alive together on this earth.  We all share the same appetite for life, the same sense of purpose, and we can all feel a deep sense of what it means to be that other creature.  That’s what kindness really recognizes.

Intention permits you to be kind to your self.

But kindness doesn’t just refer to how we can be to others.  It actually begins with how we can be to ourselves.  Our society, however, unfortunately teaches us the opposite.  It teaches us to push ourselves to breaking point, to judge ourselves harshly, to hold ourselves up to standards that we can’t attain.  And when we’re unkind to ourselves, that sets the stage for us to be unkind to others, too.  How can we overcome that harshness to ourselves that we’re taught from our infancy?  That’s where intention comes in.  As discussed in previous posts, intention is the beginning of the spiritual path.  And once we’ve truly set an intention for ourselves, this enables kindness to enter into the picture the next time we judge ourselves harshly for not being the person we think we should be.

Here’s how it goes.  Let’s say there’s a part of my self that I’m continually judging harshly.  Say I get scared of social gatherings.  I know I should go to them, but then my fear of them either stops me, or causes me to act in ways that I then regret.  Usually, I judge myself badly when this happens.  I tell myself I’m a failure and feel emotional pain within me.  Now suppose I’ve set a true intention to overcome that fear.  Suppose I’ve begun seeing a therapist, or perhaps I’ve started a course in meditation.  The next time something goes wrong in a social situation and I feel that harsh judgment arise, I can now say to myself: “I recognize that this is a difficult situation for myself, and I’m doing something about it.  I’m doing the very best I can for myself about this situation, so there’s no reason to judge myself harshly.”  Now, with your true intention in place, you can give yourself permission to be kind to yourself instead.  You can possibly say to yourself “I won’t go to that stressful gathering because I don’t need to prove anything to myself.”  Or perhaps you might say “I’ll go but if I act in a way I later regret, I won’t punish myself for it, I’ll just be kind to myself.”  Every time that judging voice arises in you, you can answer with another voice, a voice of kindness that says, “I’ve set my intention, I’m moving in the right direction, and I can love and respect myself for that.”  In this way, intention doesn’t just permit you to be kind to yourself, it permits you to be kind to every part of yourself, even those parts that don’t seem kind themselves.

Love integrates; kindness lubricates

Kindness lubricates consciousness the way oil lubricates a car engine

You can think of kindness as a sort of lubricant of consciousness.  Consider a car engine purring along.  There are dozens of parts, all connecting with each other, and when they’re properly lubricated, they smoothly interact without causing any harm.  Imagine, though, your car engine had no oil.  Each metal part would strike the other and cause friction.  Sparks would fly.  In no time at all, your engine would break down.  Now, let’s consider our consciousness like that car engine, where each of the parts are the different voices, values and drives within us.  It’s love that integrates all those parts and enables them to work together.  But it’s kindness that lubricates them.  Even if two different voices within you seem to be in conflict, they can still be kind to each other.  They can recognize that each voice represents different needs in the mind-body organism that is you, and with that lubricant of kindness, they can allow each other a place in consciousness without sparks having to fly.

When the pathways of consciousness are lubricated by kindness, the transitions between them can occur harmoniously and without resistance.

If you are kind to yourself at all times, you will begin to love your self

Once you learn to be kind to yourself at all times, then those parts of you that are usually hidden away, those deep, dark places in you that have been banished from consciousness, will begin to realize that they can emerge a little.

When you’re kind to yourself at all times, those parts of yourself that are used to hiding away will begin to trust that they can come out and be cared for.

They will begin to trust you.  They are so used to being judged harshly, to being told how vile they are, that they stay skulking away, like little rodents, in the basement of your consciousness.  But if you continually offer kindness to all parts of your self, they will begin to reveal your self to you.  And it’s only through noticing, understanding, accepting and embracing all the different parts of you that you will ever get to truly love your self in an unconditional manner.

Intention permits kindness.  Kindness leads to trust.  Trust encourages all the different parts of your self to reveal themselves to you.

Unconditional kindness to your self can unlock the containers holding your deepest fears.

Intention, kindness and trust will lead you to love your entire self.

[Next post: Kindness: the 70% solution]

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Why this blog is called Love and Harmony

I’ve called this blog Love and Harmony because  I have come to realize that Love and Harmony are the two ultimate principles of human life that subsume all others.  I believe that living a life according to the ultimate principles of Love and Harmony can lead you to a place of spiritual fulfillment and physical health, happiness and longevity.  Let me try to explain why.

You are not just your mind.  You are not just your body.  You are a mind/body organism, and what your mind/body organism truly desires is a sense of abiding happiness and health, for as long as it can enjoy that blessed experience.

I believe that the ultimate well-being of your organism can be best achieved through pursuing a path of Love and Harmony.

So at this point, it might be helpful to describe more precisely what I mean by Love and Harmony.

Let’s begin with Love.  I’m not talking about the kind of love that sells all those Hallmark cards (although there’s certainly nothing wrong with that kind of love and it does fit into the overall definition.)  I’m not even talking about that beautiful selfless love that a mother or father might hold for their child, even though that also has a well-deserved place in the definition.

I’m talking about loving your self.  Loving your self unconditionally.

“But wait a minute,” I hear you saying.  “How can that be so good?  Isn’t that being selfish?  Self-centered?  I thought we were meant to love others, not ourselves.”

It all begins with loving your self.  And loving your self unconditionally.  Not loving yourself because of something you achieved.  Not loving yourself because you look good, or because you did something that made you popular.  Not even loving yourself because you are a good, ethical, honorable person.  Those are all conditions of love.  One day you might achieve those conditions.  Another day you might not.  And if your love of your self is conditional, then as soon as you don’t live up to your own standards, then there goes your love.

Loving your self unconditionally means realizing that every single part of you – the “good,” the “bad,” the “strong,” the “weak,” are all parts of your organism that have arisen because at some point in your life, that was what you – as an organism – needed to be in order to survive and to try to thrive.  That doesn’t mean it’s OK to become complacent or self-satisfied about who you are.  That’s where intention plays a big part – but that’s a subject for another blog post.

Loving yourself unconditionally permits the barriers within yourself to disappear.

It’s only when you love your self unconditionally that the barriers within your self disappear.  Those are the blockages that normally prevent the energy flows of your love from gushing fully.  And when that love flows within you unblocked, it creates a hormonal context in your brain/mind that permits the love to overflow from your self and to be offered freely to all beings around you.  Then, before you know it, without even trying, you are able to feel that same unconditional love for those around you.  You’re able to see that their conditioned behaviors – those things that normally drive you crazy about them – are also the very best that their organism has arrived at in its own lifelong struggle for health and happiness.  And when you see the limitations they’ve arrived at, you are able to offer unforced and authentic compassion for their struggles and their efforts.

This is a love that is defined by connectivity.  It is a love that arises when you are truly connected within your self, and that permits you to connect with the intrinsic being of others around you.  It is a love that – by dissolving the barriers of your self – permits you to feel your natural connectedness with all other beings, with the natural world around you, with every living entity that surrounds you.

This is a love which is the source of meaning.  Because meaning is derived from connectivity.  In fact, as I shall discuss in a future blog post, it’s not overstating the case to say that love is meaning.  And that universal or unconditional love is the meaning of the universe.

But in this post, I’m just trying to stick with definitions.  There will be plenty of other opportunities to explain some of these statements – which might appear at first a little far-fetched – in a lot more detail.  It’s time, now, to turn to Harmony.

There are several traditions that point to unconditional love as the ultimate and most important principle of a spiritual life.  But that is only half the story.  Because our lives – and the lives of all entities in this world – consist of more than love.  They also consist of Energy.

Love and Energy are the two ultimate constituents of the universe.  If love derives from connectivity, then energy is the stuff that the love connects.  You can’t have connectivity unless it is connecting something.  Just like sound waves can’t travel in a vacuum because they have no air in which to create their waves, so love needs energy in order to manifest itself.  When I say Energy, I’m referring to energy as Einstein described it when he wrote his famous equation that e=mc2.  Energy is a function of matter.  Energy and matter are inseparable.  Energy is what we are all composed of.  You, me, the sun, that rock, the water, the air, and everything else.  Every atom, every molecule.

And there is a certain type of energy flow that has self-organized into life.  Each cell within our bodies is a self-organized mass of swirling energy that maintains itself using a natural form of intelligence known as animate intelligence.  And each one of those billions of cells connects with others, to form organs, blood flow, a nervous system, and all the other miraculous complexities that coalesce to make you and me into the mind/body organism known as a human being.

Starlings flocking: an example of the self-organized creativity that is the basis for all life on the earth.

When I’m talking about Harmony, I’m talking about the harmonizing of these unbelievably complex, exquisite, self-sustaining, resilient, flexible and miraculous energy flows that keep us all alive.  They are, in fact, part of a system of self-sustaining energy flows that keep everything else alive too.  It’s an astonishing process that’s been going on now for about four billion years in this beautiful cradle we call the Earth.  And when you and I die, those energy flows will keep going.  For billions of years more.

When I’m talking about Harmony, I’m talking about harmony within that mind-boggling complex system called your own mind/body organism.  And harmony between your organism and all those other organisms – both human and non-human – around you.

And it’s important to understand that Harmony doesn’t necessarily mean calm serenity.  Harmonizing these energy flows means permitting your own organism to respond to its own internal drives and to the inputs it receives from the outside world in the manner that is most beneficial at that moment in time for your organism.  If you’re in the middle of a game of tennis, harmony might mean smashing the ball with all your power into the court of your opponent.  If you’re driving on a freeway and someone starts pulling into your lane by accident, harmony might involve an immediate adrenaline rush followed by swerving slightly to avoid an accident.  If you’re dancing with your friends on a Saturday night, harmony might mean letting your body go wild in ecstasy.  And if you’re having a heated argument with your spouse who just said something really unfair to you, harmony might mean letting your anger express itself forcefully, as long as it done with skill and compassion.

But harmony can, of course, also mean calm, measured, internal modulation of energy.  And it’s something that can be learned.  Something that our civilization tends to ignore, but which other traditional cultures have developed techniques for managing and optimizing.  In particular, the Chinese tradition has evolved practices over thousands of years to get in touch with that internal energy and to harmonize its flows.

So how do Love and Harmony relate to each other?  Here’s one way to think about it.  In other non-human organisms, harmony is the natural state of affairs.  But we humans have a way of letting our thoughts, worries and mind-constructions disrupt that harmony.  Fortunately for us, we also have a unique capability to love, arising from our minds’ unique capacity for self-awareness.  When that unconditional love is applied to energy, harmony has the potential to arise.  But our bodies are made up of layers upon layers of energetic and muscular blockages that have accreted within us through all the years of our conditioned existence.  And that’s why Love alone – even if it’s unconditional – is not enough to recreate those harmonious energy flows.  We need to learn harmonious action and unlearn a lot of disharmony first.

And for our mind/body organisms to be truly happy and fulfilled, they need both the Love and the Harmony.  Achieving one without the other is certainly a good start.  It’s nothing to sniff at.  But for a fully integrated, long and happy life, filled with meaning and health, you need both.  Love and Harmony.  And that’s what this blog is about.

[Next post: Intention – the beginning of the spiritual path]

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