Friday, August 10, 2007

Early morning reflections on unconditional love

I ‘m pretty good about overcoming jet lag, Melatonin helps. But for a few days after returning from Sri Lanka - the trip can take more than 24 continuous hours - I do awake early in the morning, sometimes clear headed, sometimes worrying, focused on some problem or idea.

This morning, it has been ‘unconditional love.’ Many years ago I had a deep relationship with someone which both of us experienced as “love,” though it was rarely unconditional. We used to speak often about love. Later, as we were breaking up, she wrote me that we had been more in love with the idea of love, than with each other. Some years afterwards, she died suddenly.

Anyhow, here is part of what she wrote me in one memorable letter, that I have saved treasured and reflected on over the years.

“It doesn’t matter what I do, just how I do it.

“My effect in the world isn’t papers and projects and budgets; it isn’t even harvests – it’s how people feel and are when they are around me....

“Love is receiving someone in a space of total trust, openness, good will, acceptance.

“I can take each person I know and rank them on a scale which is the degree of openness and love with which I receive them – the amount of careful attention I am willing to give them, the ability I have to be with them. Notice that the quality lies in me, not them.

“Some people in my world are objects, which I have a fixed concept about and am not at all open to any information to the contrary. I can change who they are just by opening myself to them.”

I have found this to be true, but it can be difficult. Opening my self, in some degree to relative or complete strangers is something I now do quite well. And I am able to totally open myself, sometimes, to people whom I think genuinely love and respect me; whom I trust not to sneer or put me down for my meanderings, anxieties and uncertainties. The big challenge is opening myself to those whom I see as evil, or who have insulted me, or not “gotten who I am,” or, paradoxically, whose respect and love I fear I will lose by being authentically who I am, or who may impose a burden on my by seeking more than I can give.

What my friend told me, years ago, really does work. I have experienced it. I have found that It is possible to change who another human being is or perhaps discover who they are, or perhaps simply change my perception of who they are by opening myself to them. It seems as if it should be easy, but it isn’t. And Gandhi’s life, among others, teaches us that it can be painful and perilous.


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