“Together the myriad cultures of the world make up a web of spiritual life, and cultural life, that envelopes the planet. It is as important to the wellbeing of the planet as is indeed the biological web of life. This cultural web of life is the ethnosphere, the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations and intuitions brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. The ethnosphere is humanity’s great legacy.” – Wade Davis
I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I don’t chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant.?
I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60 &70′s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love … I will.
I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.
They, too, will get old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore.
I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.
So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day(if I feel like it).?
I believe when a person wants to engage in an Ayahuasca ceremony, one should do so in a respectful way which gives back to the earth, gives back to the culture and gives back to the forest from which the gift of this visionary plants comes from. Anyone who is interested in Ayahuasca should be supporting the efforts to protect the Amazon, and supporting the efforts to protect the original Ayahuasca cultures. I personally saw Amazon Medicinals do many supportive community acts while on the tour.
I prepared for the tour into the Amazon by getting myself spiritually, mentally and physically ready to enter into the visionary dream-like state of expanded consciousness. This opportunity allowed me to see more deeply the problems that challenged me in my life.
Ayahuasca is a phenomenally powerful plant, not to be trifled with. Personally, I would NEVER take this plant medicine on my own – I always have done so under the care and guidance of a Shaman. I say that not out of some cultural snobbery, but out of genuine concern for people who think this is some popular psychedelic experience that they would like to have with no potential downside.
Don’t EVER make the mistake of thinking this is something fun or entertaining or to be taken lightly. Michael provides the group with safe lodging and skilled shamans who have had many years of experience working with Ayahuasca and the altered state of reality. I received many benefits from the shaman’s skill and knowledge as they cleaned my being of heavy emotional and spiritual baggage. The next day I had a sense of well being and deep sense of hope and excitement about my existence and the life before me. Although my experience with Ayahuasca was not an easy one , it did leave me more healthy and clean feeling.
A natural medicine, Ayahuasca brew is non-addictive and can be utilized for treating many illnesses and diseases. I have full trust in Michael’s ability to guide sincere people to this experience for their personal healing work, Also I pray that change will occur among all living beings and foster respect for all life everywhere for the future generations.
I recommend Michael and Amazon Medicinals with full confidence for those seeking this kind of spiritual experience.
Fall Equinox, also known as Mabon, occurs in the middle of September. It is the main harvest festival of the Wiccan calendar and marks the beginning of Autumn. The Goddess manifests in Her Bountiful Mother aspects. The God emerges as the Corn King and Harvest Lord. Colors are Orange, Dark Red, Yellow, Indigo, and Brown. It is the festival of thanksgiving.
Select the best of each vegetable, herb, fruit, nut, and other food you have harvested or purchased and give it back to Mother Earth with prayers of thanksgiving. Hang dried ears of corn around your home in appreciation of the harvest season. Do meditations and chanting as you store away food for the Winter.
Hopefully if you’re at this site and reading this you are well aware of the alternatives to using disposable bottles and recycle the ones you do. The advent of bottled water sent our already wasteful consumer culture into pollution overdrive and it’s a tremendous task to put the brakes on the momentum of this waste. Here is a list of plastic bottle fun facts that put the magnitude of this pollution into scope.
* Plastic bottles take 700 years to begin composting
* 90% of the cost of bottled water is due to the bottle itself
* 80% of plastic bottles are not recycled
* 38 million plastic bottles go to the dump per year in America from bottled water (not including soda)
* 24 million gallons of oil are needed to produce a billion plastic bottles
* The average American consumes 167 bottles of water a year
* Bottling and shipping water is the least energy efficient method ever used to supply water
* Bottled water is the second most popular beverage in the United States
Although it can be easy and convenient to pick up bottle beverage products the end cost to the environment is staggering. So be mindful when you drink…and remember, friends don’t let friends drink from disposables!
How can you build the life you want? The answer to that question is different for each of us. But it’s critical that you answer it, because in the answer you will find purpose and meaning. Many of us look for happiness in things, but happiness doesn’t come from things, it comes from how we relate to ourselves and our world.
1. Be True to Yourself – This doesn’t mean a life without compromise. It means that you don’t lie to yourself. It means that you find out what is true in your heart, and you seek people, places, and experiences which support that core truth. It means you don’t settle for mediocrity. It means you keep striving for excellence even in the face of failure, because you know you are not mediocre. You know that you are absolutely unique and are capable of contributing something great. Being true to yourself means you don’t hide behind a mask. It means you’re a WYSIWYG person.
2. Have a Vision for Your Future – Take action now, with a picture of your future in mind. Have a vision that improves your life and the lives of others. Our CEO has a vision of attaching our ergonomic products to every display and laptop in the world. He never stops talking about it, because he knows if we realized even a portion of his vision, that our world would be a better place. Some people have a vision of living off the land like Thoreau (HT to Paul Buchheit). You already know how to build a vision. You do it on a small scale everyday when you jump in your car and drive to a destination. You have to start with a destination in mind or you’ll end up at some random place. So what is your life vision?
3. Avoid Debt – Debt is slavery. If you can’t afford it now, save for it. If you do decide to take on debt make sure it’s critical to your life vision. What is important enough to take on debt?
* A home? Maybe
* An education? Maybe
* A business? Maybe
* A car? Maybe
* A pair of shoes? No
* A latte? No
* A night out drinking? No
* Christmas gifts? No
* Trendy new eyeglasses? No
* An iPhone? No
Make sure you’re not paying compound interest on stuff that will end up in a landfill or get flushed down the toilet. Make it a rule, to avoid debt.
4. Save – The financial experts all say, Pay Yourself First. Pay yourself at least 10% of your gross income. It’s easy if you have 10% automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited in an investment portfolio. You’ll never miss it.
5. Continue Your Education – Invest in your mind. Few people do.
* 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school
* 42% of college graduates never read another book
* 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year
* 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years (source Jeff Jarvis)
Traditional education isn’t an end, but a beginning. Traditional educators endeavor to create within your mind, a set of tools with which you will build a lifetime of education. Even if you never acquired a traditional education, you can still enjoy a lifetime of learning and growth. Keep an open mind, look for educational opportunity everywhere and become a wealthier, smarter, more creative person.
6. Take Responsibility for Change – If you aren’t getting the results you want from life, you’re probably thinking and doing things that are counter-productive. Only you can identify what those things are and only you can take responsibility for changing them. To discover what changes you need to make, find someone who is getting the results you want, then compare your habits to theirs. Find out how they think, how they speak, how they act, what they do, and what they value. Don’t be a phony, be yourself, but learn from other people. You can take huge shortcuts in life if you are willing learn from other people.
7. Learn from Mistakes – Not just your mistakes, but everyone’s mistakes. View history as an opportunity to learn. Some of us are embarrassed of our past and would rather just forget about it, but that can easily turn into denial. Denial is imaginative stubbornness which causes us to repeat the same foolish actions. We fear what we don’t understand, so if we don’t understand our failures we create unnecessary anxiety in our lives. To act courageously in spite of fear we must be honest with ourselves about our past.
8. Build Quality Relationships/Discard Destructive Ones – The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of the people you choose to have relationships with. Make sure your relationships are two way relationships. If they are all take and little give they are will suck the happiness out of your life.
Love: Look for a partner who is on a similar journey as yours, who has similar goals and values, and build on your relationship by giving your love and encouragement. Be ready to compromise, because great relationships are built on shared visions not selfish ambition. Share the difficulties and the rewards. Listen closely. Be patient.
Friendship: Look for people with similar values, who give as much as they take, with which you can share interests and hobbies. Good friends don’t try to change each other, they accept each other for who they are. Laugh, listen, and offer help.
Business: Expect high ethical standards from your business associates. Don’t waste time with people who use questionable business models and practices, they can only muddy your name. All ethical business relationships are built upon providing mutual benefit. If you are questioning a relationship, trust your instincts and examine the relationship to see if it is lopsided. If someone is questioning you, listen and be honest with yourself. Is there a mutual benefit? Are you being fair? Can you see another perspective?
9. Do the Right Thing Even When it is Unpopular – Have you ever gone along with the crowd and said or did something you knew hurt someone else? Most of us have. I have, and I’m not proud of it. Every time you fail to stand up for what you know is right, it leaves a little hole in your soul. It’s like cutting flesh away, it will heal but it leaves a scar. You can’t change other people, but you can call them on their bullshit or walk away when they are acting like Neanderthals.
10. Honor Your Commitments – Do not make commitments lightly. Before you commit to anything, think it through with your heart and your mind, and if you have doubts, don’t commit. But if you do commit, follow through. Our biggest commitments are to our spouses and our children. If you fail to honor those basic commitments, the damage can last generations (This is not to say that you should stay in an abusive relationship. If you are in one, get out. The abuser has already broken his commitment). Our business commitments can be nearly as important. If you fail to pay your bills and honor your contracts, you will see opportunity evaporate. Others will lose trust in you, which will destroy your relationships.
11. Be Charitable – Now that you’re saving 10%, take another 10% and give it to a worthy cause. I am sure some of you are thinking, “whatever, he’s talking about rich people, not me, I don’t have enough money to give any away.” No, I’m talking about you. If you only make $1000 per month then you only have to give away a 100 bucks. If you can’t give away $100 now, it will be even harder to give $1000 later. Why? Because it will add to your overall well being. You’ll feel better about yourself and your world and it will come back to you ten fold. Being miserly will not improve your life, generosity will.
What is shamanism?
Shamanism is an empirically validated system of healing and problem-solving that was discovered by our early ancestors. Estimated to have originated about 30,000 years ago, it was a worldwide practice of experientially operable techniques developed independent of any religious philosophy but based upon an intimate connection with the spiritual realms and a direct interaction with compassionate and helping spirits. Shamanism is an active and participatory science whose tenets of truth are just as workable and effective today as they were when first implemented.
In 1964, Mircea Eliade’s encyclopedic text Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy was published in English. Translated from its 1951 original French version, it is recognized as the first and remains today as one of the authoritative works on the subject. In the opening pages, Eliade brings clarity to the confusion around the definition of a shaman. He points out “if the word ‘shaman’ is taken to mean any magician, sorcerer, medicine man, or ecstatic found throughout the history of religions and religious ethnology, we arrive at a notion at once extremely complex and extremely vague; it seems, furthermore, to serve no purpose, for we already have the terms ‘magician’ or ‘sorcerer’” (1).
Eliade says that the actual definition of a shaman is much more strict and that “magic and magicians are to be found more or less all over the world, whereas shamanism exhibits a particular magical specialty: ‘mastery over fire’, ‘magical flight’ and so on. By virtue of this fact, though the shaman is, among other things, a magician, not every magician can properly be termed a shaman. The same distinction must be applied in regard to shamanic healing; every medicine man is a healer, but the shaman employs a method that is his and his alone.” (2)
The method that is “his and his alone” is what distinguishes a shaman from mediums, channels and all others who conduct communication with spirits and perform spiritual healing. A simple and direct definition is offered to us from Michael Harner, Ph.D., in his book The Way of the Shaman. “A shaman is a man or woman who enters an altered state of consciousness — at will — to contact and utilize an ordinarily hidden reality in order to acquire knowledge, power and to help other persons.” (3) While in this altered state of consciousness “the shaman specializes in a trance during which his soul is believed to leave his body and ascend to the sky or descend to the underworld.” (4) This “soul travel” is what has come to be known as the shamanic journey and these places, these separate and hidden realities, are the realms in which the first practitioners of Traditional Oriental Medicine traveled in, explored and returned with information about healing.
Where do shamans go?
A basic concept that separates shamanism from many modern philosophies, including traditional psychology, is “where” these places in the shamanic realm lie. To the shaman, while in trance he is visiting actual places that exist in a spiritual realm distinct and different from himself. In psychology, these places, and for that matter also the helping spirits, are visualized aspects of the shaman’s self that lie fully within his being or psyche. These spiritual places visited by the shaman lie in what has been termed Non-Ordinary Reality (NOR) from the many popular books of Carlos Castaneda. These are indeed different and separate realities from our Ordinary Reality (OR) that we operate here in our everyday waking state of consciousness.
The shamanic realms of NOR are basically broken down into “the three cosmic regions: the Lowerworld, the Upperworld and the Middleworld” (5) with the Chinese finding their equivalent of this concept in the esoteric teachings of Tian, Ren and Di (Heaven, Man and Earth). During the shamanic journey, the shaman travels up through a veil, such as a cloud layer (as in Jack and the Beanstalk), to reach the Upperworld or down through a tunnel in the earth (such as Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit hole) to descend to the Lowerworld. The Middleworld, which is the spiritual counterpart to the OR we are currently living in, is not as widely used for healing because of the simple fact that help is generally experienced as easier to obtain in the Upper and Lowerworlds.
How does a shaman get to NOR?
There are many methods of entering into trance, accessing NOR and setting off on a shamanic journey. Since the beginning of time, right up to the present day we still use drumming, spinning, dancing, singing, dreaming, hallucinogenic plants, specific kinds of meditation, vision questing, various forms of deprivation, and combinations of the above in individual or group ritual to accomplish this goal.
How are shamans made?
In indigenous cultures where the shaman was an integral part of the society, people generally were not chosen for this “profession” by their peers but rather by the spirits themselves. Indeed, the whole paradigm of this philosophy revolves around one’s ability to recognize, establish and then maintain contact with the spirits for the benefit of all. It is the spirits that are providing the shaman with his information, experience and power, and it is up to the shaman to become a “hollow bone” to let this particular brand of “Heavenly Qi” pass through him as unimpeded as possible.
What are these spirits and how do they help?
Generally speaking, the helping and compassionate spirits of NOR can take many forms. Throughout history, they have been seen as the gods of mythology, the primal forces and varied faces of the natural world, one’s ancestors and any other personalized interpretations of the divine. Again, it is the shaman’s relationship with his spirits and the subsequent results that will determine his status as an effective healer.
Specifically, the shaman heals by going into trance, entering NOR and working in relationship with spirit to bring back lost power, to return fragmented pieces of soul and to remove or sever the connection with any harmful spiritual intrusions on behalf of an individual, a group or a specific place.
In addition, he may return “merged” with these helping and compassionate spirits to continue healing here in OR. This is not a form of possession, rather the shaman remains in complete control of his physical faculties while still in trance, and during this time he invites the power of his helping spirit to perform healing activities through the conduit of his own body. One example of how this can work in a modern acupuncture treatment is to merge with a spirit such as Quan Yin or the Healing Buddha before needling.
Why is there not more information on this in the modern Chinese medical literature?
We do see glimpses of these treatments in the common TOM literature, although it is very limited and often incomplete with the Ghost Points and Possession being two examples. We must keep in mind that there is a very good reason for this, and unfortunately it is the same reason found again and again throughout the world’s history. Having one’s own connection to the divine undermines the social, religious and economic authority that has been, and is still, used to keep the general public “in line”. Techniques such as drumming, dancing and public ritual calls attention to oneself and harsh persecution has forced this way of life into hiding. Despite this, we can still find this knowledge when we look at certain forms of Qi Gong, the Yi Ching, Chinese astrology, animal style Kung Fu (another example of merging) and also if we interpret acupuncture point names and treatment protocols with their intended metaphoric intentions.
These ancient experiential concepts that TOM is founded upon are not lost; indeed, they are surfacing once again so that we may re-establish relationships with spirit. Once this is done, bridges that carry all forms of healing Qi back and forth from the body to the mind and to the spirit can be constructed and accessed to create balance and harmony from Heaven to Man to Earth.
Eliade, 1964: p.3
Eliade, 1964: p.5
Harner, 1980: p.25
Eliade, 1964: p.5
Eliade, 1964: p.270
Eliade, M. (1972). Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. (W.R.Trask, Trans.) Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1964)
Harner, M. (1982). The Way of the Shaman, A Guide to Power and Healing (2nd ed.)
New York: Bantam Books, Inc. (Original work published 1980)
Randal Lyons is an Acupuncture Physician licensed in Florida and California. He maintains a successful private practice in Palm Beach County, Florida, is a consultant for several in-patient addiction treatment facilities, and is author of the new book, “Opening the Eyes of the Heart”.
He is a graduate of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies’ 3 Year Program in Advanced Shamanism and Shamanic Healing and incorporates indigenous healing techniques into his practice.
He can be reached at:
Seven Dragons Holistic Health Care, LLC
6615 W. Boynton Beach Blvd. 354
Boynton Beach, Fl 33437
The concept of Mother Earth arose centuries later in Greece. In the 7th century BCE, the poet Hesiod gave the “deep-breasted” earth mother the name Gaea, she who “gave birth” to the sky, sea, and mountains, as well as the ruling gods called the Titans.
A few centuries later, Gaea’s daughter Rhea, was honored each year with festivals called “Hilaria”. The festivities lasted for three days and by all accounts were great family entertainment, with revelers bringing gifts and flowers to honor the mother of the Olympians. Throughout Asia Minor, similar Mother’s Day festivals were held in honor of her counterpart, the goddess Cybele.
Similarly, in the Celtic countries and the British Isles, the powerful goddess Brigit was transformed into her Christian successor, St. Brigid. Brigit’s sacred day, which was connected with the ewes coming into milk, became St. Brigid’s Day. Though formal mother worship was never completely eliminated in the British Isles, by the 17th century Mother’s Day had been almost completely submerged into Mothering Day. Not surprizingly, with the disappearance of a female deity, devotion to Mary, Mother of God, would soon emerge as the new Mother cult.
However far away from its origins the celebration has migrated, Mother’s Day is still much more than just a “Hallmark® holiday”. And certainly more than remembering to send a card and flowers, or hanging out with the family. More, even, than expressing gratitude for the instrument by which you came to be.
It is an opportunity to recognize that we are part of something universal, that we are all sons and daughters of this earth, connected, with the same blood flowing in our veins, and the same needs and desires calling out to our hearts. It is about honoring each other, and seeking the spark of Divinity which resides in each and every one of us.
Though now commercialized, Mother’s Day reminds us that we ought to take pause to appreciate the triumph and ferocity of motherhood that lies beneath the holiday’s sweet surface.
Become aware that loving is an art, proceed in the same way as you would to learn any other art.
What are the necessary steps in learning any art?
The process of learning an art can be divided conveniently into three parts.
One; Mastery of the theory
Two; Mastery of the practice
Third; Nothing must be more important that the art itself. This holds true for music, for medicine and for love.
Quite possibly here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture rarely try to learn this art, in spite of their obvious failures, in spite of the deep seated craving for love almost everything else is considered to be more important than love, success, prestige, money, power and almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims and almost none to learn the art of loving.
The error leading to the assumption that there is nothing to be learned about love lies in the confusion between the initial experience of “falling” in love and the permanent state of “being” in love, or as we might better say of “standing in love”
If two people who have been strangers, as all of us are, suddenly let the wall between them break down and feel close, the feeling in this moment of oneness is one of the most exhilarating, most exciting experiences in life. It is all the more wonderful and miraculous for persons who have been shut off, isolated, without love. The miracle of sudden intimacy is often facilitated if it is combined with or initiated by sexual attraction and consummation. However this type of love is by its very nature not lasting. They take the intensity of the infatuation, this being “crazy” about each other for proof of the intensity of their love, while it may only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness.
This attitude that nothing is easier than to love has continued to be the prevalent idea about love in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. If this were the case that loves is easy, people learning the art of love would be eager to know the reasons for the failure and to learn how one could do better or they would give up the activity?
Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a “standing in” not a “falling for”. Love is primarily giving not receiving. Giving is the highest expression of potency.
The most important sphere of giving however is not that of material things, but lies in the specifically human realm.
What does on person give to another? She gives of herself, of the most precious she has, she gives of her life. Not a sacrifice but that of what is alive in her…..her joy, her interest, her understanding, her knowledge , her humor, her sadness of all expressions and manifestation for that which is alive in her. Thus giving of her life enriches the other person, she enhances the other’s sense of aliveness by enhancing her own sense of aliveness. A mirror is the result for each to see the divineness in the other. But not only in love does giving mean receiving. The teacher is taught by his students, provided they do not treat each other as objects, but are related to each other genuinely and productively.
Beyond the element of giving the active character of love becomes evident in the fact that it always implies certain basic elements, common to all form of love these are care, responsibility, respect and knowledge.
Love is the order of the universe and we are its atoms.
It is the ocean and we are its drops…
Through love the heavens are brilliant;
Without love even suns and moons are eclipsed
Wherever and whenever people meet, it is never long before love and relationships – their problems and confusions, their bliss and beauty – is discussed.
Love is as essential to us as air; a force that drives us all. It determines who we are, who we become, what we can achieve and, through this, how the world will evolve. It may even determine how long we live. Policy advisors to government now claim that the single strongest predictor of whether an individual will be alive in 10 years time is his answer now to the question: “Does somebody love you?”
Psychologists have found links between love and self-esteem, mental, emotional, and physical well-being, and freedom from stress and anxiety. By sad contrast, those working with Romanian orphans have also found that children who are denied love can develop a “virtual black hole” where the emotional centres of their brains should be. Because of this, they can never grow up to be “fully human”.
Studies like these show us the importance of love. And yet, so many questions remain unanswered. How many of us can say, for example, what love really is, or how to find it, nurture it, and learn from it so it can feed and enrich our souls? How do we make our relationships work so that they – and we – are healthy, happy, and whole?
These are questions which scientists cannot answer. For that we need a Master who can teach us love’s simple truths and guide us onto the path of the heart.
RUMI: THE MASTER OF LOVE’S SIMPLE TRUTHS
This year marks the 800th anniversary of one such Master. Sufi mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi was born on September 29 1207 in Eastern Persia. As a child he gained a reputation as a gifted spiritual teacher, and went on to establish the Sufi order of whirling dervishes known as The Path of the Master.
During his life Rumi composed thousands of verses of mystical love poetry, the messages of which concern the notion of tahweed (unity), where, through love itself, we become one with “the Beloved”: the divine spirit of love within all of us. For Rumi, we are all divine and there is no problem we can face which does not have a solution, no question we can ask which does not have an answer, as long as we remember who and what we are. What, after all, is impossible to God? And the essence of God is love.
To love well, therefore, may be our most important task as spiritual human beings, because only by this can we overcome our difficulties and distractions, and reconnect with our true selves. Through love we can make miracles.
To find love, however, we must surrender to love, knowing that our partners are reflections of ourselves and that we are both capable of the deepest, most soulful, and intoxicating of loves – if we choose to see things this way. But let us start at the beginning…
WHAT IS LOVE ANYWAY?
The word ‘love’ is nowadays poorly defined. It stands for so much yet can mean so little. Other ages and cultures were clearer, suggesting that they were more thoughtful about and respectful of it. The ancient Greeks, for example, had many different words for love, describing its various forms and how each feels, including eros (sensuality and passion), philo (the love between friends), and agape (the love of God, or, more generally, the kindness and compassion we show to all people when we recognise them as divine and special beings, just like us).
For Rumi, any (and all) of these forms of love is a gateway through which we can step to meet God. When we are loving and loved by another, our perceptions change and things become brighter, clearer, and more meaningful. We see the world as it really is: alive, intelligent, and benign. Even a gesture from our lovers can leave us swooning in sacred meaning. We wake up to the world and, through this awakening, we realise that everyone and all things are part of a single consciousness: We are One – and, more remarkable still: We are all God.
The problem for modern relationships is the pace of life. We do not have time to reflect on love, to experience it fully, or even to be in the company of our lovers as much as we would like. We are always wanted somewhere else. On top of this, in the modern age, we are all consumers and consumed. As consumers of a fast-food lifestyle, we have grown to expect instant answers and gratification; to simply be ‘in love’ and our lovers to feel the same.
Love’s confusions arise from this because love, despite the spin which makes it look so easy, is never really that simple. It requires that we look more deeply at ourselves and our lovers, who have been gifted to us by God for our mutual spiritual advancement, and not approach them just with expectations to be met.
If we accept love in this way, we will learn from it and grow; if we have demands and expectations, however, we will be disappointed and experience rejection and hurt when love does not go our way. These feelings click into our deepest wounds and lead to defensiveness and conflict – the opposite of love in any form.
To avoid this, we must be clear on what ‘love’ means to us, because when we know what we want there is less room for misunderstanding. We must also be willing to explore and release our feelings of rejection if and when they arise. By doing so, we free ourselves from hurt so that in future – and in Rumi’s words – we “Do not revisit the past” because “This fleeting moment must not be wasted”.
HOW CAN WE BE MORE LOVING?
Intimate relationships are our universities of the heart. In them we will find challenges and blessings, ecstasy and sorrows, and come to realise that our lovers are our mirrors and we are reflected in their eyes. If there is conflict in our relationships it is because we ourselves are in conflict; if there is joy and fulfilment it is because we have found peace within ourselves.
Love seeks balance, stability, and a subtle deepening. For it to evolve in a positive way, it is not necessary, therefore, to force things in our relationships or to worry that we are not doing enough or being as loving as we could; it is only necessary, as a first step, to Do No Harm. This is the first principle of love and Rumi urges us to use it to find our equilibrium:
If you are like the wind: sometimes hot, sometimes cold,
Find the place within you where heat and cold are no more
Then love can evolve naturally towards its perfection.
In Sufi tradition, life is a mystery and we cannot know its secrets, but there is a logic to the universe beyond our understanding and things are unfolding as they should to help us learn, heal, and to love. We are all as perfect as we can be in this special moment.
The relationship you have now, therefore, is perfect for who you are at this given time because you still have more to learn from it. But that doesn’t mean that you or your lover cannot become more perfect still! Each passing second brings change, the possibility of healing, new insights, and new ways of being. Perfection is not an absolute, but a process of evolution. “In aiming for perfection”, Rumi reminds us, “it is God that we become”. As we become more loving, we attract more love to us.
Every relationship – even the most unsatisfactory – is part of this evolutionary process, giving us the opportunity to practice our love, to open our hearts, and create perfection in the moment. If we are wise to love we will learn from it and this will allow us to better understand ourselves and move forward.
To do so, we need to look at ourselves, at what motivates us or holds us back, and at where we must place more of our attention so we are balanced and whole. When we are perfect beings, perfection cannot help but flow towards us. Rumi’s advice, then, is simple:
Keep company with Saints
And you will become a Saint!
AND WHEN PERFECTION SEEMS HARD TO COME BY?
It is difficult, when our hearts are broken or we are sad at the world, to feel that such perfection exists or can be found, or that we can trust enough to give ourselves completely to another. It is our challenge to do so. We must be the “Spiritual Warriors” Rumi implores us to become, and not give in to despair at our ‘failures’, for they are opportunities, too, for learning and growth.
Come, come, whoever you are!
Wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire,
Come even though you have been broken a hundred times!
Come, and come again,
Ours is not a caravan of despair!
Relationships work because of openness, vulnerability, and a desire to love, no matter what. When we approach our lovers with a bitter heart or with sadness and fear in our souls, that is what we bring to them and what our relationship becomes: “I have run to you because I am afraid of myself. Please don’t give me back to myself!”
No relationship can ‘save’ us from the problems we bring to it. Instead, it will magnify them so we see what needs to be healed and are given an opportunity to do so. If we find it hard to give love, for example, then it will be equally hard for love to find us, and this will be central to every relationship we have until we decide to heal it. Our relationships reveal these truths and this is our lover’s gift.
It is clinging to hope and expectations – the ‘what could have beens’ – that cause us pain when we absorb ourselves with relationships that have failed. When we learn from them and let go, however, our pain is released and we can greet new lovers with wisdom, dignity, and respect for ourselves and for them.
There is a simple law of the universe that embraces us in times of sorrow: Love seeks balance, and our pain now is equal in measure to the joy that will come. Trust that it will and allow yourself to be blessed for, as the Master of Love remind us, “Peace always keeps company with troubles”.
The important thing, then, is to know the unresolved issues in our hearts. In this we find freedom, not shame. By understanding our pains and fears we and our lovers can find creative solutions so that love can flow once more. Knowing our answers, we can navigate our relationships so that, one step at a time, we give more of ourselves and open our hearts to love.
The person we are learning to love is always ourselves. When we understand this, our lover becomes our ally in helping us reconnect with our souls so that what is hidden becomes visible to us.
The mirror of my soul is your face, my love;
You reflect my perfect being
WHAT, THEN, ARE OUR BLOCKS TO LOVE?
There is a conflict within all human beings between what our souls know to be true and what we are taught is true. What every newborn child knows in his bliss-state of being is the reality of love; what he is taught by life is to fear. We will all have far more training in the latter than in how to love and to recognise it in others! Through our conditioning, we become experts in withholding trust.
Fear closes us down and, since the world we create is the one we perceive, once we shut ourselves off from love, fear is all we know because it is all we see. To change this we must be courageous in love so that, through our example, those around us can also wake up to the truth. By acting from love – no matter what – we create a more loving world, free of the limitations we have known.
“Leap into the fires of love”, writes Rumi.
When you know ecstasy
You cannot live without the flames
We must embrace love and allow it to flow – fearlessly, passionately, uncompromisingly – as the route to freedom for our souls. The path of the heart is one we must walk now.
The time for staying home is over.
It is time we entered the garden,
For the sun has risen on a new day of happiness:
Our day of vision and unity
By Ross Heaven. Adapted from the book, Love’s Simple Truths: Meditations on Rumi and The Path of The Heart.