I remember the first time I even contemplated love consciously. After years of acting and playing out my conditioning and “good girl” role, I experienced an illness that devastated me and my family. A year later, on family vacation, I verbalized this inner exploration and recognition to my husband when I told him outright “I don’t know what love is. I don’t feel love. I don’t feel it for my own children, just a powerful sense of intense responsibility.” The look on his face was of shock. He was horrified. I felt a powerful fissure between us. He would never see me the same way again. We shared the same misunderstanding, did I not love my children? For me, this was about not feeling and not understanding Love.
Much of my journey after that has been about love. What is it? A feeling? I couldn’t feel it so it must not be that. I came to see it and define it as a verb. I act in ways that are loving. Taking responsibility, fulfilling responsibilities, doing “good” deeds, having a strong desire to help others. All the while, inwardly I was being a total jerk to myself in my thoughts; self shaming and blaming and very hard on myself. Yoga finally got her grips on me and I was taught how to cultivate the virtues, especially self compassion, which was very helpful, up to a point.
From Kavithaji’s teachings here I understand that I can’t really cultivate these virtues or Love. I can only make space for them to arise. I came to understand that I am never doing things for others, and that my actions are always self serving. What do I get out of being virtuous? To be the “good person” protected from judgment; accepted; seen in a good light. I was seeking self protection and safety in “my” virtue.
At our last retreat in Scotland I left with a profound experience that I am still digesting. The words on my lips are “Love is Allowing.” In Kavithaji’s previous teachings from the Bhagavad Gita she had given me a working definition of how we (humans) think love is: a transactional love that comes with expectations, give and take, and includes its opposite, hate.
My “love” for marginalized people and their suffering included “hate” for their oppressors. This kind of love is based on protecting my self image, the self image of a “good girl” who does the “right” thing and seeks to be protected by such saviorism.
True, capital “L” Love is identification. It is when I can see that oppressive energy in myself, my inner misogyny, how racism lives in me, classism, etc. My conditioning is alive and well in me. Although more self blame and internalized anger would have arisen in me in the past, the skills and insights I’ve gained here with Kavithaji and this sangha allows me to make space for this too. To see how the oppressors live in me.
In this recognition, I can do something about it. I can Love it by allowing it. Not allowing it as an excuse to be a hater, but allowing to transmute it; to change it; to transform it. Allowing it to be seen clearly, to witness, to feel at a felt sense level how it lives in me, to inquire, “What does my misogyny say about me?” The deeper I dig, the more space I can create for the light of awareness to shine on these shadows, to move them out of my blind spots. I empower myself to experience and offer a true Love that is not bound by expectations, that is unchanging, and quite rare indeed (Krishna, BG).
In identifying with the “other” and seeing the “other” in me, as me, the virtues arise on their own! Authentic compassion arises. I can make more space for reality; for what is to be; and for what Grace, what Consciousness, what the Goddess wants to come through me.
Suddenly I can receive Love, a tear in my eye, and energy in my body, to feel touched by another’s experience. I can feel Love! Kavithaji taught me that this “great receptivity” is the feminine power of allowing. When I give up over efforting and manipulation to be a particular way, to uphold my self image, to protect and defend at all costs, I am free to be. When I identify as Awareness, sacrifice my self image, and allow life to be as it is, I’m in Love!
I am clingy; I am lazy; I am bossy; I am a joy repressor. When I make space for all this to be, its power is transmuted from these shadows to empower me and I find myself unattached to outcomes (not so clingy); writing instead of watching TV (not so lazy); curious instead of bossy; and enjoying my life. Enjoying my aches and pains, the laundry, the toilet I need to repair, the humidity, and even the cold showers (okay, they are much more enjoyable in this heat;). I get to experience pleasure in both the “good” and the “bad.” This is allowing Grace. Allowing reality. I can’t know one without the other, so why not make room for it all? I save my energy from fighting and use it for growing; for evolving; for transforming from my smallness to whatever it is I’m here to do. To Love.