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Staying in Love

Cultivating Love

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Dear Friends,

We all enjoy being with people who are in love, to see their delight not only in each other but also in everything around them; and it is sad and somewhat painful to witness those same people months or years later when they have turned against each other, even to the extent of making false accusations in their attempt to besmirch the reputation of the no-longer-loved. We see it in children – best friends one day and ‘I hate her’ the next – in adults, in societies, and of course even in whole countries as they seek to demonise and destroy each other.

As role models for children and as essential members of society and the world community, surely we have a duty to go beyond that level of loving which opens and closes the heart like a door in the breeze. To achieve this each one of us can take on the challenge of staying in love – once the heart has been opened, how are we to keep it soft and receptive, gentle and forgiving, compassionate and understanding?

We can’t say that we’ve mastered this sacred art any more than you have, but we do have in our notes and library a whole range of helpful guidelines on how to stay in love. We’ll share some of them with you as we go along.

A.R. Orage (1873-1934)

Alfred Orage was an English writer who devoted the latter part of his life to promoting the mystical teachings of G. I. Guidjieff. In his essay, On Love, he described three levels of loving: physical, emotional and conscious. ‘Physical loving’ is short-lived, lasting for only three months at the most. ‘Emotional loving’ is what exists in most longer-term relationships. The ultimate is ‘conscious loving’ which is more long-lasting. Let’s examine the last two in more detail.

The emotional lover says, “I loved you once but now no more”; and, “I can only love you if you prove to me that you love me.” This lover says in all earnestness, “I love you”, but the reply from the recipient can only be, “I hear your fine words of adoration but, strange, I don’t feel loved.” Seldom does emotional loving bring anything other than pain and disillusionment.

The higher form of loving is ‘conscious’, using the language of Gurdjieff. Conscious loving always has a beautiful effect on both lover and beloved. The conscious lover says, as in the Shakespearean sonnet, “My love for you is as high and as constant as a fixed star.” Orage says that the conscious lover seeks to perfect himself that his beloved might become more perfect herself. The aim is to ‘do work on oneself’ for the sake of the other or, as Rudolf Steiner wrote, ‘to be like the sun, giving of itself for the sake of others, regardless of praise or censure.’

‘Conscious loving’ is of course more familiarly referred to as ‘unconditional love’, where we love without asking the beloved to behave accordingly to our particular set of conditions.

There are so many wonderful examples of this high form of loving which come to mind. Consider the life of the writer/seeker Paul Brunton who, upon observing that his wife and their closest friend were becoming increasingly devoted to each other, changed marital places with the friend and continued to live harmoniously with them when he was not traveling in Egypt or India. There was no jealousy, no resentment, just constant, conscious, unconditional love.

J.W. Goethe (1749 – 1832)

Widely considered to be one of the most important thinkers in Western culture, this German writer interlaced his works with the highest ideals of love in action. A few words of his came to mind soon after we had a brief chat with a friend about her increasingly rebellious 15 year-old daughter. The mother’s punitive approach was pushing the girl away still further. Any love between them was fading rapidly with each passing day. We didn’t offer her any direct advice at the time but later sent a note with some words of Goethe. He wrote:

If you treat man as he appears to be, you make him worse than he is. But if you treat him as if he were already what he potentially could be, you make him what he should be.

We cannot say at this stage whether this distraught mother was able to act on the advice of Goethe, for it is not always easy to look beyond the apparent faults of another and relate to a wise and loving soul who is fully aware of the crisis they are challenged with. Yet it can be done, not always at once but gradually, as we learn to focus on the fire hidden within the wood – to bring it forth requires close proximity to a live burning coal. Surely only love, respect, kindness can bring forth those qualities in another.

In the Toogoolawa Schools (www.toogoolawa.com.au) we talk to the young teenage boys - who’ve been referred from other schools because of their extreme behaviour – about mud covering a diamond. We say to them things like:

Inside you is a ‘diamond’. This is who you really are. All of your anger and bad habits are just the mud covering your diamond. No matter how much mud there is – even a truckload of it – the value of your diamond stays the same.

Here at Toogoolawa the teachers will treat you with love. They will talk to the diamond in you, not the mud. By coming to this school you’ve already started to wash the mud off your diamond, to become who you really are meant to be.

The effect on the boys is truly remarkable. As Goethe predicted, by being consistently treated as if they are wise young souls who’ve nodded off to sleep, gradually they begin to awaken to the ‘giant’ within.

Of course the same working principle can be applied in all would-be loving relationships. When a husband consistently treats his wife as someone he can but only treasure, and as one who brings love and beauty into his life regardless of her mood or hasty remark, without fail she rises to the mark and he marvels every day at his constant good fortune.

John Powell  (1925 –

Powell guides us towards selfless loving when he writes in his book, The  Secret of Staying in Love, that the true lover is always evaluating the level of his devotion to the beloved by silently asking her:

Is it more important to me that you are pleased with yourself or that I am pleased with you? Is it more important that you attain the goals you have set for yourself, or that you attain the goals I have set for you?

We could say that staying in love requires us to grow in love, every day, seeking always to serve the other; not in a slavish nor subservient manner, but with a sense of honour, and gratitude that destiny has offered this unique opportunity to foster and nurture the growth of our beloved.

We watched a man do this in a ‘true-life’ movie, The Home Song Stories. A step-father tolerated the repeated betrayals and verbal abuse of his wife yet was always there to pick up the pieces each time she returned to him destitute; and he raised her children as his own after she suicided. Such love never fades, seeking only the well-being of the other.

Powell’s book is rich in advice on how to develop high-quality loving. He echoes the earlier quote from Goethe when he writes of a fertile relationship:

The two couples drop, however gradually, the projected image which was the first source of attraction to find the even more beautiful reality of the other person ….. Each person values and tries to promote the inner vision and mysterious destiny of the other.

Because we have a lifetime’s collection of concepts, preferences and prejudices generally we don’t see the hidden richness of our newly-discovered beloved. As the old saying goes: ‘If you wear blue-tinted spectacles, all the world is blue’. What we see in the other at first is like a mirage in the desert – it’s not really there. Then, if we are blessed with such intuitive common sense, we learn to listen, enquire, and empathise. Feeling loved, respected and recognized our beloved reveals ever-more of themselves, giving us countless opportunities to nurture and promote those latent yearnings that perhaps even they were not yet aware of.

The process of discovering and fostering what is dear to the other can be compared to putting in the time and effort to find out what trees, shrubs and vines make up the ideal habitat for an exquisite and very rare butterfly; then planting lots of them in our gardens or nearby forest so our delicate little friends can prosper and flourish.

Herman Hesse (1877 – 1963)

Perhaps most widely known for his theosophical literary masterpiece, Siddhartha, Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946 for his novel, The Glass Bead Game. Much of his writing addresses the challenge of utilizing our own suffering as a catalyst for opening the heart still further. He wrote:

You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation… and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else.

Inevitably in a relationship – perhaps with family, friend or lover – there will be times when there is pain, deep emotional pain, whether through misunderstanding, loss, selfishness or thwarted desire. In ‘emotional loving’ we automatically blame the other, rail against fate or cover up our suffering  with quiet resentment.

Hesse is describing one of the tools for ‘work on oneself’ used by the ‘conscious lover’, the one who is committed to selfless, enduring unconditional loving. Once we can accept that our suffering is a gift or an opportunity to let go of something within ourselves, then we can turn towards it, be grateful for it, even love it as Hesse advises. The rationale for so doing is conveyed by the words of the timeless Lebanese poet, Kahil Gibran:

Your pain is the breaking of the shell which encloses your understanding.

As soon as we pour blame onto our beloved for the suffering we are experiencing we can already feel our heart beginning to close. When we can (soon) offer our silent gratitude to the other for holding up a mirror for us to see which expectation, prejudice or delusion we are caught up in, our heart opens again, and then still further, until the person feels truly loved. Of course the additional gain is that, by not reacting negatively, we are ourselves a mirror for our lover to see the mistake they have made (if any) or to catch a glimpse of a deeper level of loving within themselves.


Eknath Easwaran (1910 – 1999)

Author of over twenty books on inspiration and meditation, Easwaran’s Seeing with the Eyes of Love gives uplifting glimpses of what love means to Christian mystics like Thomas a Kempis, Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Genoa, and others. He writes in a warm, anecdotal way, offering practical insights into how to overcome obstacles to loving more fully. In particular he addresses the importance of moving beyond the physical and emotional levels of loving to a more pure, unsullied, unconditional love, the final stage of romantic love, whereby the two people who are deeply in love expand this love to include more and more of humanity and indeed every creature. Of this level he wrote:

Your love for your partner has not diminished in the least; it has simply expanded to include all of life. Now you are relating to the Self, who is One in all. And indeed, the final stage is what you’ve wanted from the first. From there you can look back and see that sexual desire was really the yearning for unity – unity with one person to begin with, but ultimately with all of life.

The great American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote of an old fable: ‘There is only One Man… and you must take the whole society to find the whole man’. That is, to love one person really well, we must first learn to love everybody, including our enemies. The more we do this, the more we identify with the limitless love that is our true nature; and our partner in life will feel this increasing warmth in the same way as we feel more of the sun’s rays as the clouds begin to disperse.

Sathya Sai Baba (1926 - 2011)

Providing free health care, education and water to hundreds of thousands of the poor in India, Sai Baba, the ‘Man of Miracles’, teaches that love is the basis of the whole universe; that love is what holds the atoms together and keeps planets in their orbit; that love is life itself without which the body would be inert matter; and that infinite love lies within each of us waiting to be expressed in selfless service to others.

So often we’ve heard someone complain in a struggling relationship, “I haven’t got any more love to give. The well’s run dry.” Whenever we feel this way – that we have a finite or limited amount of love to share, or that loving someone is hard work – it could be that we are ready to expand into a higher form of loving, one that is enduring, effortless, unblemished, and which shines out from an infinite source within us all. Sathya Sai Baba says:

Expansion is the essence of love. When a lamp is lit from another, there are two where there was one. The first one did not stop emitting light. You can light a million lamps from one; yet the first will not suffer at all; love too is like this. Share it with a million, it will still be as bright as when it was alone.

The Sufis say that every shadow is pointing to a light; something is blocking that light. When we experience our own shadow of ‘Loving is too hard’ or ‘I haven’t got any more love to give’, we can explore within ourselves to find out what barriers we’ve been erecting around our heart. Perhaps we’ve been trying too hard to please (‘Please love me’), or going against our inner voice (‘Don’t stay’); or we could be looking for security (‘If I love you enough you’ll never leave me’), or maybe we are confused about what love feels like or how it is expressed. Many of these impediments to an open heart can be steadily dismantled or dissolved by seeking to ‘love all and serve all’, as advised by Sai Baba, until we are confident in just being the love that we are, giving of ourselves without inner effort.

In Summary

Our understanding at this point in time is that staying in love is mostly to do with ‘being the love that we are’. When we have confidence in ourself, with a certainty that our true nature is love beyond measure, we spontaneously radiate and express that love more and more, and we steadfastly resist giving any validity to those thoughts which block us from experiencing this love.

 

With love,
Ron and Su Farmer

 

Practice

Cultivating Love

A beautiful analogy for relationship-building is the garden. To have a colourful display we can either pull out every weed as soon as it appears, or we can plant so many flowers  that there is no room for any weeds to grow. Perhaps we can do both: that is, resolve to do better and more loving things every day; and, in addition commit to identifying and neutralising each one of the negative traits that dilute or contaminate our love.

Out of the myriad ways of enhancing the love we share with another, we’ve selected just a few which you might like to explore. They are a mixture of both ‘pulling out weeds’ and the ‘planting of many flowers’.

The Practice                     

Give selflessly.  Recently I heard a familiar story when a woman said to her husband, “The only time you are affectionate is when you want sex.” The complaint contains within it the recipe for a transformation in their near-terminal romance. If a man can accept that, in the main, ‘the woman’s heart knows the way’, he will listen to her advice and act on it as best he can. What might he do? A kind word, a helping hand, a foot massage, a thoughtful gift, an expression of gratitude, taking time to listen, all given selflessly, as an act of love without hoping for or expecting a particular response. Just one or more of these every day will begin to transform any relationship.

Never argue.  We all know the difference between arguing and discussing. The former aims to invalidate the other’s wish, belief or prejudice. The latter seeks to find the common ground, as if the couple were consulting each other, enquiring further into why they think in this way. ‘Winning’ an argument gives temporary elevation of ego at the expense of the other’s self-esteem. Surely we have no real desire to subjugate our beloved? Love is union, the sense of open-hearted oneness. How can we experience unity if we have to prove that we are better than the other? It would be more respectful and harmonious to conclude a discussion with, “You could be right”, “I’ll think about that”, “We are looking at the same mountain from different sides”, or some such open-minded expression. When our words emanate from a loving heart the tenor of our speech will be sweet, pleasing, gentle and inclusive. Hearing this our beloved will not feel threatened or wounded, only respected, considered and loved. This is one way in which love can grow.

Be grateful.  In the same way that we mostly take the life-giving gifts of Nature for granted – the air, earth, water, sun and ether – it is so easy to overlook how blessed we are that this other human  being has granted us the ongoing gift of their companionship. Expressing gratitude to our beloved regularly in a heart-felt way opens our own heart still further and is a beautiful message of valued friendship: “Thank you for living with me. What a treasure we share”; “Have I told you today how grateful I am that you share your life with me?”; “Thank you for listening so well, for your patience, your understanding, your perfect love”.

Gratitude becomes more heartfelt when it is practised in every part of our life: giving thanks for the air we breathe, for the warmth that protects and nourishes us, for every part of Nature, for the gifts that life brings both ‘good’ and ‘bad’, for our health, happiness, education and work. Every grateful thought or spoken prayer seems to open the door to the inner treasure-house still further, so that when we speak of gratitude to our beloved the words resonate from the depths of our heart.

Avoid blaming. When the negative emotions rise up in us –whether anger, sadness, jealousy, fear, loneliness, resentment, grief and so on – if we blame the other person for this we cultivate ‘weeds’ in the garden of our own heart. Not only does pointing the finger wound our beloved, it also wastes an opportunity to grow in patience, understanding, self-reliance, peace, wisdom and love. It is not a new philosophy to say that everyone is a ‘mirror’, particularly our partner in living. We can regard every one of their actions as a mirror reflection of something in our own minds. Our silent dialogue might go like this: “You did this. I feel resentful. This tells me that I am wanting you to be different. That’s like saying I can’t be happy unless it rains or stops raining, or until the ocean tide comes in instead of going out. The happiness I seek already lies within me. Thank you for the mirror so I can identify and discard yet another veil which hides me from my true Self.”

Affirm who you are. It is often said that to love another we must first learn to love ourself, or rather, to be aware of the boundless love that we already are. Therefore, to nurture the growth of love and happiness in our relationships, it will be increasingly helpful (the more often it is done) to affirm to ourselves each one of these age-old truths:

  • I am Love, Love, Love.

  • My wanting to be loved is really my yearning to experience the love that I am.

  • Within me is love;
    Around me is love;
    Above me is love;
    Love is all there is.

  • Within me is a vast, limitless ocean of pure and perfect love.

  • I breathe in love; I breathe out love.

  • I am in you; you are in me.

  • When I see you, I see me.

And there is so much more. Loving everyone the same, being true to oneself, learning to listen, forgiving, showing patience and forbearance, smiling and laughing, and so much more.

Relevant CDs in Self Help Therapy:

  • Self Esteem
  • Healing through Grief, Loss and Death
  • Overcoming Depression
  • Letting Go of the Past

Wonderful Books:

Love: What Life is All About - by Leo Buscoglia.
He writes not only about loving others, but loving yourself; not only about studying love, but living it.

Love is Letting Go of Fear -  by Gerald Jampolsky.
A very powerful book on what steps to take to expand into love.

Seeing with the Eyes of Love – by Eknath Easwaran.
Exquisite writing style, guiding us away from thinking patterns which keep us apart from loving in a deeper way.

Your Second Self – by Dr Wayne W. Dyer.
An inspiring book on transformational wisdom which leads us into higher levels of loving.

Purifying the Heart – by John Goldthwaite.
Describes the spiritual practice taught by Sathya Sai Baba for opening our hearts into pure love and compassion.

Radical Acts of Love – by Susan Skog.
True stories of heart activism and how compassion is transforming our world.

On Love – by A.R. Orage.
Sharing the principles for higher loving, from the mystical teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff.

A Return to Love – by Marianne Williamson.
Clear understanding of relationships, each one being regarded as providing us with the maximum opportunity for growth.

The Prophet – by Kahil Gibran.
Beautiful and profound verses of love, loss, marriage, etc.

The Secret of Staying in Love- by John Powell.
Practical ideas on how we can communicate better, sharing a joyful and genuine acceptance of self.

Conjugal Love – by Emanuel Swedenborg.
A report by the 19th century scientist-became-mystic on the teachings from the angelic realm on how men and women can truly love each other.

 

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