At the Yoga Church Gathering a few weeks ago, I invited everyone to contemplate the Source of Love. It was a spur of the moment question. Not something I had planned, but it struck a chord and led to an amazing discussion. About a week later I woke to thick fog blanketing my house and I struggled to get out of bed. But I did. And after my morning practice, I journaled. I wrote:
“Still pondering the question… What is the Source of Love? Great Divine Mystery we can’t speak it in language. Words can’t reach it. But in the stillness of our hearts it’s there. In the bright sun hidden behind thick fog it’s there. Isn’t it? I was about to write: ‘the truth is…’ But how do I know? All I can speak to is the feeling and the yearning and the inkling. I can say that standing in thick fog… finally feeling sun on my face… moving my body with my breath… These things feel laced with mystery. Or at least they can. If my attention is attuned. So… Is it the fog, sun, movement, breath—or is it the attention? The bhakti sutra, which I’ve been reading, speaks of an inner stillness. I keep returning to the idea of spaciousness. What home is there for stillness except spaciousness? And how in the crush of life do we find either?”
These musings reveal something about my relationship with Mystery. It’s utterly tethered to the natural world around me. I am an embodied being existing in the field of gravity and I ask my big questions in relationship with morning fog.
In his book Exquisite Love, William K. Mahony writes:
“At the center of all existence stands a deep mystery, and this is the mystery of existence itself. The fact that there is something rather than infinite nothingness reflects and gives form to a profound truth. The universe exists and we are alive in it.
How simple it would be if there were to be nothing at all. Yet, wondrously, there remains the inexplicable fact: there is being; and being continues to be from moment to moment, year to year, eon to eon. At the arrival of each new moment from within the deep mystery of being, the universe itself in a sense proclaims ‘Yes!’ to the miracle of existence.
A profound affirmation resounds in this proclamation. In their own unique ways, the daffodil reaching through the late winter snow, the baby bird breaking through its shell, trees reaching for the sky, the river running to the sea, the stars blinking in the vast night, all in a sense proclaim ‘I am!,’ and in so doing, take part in the mystery that is existence itself.
Who is it who hears this universal proclamation, ‘I am!’? We ourselves hear it, and we ourselves are moved by it, when our hearts are open to it. … What do we feel when we open our hearts to the wonder of existence? We feel love.”
I’ve been wrestling with the question ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ for as long as I can remember wrestling with big questions. And while I long ago gave up any hope for a definitive answer, I am overwhelmed with awe by the reality of Being… As Mahony so beautifully phrased it: “The universe exists and we are alive in it.” One of the longest standing questions of my spiritual search has been: What am I called to do in response? The universe exists and we are alive in it. What are we called to do in response? In all the years I’ve been asking this question, there’s always only been one answer. Love. Mahony asked: “What do we feel when we open our hearts to the wonder of existence? We feel love.”
This is, of course, where things get complicated. Because, as you might have noticed, a crucial step in these feelings of wonder and love is an open heart. And no matter how many cliches arise when we start talking about opening our heart to love, the fact remains that for most of us, it’s a really hard thing to do. Opening our heart to love is hard because our hearts have been wounded. Our hearts have experienced trauma and heartbreak.
The fact that we exist is a profound, mysterious truth. But it’s also true that life is sometimes difficult. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been exploring what stands in the way of love. We’ve talked about the inherited and conditioned habits that shape our automatic judgments and reactions. We’ve talked about the animosity, cruelty, jealousy, and self-righteousness that can show up in our thoughts and feelings and behavior. We’ve talked about the misidentification, ego, attachment, aversion, and fear that yoga calls the seeds of suffering.
Awhile back I said that we live at the intersection of vulnerability, grief, and gratitude. And this trio feels deeply relevant in a discussion about what stands in the way of love—about what keeps us gripping the doors of our hearts tightly closed.
It’s a vulnerable endeavor to open our heart to the world. I grew up in the presence of addiction, which means I grew up with an ever present sense of instability. I learned to control every possible thing that could be controlled. And, I got very good at projecting an image of control no matter how I felt inside. My nervous system was conditioned to believe that spontaneity was dangerous and it became really hard for me to access a relaxed sense of playfulness. I learned that it wasn’t safe to be vulnerable, which means that I learned that it wasn’t safe to keep the doors of my heart open. My experience might be different than yours. But I’m confident that somewhere along the path of your life, you’ve felt the vulnerability that comes with opening the truth of your heart to someone.
And then, of course, there’s grief. The grief of our personal pain. And the grief that comes flooding in as we open our heart to the suffering of the world. As we turn our attention toward love, we can’t help but feel sorrow in the face of so much pain. We want to protect the people we love. We want to keep them safe. And to the degree that we open our heart to loving those beyond our own circle, the larger our desire for protection and safety becomes. Of course, there’s no way to keep everyone safe, which means that choosing to love the world means we will grieve for the world. As Valarie Kaur says, grief is the price of love. And so is it any wonder, that sometimes it’s hard to keep the doors of our hearts open to love?
But would any of us give up our grief if it meant we also lost our love?
Honest love requires vulnerability. And it brings sorrow. But it’s ultimately the gift of our life. Who would we be without love?
I meditate on the Source of Love, not because I’m trying to find some exact definition, but because I’m trying to loosen the inner gripping that keeps the doors of my heart shut. I stand on the earth and feel into the reality of my breath and my body. I remember the profound truth: the universe exists and I am alive in it. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I’m thankful for the healing I’ve been able to find in this lifetime. I’m thankful for the deep presence of love I’ve found in a few key relationships. I’m thankful. And while, as I said in my journal, all I can speak to are feelings and yearnings and inklings, I imagine the Source of Love as a vast field of energy from which all of creation came into Being. The universe exists and we are alive in it.
So here’s my prayer for us. I pray that we remember to keep our attention turned toward the Source of Love. I pray that as we stand on the earth and feel into our bodies and our breath, that our hearts open to the feeling of gratitude. I pray that we find our way into the spacious inner stillness that exists always and already deep within our heart. And from this place of inner spaciousness, I pray that we find the courage—even in the face of vulnerability and grief—to move through the world from the energy of Love.