We Swim in a Sea of Love
There are moments in life when our hearts reawaken to the centrality of love. If you have children, perhaps you remember the moment when you first held your newborn. In that liminal time, your heart sang and called out its reminder for you to live from your greatness — your best self. If you don’t have children, perhaps you remember the experience that unfolded after the death of a loved one. My first touch of death happened when I was 9, and my cousin, David, died after a tragic battle with leukemia. He was only 6, but the love and openness he shared during his short life touched many people. Even at that young age, I remember thinking about how my life would be different because of him. I deeply yearned grow into a person whose life would express the fullness of this gift we’ve been given. Death and birth are two experiences that can open the window of our hearts, and let the breezes flow through and enliven our spirits.
In the intervening years, I have repeatedly failed to live into the expression of love that touched me so deeply through those experiences. And in the gap between the one I yearned to be and the person I had become, I discovered deep wells of shame and sadness. To cover those feelings, I became a master of deception and misdirection, projecting the shadow of the things I hated about how I was living onto others, and believing it was Truth. Resentment, judgment, martyrdom and addiction became constant companions. I was the embodiment of samsara, a cycle of suffering that seemed to be stuck on repeat.
Like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog’s Day, most of us are prisoners to an endless cycle of repeated patterns. Our minds are perpetual motion machines, reinforced by the patterns in our daily lives, the people we live with, and especially, the stories we tell ourselves. And like the movie, we try, again and again, to get out of the repeating cycle. Much of our effort, though, is like the flailing limbs of someone who doesn’t know how to swim. We have to work with the water in order to stay afloat, just as we have to work with our hearts if we want to embody the love to which we are called.
We swim in a sea of love, even as we mourn our isolation. This, I believe, is the central human predicament. We have been cast out of love’s garden because we continuously eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Another way of putting it is that our minds, and their obsession with judgment and separation, prevent us from experiencing the fullness of love that is both our birthright and our highest expression.
As you probably know, last week the government released a report on the impact of climate change. The media narrative that has emerged is that our president was trying to bury the report by releasing it on Black Friday. The deeper story, however, has nothing to do with Trump. Black Friday is the perfect day to release the report, because it embodies the world we have created, in which our greatest addiction is that we substitute things for what really matters. We fill the void in our hearts with bargains we find on shelves, and for a brief moment it works. And if you’re one who has seen through that illusion, and stayed home on Black Friday, then perhaps you might notice how good, strong and powerful you felt as you judged those shoppers. It’s seductive, but similarly pollutes our systems.
Yes, we need people who can fight the many horrific manifestations and distortions of the systems we’ve created. Politics and economics are key drivers of the climate that is killing us and destroying our future. But if anger, disillusionment and despair are the energy sources that drive our change, then they will also be the sources that power our future.
It was this recognition, I think, that inspired the retreat I attended back in 2010 and recently wrote about, a retreat called “The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change”. At this time, as we face the darkness of the coming winter (both literally and metaphorically), we must also learn to embrace the dawn that is rising within. At the retreat, two of the participants felt moved by one of Rumi’s poems and created the song below. “Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do,” said Rumi. “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Teresa and Cam transformed Rumi’s poem into a work of inspiration, and another participant of the retreat recorded it and then shared it with me. As Teresa affirms and invites midway through the song, “You gotta let your heart sing loud, and find your song, then everyone else’s harmonies will come along…”
New possibilities are emerging, for me and, I think, for all of us. We are being called, first and foremost, to transform our hearts. Yes, we need a revolution. We need it desperately. But if it is built on the patterns of revolution we were taught in school, it will still lead to the same outcome. Instead, go deeply into your heart’s capacity to love the world. Step outside and gaze up at the stars if you can see them, or the moon if you live in a place you cannot. Remember the moments in your life when your heart was fully open, as it pondered the magic of new life, or its ending. Allow yourself to see that your life and heart are being called to a new and different way of relating to the natural world, the people around you, and especially, yourself.
Live into your capacity to experience and offer a love that is so much bigger than what you thought was possible.