It doesn't take much to experience it. In fact, it takes nothing at all. Strip away all the trappings of the life you've built, your successes, your failures, your investments, your belongings ... everything ... and there it is! Like the air you breathe. Love.
If you're like me it will take some practice to dip into this endless sea of love. You will have to move beyond your most cherished romantic fantasies. You will need to release yourself from the grip of "our culture of never enough" as described by researcher and author, Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW. (For Ms. Brown's blog go to www.brenebrown.com) You will have to recognize that the longing you feel in your heart for the perfect love is actually a portal to your own divinity.
Divinity? Really? Isn't that a bit grandiose?
Divinity. Really. And there is nothing less grandiose than realizing that you are, like every other living thing on this planet and in the entire universe, a part of and loved by the Divine. How do I know? I have practiced for decades the difficult and often frustrating art of stripping away the stories I've internalized that have kept me arm's length from the love that is my birthright. Here's what I've learned:
Life is challenging. The Buddha taught that life is suffering. His observations pointed to the truth of our human existence. We are born, we are vulnerable, we experience hunger, we suffer illness, we strive, we fail, our successes are fleeting, we grasp, and we suffer loss, we die. Not the most uplifting message. But that, obviously, was not all. The Buddha went on to say that every sentient being has the unique ability to realize their own divine nature. The challenge is to get out of our own way by accepting our vulnerability and opening our hearts to every moment of life ... moment by moment.
We are vulnerable. From the moment we are born we need the support of those who love us. This never ends. We, in the U.S., grow up in a culture that promotes independence with a vengeance. In my own family we joke, especially when we are at our wits end and someone offers advice, "Don't tell me what to do!" It's a joke, of course, but as Sigmund Freud pointed out, there is a thread of truth woven into every joke. We don't like to depend on others and that is a large part of what keeps us from realizing our own true nature ... we are, all of us, a part of the Divine ... not apart from the Divine.
Love is our environment. Like fish in the sea, we live in an environment of which we are largely unconscious ... until something goes awry. We notice when we struggle to breathe. We notice when wild fires rage and strange weather patterns emerge. Consider an even subtler environment ... the environment of love. We tend to notice when it seems lacking ... wars rage, terrorism persists, random acts of violence break out, we lose a loved one or never truly connect to that one ideal love. But, here's the thing ... by striving to keep ourselves from acknowledging our vulnerabilities, we cut ourselves off from the love that is our birthright. (For a brilliant discussion of this phenomenon please read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.)
We each can experience Divine Love. I am not talking about religion here. While practicing religion is a fundamental right in this country, so is the choice to reject religion. It is not my purpose to argue either one. I simply want to say that Divine Love is the environment in which we live. I believe that without it, there would be no romantic love, no parental love, no self love. I believe that disengagement from it, leads to war, terrorism, violence, and loneliness. I have learned that even in my darkest hours I can open my heart to the Divine Love that permeates our world and become inspired to touch the lives of others with simple acts of kindness. I have learned that Divine Love is infinite and contagious. Do you doubt me? Try looking into the eyes of a smiling baby or playing fetch with a playful puppy.
It can be hard to open to Divine Love. Here's the rub. It turns out that we seem to be conditioned from the get-go to look outside of ourselves for the love we so desperately need. As babies, we look into the eyes of our parents for the reflection of the Divine Love that resides within. As children, we begin to feel the slings and arrows of human imperfection and we seem to internalize them as our own (unless we are fortunate enough to have loving guidance that helps us acknowledge that humans, all humans are imperfect and vulnerable.) As adolescence and young adults, we begin to steel ourselves against heartaches and perceived failures by constructing personas and placing blame. At this point, we have created an "us and them" construct which keeps us from fully knowing ourselves and realizing the Divine in all. The very idea of Divine Love becomes suspect, and it should, in my opinion because Divine Love is not an idea, it's a reality that can be experienced.
Meditation, time spent in nature, and acts of kindness ... are gateways to Divine Love. Creative acts and playfulness will also get you there. Understanding and accepting your vulnerability and the imperfections of others is a difficult and worthy practice that pays off by opening the doors to Divine Love.
Once you experience Divine Love you will always have access to it. So what? Why does it matter? Because without it you will always be caught in the "culture of never enough." No matter how hard you strive, no matter how well you behave, no matter how successful you are, your heart will feel the longing for Divine Love and you are likely to misinterpret that longing for a better partner, or a higher paying job, or a more beautiful body, or ... or ... or ... not that there's anything wrong with those pursuits when they don't own you. But, I believe, based on my personal experience and supporting research, disengagement from Divine Love equals a life governed by pursuit that never fully satisfies.
What have you got to lose? Give it try. Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. Sit quietly in nature for twenty minutes or write a poem about vulnerability ... yours. Play with your dog without thinking of anything else. Paint! Create a garden! All the while, open your heart to Divine Love. It can't hurt. Honestly. You might even experience a taste of what the Buddha came to realize. We are all a part of One Divine Love.