The nature of love is that it brings everything that is not love to the surface.- Dance with the Beloved, Paul Ferrini
I think I should start with a big ‘ole disclaimer: I don’t actually believe in “not love.” I really believe that in the final analysis, when you step all the way back and consider the big, huge cosmic universal picture, there is only love. I say this with every ill-intentioned, gross, horrible, human thing I have ever done or ever witnessed or ever heard about in the forefront of my mind. War, poverty, illness, abuse, suffering and violence are simply the outcome of a systemic belief in the idea of separation between ourselves and God. Once the belief in separation is removed the so-called “bad” things cease to exist. In Reality (that capital “R” means something here!) there is no duality. There is only One. So yeah… we all get that “not love” is the fallacious deduction of separation.
Wonderful! Great! One problem – we have to actually exist, at least temporarily, in this world of our creation which we call reality (catch that little “r” I used there). Why? What the hell is the point?! I think (and lots of guruesque, spiritually advanced people seem to agree) we are here to evolve our spirit. That’s the purpose of this particular manifestation of reality. It is a school to learn in and a lab to experiment with. As in school there are rules and as in an experiment there are controls, but as any good freethinker knows- rules are made to be broken and control is an illusion. It is almost as if they exist for the benefit of our challenge. Every construct and control that has been handed to us in this reality should be questioned. I hope that none of us would blindly follow the abundance of “mediocre social contracts” (as Rev. Michael Beckwith said this past Sunday) with which we are indoctrinated from the moment we exit the womb and are slapped into this consciousness on the behind.
But I digress.
My point. My point is this… we have to start somewhere, with some kind of language to differentiate the reality from the Reality. In Reality all is always Perfect, Whole and Complete. Which is incredibly super and amazing and lovely in ways I can’t even describe. But in reality, I think we can all agree, things get a little messier, a little imperfect, a little incomplete. They have to. Otherwise, what would be the point of being here? So it is in these spaces of incomplete, imperfect, messy humanness that we get to do all of our learning and evolving. Like I said, it helps to have language for it and the convention of “love stuff” and “not-love stuff” seems as good as any to me.
Whew! Glad we are all on the same page now.
Back to our quote! Mr. Ferrini says that it is love’s nature to bring not-love to light. This means that love cannot help but to expose that which is not of itself. It is as if, when love is being expressed, not-love stuff gets a nice, big, fat floodlight shone onto it. The helicopters are whirring overhead and the scent dogs are on the loose. Not-love cannot escape the scrutiny of love. When a light shines very brightly the depth of darkness which surrounds it is all the more evident. Then the question becomes “What do we do with all that darkness?”
For me, this is where all that schoolwork turns into a post-doctoral thesis on spiritual evolvement. Concepts like Karma, or the Golden Rule if you prefer, are kindergarten shapes and colors in comparison to how I handle it when not-love begins revealing itself amidst love. Not-love can rear itself up either from within or from the other person. It doesn’t matter which. If we are in relationship, we are both going to have to deal with it. How we deal with it, what we do with it, how we choose to experience, process and move through these moments define who we are separately as individuals and what our relationship to each other is all about.
As an individual, how I find myself handling the not-love experiences acts as an indicator of where I am operating from spiritually. It tells me who I am in this moment, who I am in relation to this particular experience (fear, insecurity, guilt, jealousy, resentment, etc.), and who I am when I am in relationship with whatever person I am having the experience with. Since each of those things change with every moment, situation and person every instance of not-love is an opportunity to learn a thing or two about myself and my journey. The most groundbreaking thing I learned about myself in love moments was that I’m not great at receiving love. Big whoop. Most of us aren’t! Oh, and that love, both giving and receiving, feels really, really nice!!
But the things I learn in not-love. Oh goodness!! When it comes to depth of awareness and richness of growth, not-love wins all of the trophies and awards. Straight 10s across the board. These lessons are the big, fat juicy peaches of spiritual growth. They can be bitten into over and over again, chewed on, juiced out and gnawed all the way down to that rough, imperfect pit which lies at the core of every not-love moment I have encountered.
So what do I do when the not-love devils come out to play? Well, sometimes I act like a complete ass. That’s the truth, though I’m happy to report less true these days than in the past. But it does still happen on occasion. I lash out, I retaliate, I get snarky and snotty or become distant and closed off. Armor on! Defenses up!
Here’s a spot-on example out of my distant past:
One summer, while camping in the hot and sticky Florida Keys my tent sprung a leak and flooded in a torrential downpour, all of my food got scavenged by rabies aggressive raccoons the size of cougars and my delight of a four year old child decided not to sleep the entire night. I was hot. I was wet. I was exhausted. I was dirty. I was hungry. A wonderful, sweet, kind fellow camper offered to let me use one of her fans so that my son and I could cool down, dry off and perhaps get a little sleep. Very nice offer! Not in my opinion. You see, she had the audacity to give me her box fan instead of her tall, oscillating fan which I felt would be far more effective in resolving my problems. How dare she?! I am embarrassed to say that I met her love with a snotty, entitled, and ungrateful attitude along with a few choice words. Love, please meet not-love! To her credit, this lovely woman allowed me to use the fan anyway. I believe I spent the remainder of that trip sulking in my tent.
This situation is a perfect example of how one person’s love brought my not-love to the surface. In fact, it turned out to be one of my greatest lessons and has served as a reminder to myself over the course of the years of what a brat I can really be under all the right circumstances. My spiritual mentor at the time, who later revealed that she struggled to keep from slapping me, was able to use this experience to reveal some things to me about who I was (i.e., entitled, ungrateful, incapable of receiving love, fearful, selfish, self-centered, inconsiderate, lacking in grace and awareness, etc.). Surprisingly for who I was at that time, it really hit home. I saw it, I learned from it and I grew. I was actually ashamed of my behavior. That was kind of a new one for me. I am happy to report that in my current consciousness, when I am met with the love of a kind favor, I am usually able to accept it with grace, gratitude and dignity. I have also learned to just keep my mouth shut when I’m hungry and/or tired!!
These days, thankfully, I tend to react with a greater degree of maturity and self-control when not-love makes an appearance. Over the years I have developed a practice of mindful awareness and I am now more in tune with my mental, emotional and spiritual state. I have become more sensitive to the subtle (or not so subtle) internal indicators that let me know I have encountered a not-love experience. I know just what fear, insecurity, anger, or even minor irritations feel like inside my body. When I encounter these sensations I am able to stop, take a moment to acknowledge what’s happening and then begin asking myself some questions. What is the reaction I am having specifically? What is its source? What am I afraid of? What false belief am I subscribing to that is fueling this reaction? I get to process my reactions, figure out what it’s all about, learn from it, release it and begin moving from that space of not-love to one of love.
I don’t want to give the impression that this process is quick, easy or painless. Occasionally, that is true and I am always incredibly grateful for the grace of those moments. More often though, it is not. In fact, this process can be quite painful at times and some issues will come up over and over, seemingly never getting resolved but at least improving. Spiritual growth is never a straight line for me. It tends to consist of a lot of dips and loopty-loops and backwards marching but on the average of the curve there does seem to be some steady improvement. I am getting better. I am learning. I am growing. I am evolving. I am getting closer and closer to my Truth, to fully expressing the Divine within as the unique form which is me. I am becoming more peaceful. I am becoming more effective in navigating my personal relationships and in achieving the results that I truly want. I am becoming more love and less not-love.