Monday, January 20, 2014

Feeling Unable to Receive Love

You know one of the most common issues people have? They can't receive love. They can't receive love from others. They can't receive love from God, and they certainly can't receive love from themselves. They are completely love anorexic. Cut off from love, everything is hateful, and the whole world is hurtful. It becomes a horrible type of tunnel vision, and if it gets really bad, the only way out seems to be death.

In this society, many people come to me with no capacity for love, and it's why many students never really feel much love. Furthermore, people coming with a closed heart can't receive. So even if someone's capacity for love is the size of a thimble, that person isn't even letting that thimble be open to receive. Hence, someone can come to the drinking well and go away with nothing. This is the state of much of humanity.

But the beauty and simplicity of this spiritual path is that each and every one of you has access to the boundless ocean of love. Now, please remember that I'm not talking about just the ooey-gooey romantic love, which is the common notion of love for a lot of people (For more on love, click here). Love is that which embraces all unconditionally, and walking down that path to unconditional self-acceptance is the start of being able to receive love.

Stepping Into the Ocean and Running Away

I probably shouldn't have said "ocean" in this subhead. I could just have easily said "muddy stream," "small puddle," or even "raw sewage spill." Because even those polluted levels of love tend to be too much for many people. In truth, most people are used to pretty polluted forms of love. Love is polluted by fear, obligation, and a host of other expectations and judgments that are usually derived from childhood experiences. Love/hate relationships often find their roots in those seminal experiences, and this becomes the baseline evaluation people have for comparing every other kind of love they might experience. That's why so many people tend to have lovers who have a lot of similar traits to their parents. It's also why so much inner work often goes to resolving childhood issues so that we can have a more expansive heart. If too much pain and trauma were combined with love at some point growing up, then an individual has usually learned to closed down or open inappropriately to people who will hurt him or her in similar fashion to how they had been hurt before. It's a terrible situation.

So in this all too common scenario, when someone starts to touch a deeper and truer kind of love that is outside their experience of love or is more than their perceived capacity, an individual tends to shut down. I am sure there is some kind of really important sounding psychological term for that, but I don't need that label. It's enough to say that people shut down and run away. Right when something has the opportunity to be healed, supported, and nourished, the early warning system inside kicks in and the person bolts for the next unhealthy, but familiar relationship or situation they can find.

Noticing When and How You Shut Down

Healing this inability to receive love is critical on the spiritual path. I think some people believe that enlightenment will allow them to avoid all this messiness. True spiritual awakening or enlightenment usually sends you further into the messiness. In this space, the heart is torn open along with all the wounds. It's the incredible feeling of feeling everything--every hurt and every joy--simultaneously. So what I do on this blog for many of you is to encourage you to clean up the house beforehand to be able to handle the mad rush of emotions, sensations, and energetic impressions that might come one day for those of you who have not yet awakened. Plus, a cleaner inner home, regardless of any particular spiritual arising, is a much nicer space to live in too.

So it's important to notice when you are closing the doors. For some of you, you may not even know what it is like to have the doors open. Don't worry. I'll get to that topic. But for those of you who have some idea of what it is like to have your heart open, it's important to notice your criteria about when to be open and when to be closed. Notice who you feel more naturally open-hearted with, and then journal or observe to a close friend what the qualities of that person or situation make you feel open-hearted. It's important to discover if you are opening because of familiarity (which assumes a person is safe and to be trusted) or because a person is actually supportive to you. Having a friend or other third-party person can also be useful in bringing more discernment to the situation than you may yet have cultivated.

Conversely, it's important to notice when you close your heart and push people away. Is this because someone is over-stepping your boundaries? Or is it because something is new and vulnerable, which is evoking fear of the unknown or overwhelm? If it's the latter, it is critically important to stay open because this is how new and wonderful situations and relationships can evolve. If you close your heart, nothing more can move in your life. The dynamism of life and yourself is inherently linked to being open-hearted and feeling the love you have and how others reflect it back. The combination grows new and amazing things in life.

Not Knowing What Love Is

And then there is the reality that many people don't even know what love is or what it feels like. In truth, most of us only know certain levels of love. In the vast number of heart expansions I've had in the last several years, I've found greater and greater capacities of love within myself, and I expect that this will continue until such time as there is never a moment that my heart feels closed or that I otherwise get caught up in old fear-based thinking (which still likes to kick around in the my lil old noggin). I could have told you that I was a loving person before my awakening, and some other people in my life probably would have agreed. I was not an inherently cruel person. But looking back, I see that version of myself as extremely closed-hearted, and who knows what I'll think of myself six years from now. In this way, we all don't fully know the ultimate boundlessness of love; we simply abide at a given level and depth of love until we step again into that vulnerable space once more.

And that's what is required if you don't know what love is: to step into vulnerability. Now this isn't trying to get hugs from people in a demilitarized zone. If you really don't know what love is, it's important to find a safe space and probably some kind of support or spiritual group to help you to find your way. That way, a facilitator can help create safe boundaries. It is also too easy for someone to get a taste of love for the first time and immediately assume that the giver of that love is their one-true love, perfect person, or some other story. The depth and enormity of love is in everything, so there is a level of patience in your own discovery of love that must be cultivated so that you don't jump to conclusions and make life changes based off of misunderstandings.

All Love Is Self-love

Okay so this is a bit of a word play here. If the Self--the one consciousness that is all--is already love, then all of love if Self-love. And the Self excludes nothing. However, where I am going with this is that most of whatever you feel is arising from within you. You could be a student sitting down with me, and you could feel amazing love in the presence of the session. But although I move and teach from love and create such a loving space around me and you with the will of the divine (because God puts the final stamp of approval on everything), the feelings arising in you are coming from you. Most everything else is secondary in this dualistic world.

When we dissolve in awakening, the within and the without disappear, and so in that space, everything and everyone is you. And everything and everyone is love, so you are love in its entirety. But that will generally not be where most of you are in your spiritual journeys, and this is fine. What's more important is to see that love is freely available to you and that it is not a situation or individual dependent phenomenon. If you can only feel love at certain specific times in a romantic relationship, you will be MISERABLE. Firstly, that specific time will be rare and fleeting. If you presume that since you felt a certain way with a person once that you will ever feel it again with that person, you also will create more misery by trying to re-create a moment and an internal feeling that is already gone. The ego has sooooo many rules about what love is and how to get it, and these are the rules that are precisely why many people feel unable to receive love. Until these rules are released, love will continue to seem like a rare commodity.

Destroying the Rule Maker

Most of the rules we live and breathe by are stupid.

There really isn't much more to say than that. We are love. We have infinite capacities to feel incredible depths of inner connection, and from that inner space, we have the opportunity to connect to many other beings and places in a multitude of beautiful ways. We could truly turn this whole world into a playground of love. But we don't do this. Instead we believe all these rules about how love should look and feel, and in the mean time, we are miserable. Now, this isn't a naive place of understanding. We don't let people who are dangerous and cruel hurt us by through our openness. Loving dangerous and cruel people may mean getting them help or calling the police. Love in this instance honors where those people are in their conscious development.

And so long as any kind of rules are in the way, you will find limits on the amount of love you can receive as well as offer. With those limits, you will again and again find dissatisfaction with life, and you may fall back into the ego victim mentality of blaming others for not giving you what you want. Whenever you start playing the blame game with anyone else or even yourself, you know the ego rule maker is at work.

Taking Little Sips of Love

It is okay, however, to sip a little bit of love at a time. Many of you have no tolerance for it. This isn't a bad thing per se, but it must be understood. After being in the concentration camps, many of the newly freed inmates couldn't eat much. I think it was a story by Primo Levi (don't quote me on this though) where he talked about gorging himself on donuts after getting out of Auschwitz and then promptly throwing up. It's easy for some of you to want to gorge yourself on love, and while this metaphor only works so far (because you probably can drown in a buffet of love without ill effects), it is okay to take your time getting used to feeling love. This can take the form of supportive co-workers, a wonderful new community, a spiritual teacher, a new romantic love, and many other external people and situations. However, the feeling that is arising is simply the start of the beautiful ocean of love that is rising up and is already within you.

All the Old Stories Remain

As you drink in this love, you probably will notice more of the old painful stories. What tends to happen is that we fill up to the breaking point and then we expand. The intensity can be quite overwhelming. People can feel like they're going crazy inside, but really, you are just going sane and realizing all the crazy you've been living in. It's crazy to have limits and rules on how you experience love in your life. So when you get close to breaking through another level of crazy, you really feel that insanity. Stay with it. Stay with the intensity and keep breathing into the love that is swelling within you. Then at some point, part or all of a particular story and its rules will break, and you'll expand out again into an even broader world of love (and probably feel even more vulnerable for a time). Then you learn to tread water in this deeper sea of love, and you keep going until you no longer care if you ever touch bottom or see the shoreline again. Because you are love, and this is your element. This whole nonsense of not being worthy of love or able to receive love falls away in this truth, and you simply can swim in this beautiful space that is your right and your true nature.
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