What we call the heart is a reliable touchstone of our spiritual maturity. We do not have to think of the heart as separate from the mind. The heart is a metaphor for feeling, sensitivity, and attitude, all of which are deeply connected with how we think.
In this existence, we know that love exists but it seems to be scarce or elusive. It seems to be outside of us. And so the question is how do we access love? How do we experience or receive love, especially if we have never had the early childhood experience of feeling deeply loved?
We cannot tell a person in this condition just to accept that they are love. That will not work. There is a process of discovery that must happen. In a sense, love can indeed be found outside of us—it can be communicated to us by those who have a knowledge of love.
When we receive the communication of love from our parents as children, or from someone else who is able and understands how to love, then it seems that we have discovered a stream of life-giving water and we are dependent on that stream. We are going to do everything we can to sustain that experience, to continue drinking from that stream. The trouble is that everyone comes to a point of seeing that no matter how much love one gets from outside, whether from a friend or spouse or healer, it is not enough. It is not going to be enough because it is still perceived as outside of you.
Once you have gotten in touch with the feeling of shared understanding and togetherness, you reach a point where you say, “I’m a bit dependent on this source, and I’m still not entirely healed. I’m clinging to this source, person, or relationship. What do I have to do to bridge this gap so that the love is within me?” The first step is to acknowledge what love you do feel, because what you acknowledge grows.
You love something in this world—someone, some place, some form of beauty, some activity. There is a goodness and richness that you feel in relation to something. And as you acknowledge that your sense of love and beauty is evoked by these things, you can start to trace its source, asking, “What is it that I love?” What you love is the well-being and wholeness that you feel when you are in contact with that object or experience.
With that insight you begin to dissolve the sense of separation—the idea that the love is coming from the object and not from you. For example, when you hear music that evokes love, the music has reminded you of what is within you. The beauty and devotion that the song evokes belongs to your own nature, not to the song itself. You realize that this quality is within you, though you are not usually cognizant of it.
For some time, you have to seek that evocation. You have to evoke that remembrance by creating an atmosphere of beauty around you. Sanctify the space and actions of your daily life. Go to places where you more easily feel that sacredness. There then comes a time when you break through the sense of division, when you feel that you no longer need the middleman of that place or activity to evoke the fullness of love. You cease to rely on that externality.
And you will eventually find that you no longer fall in love in the same way. It is impossible. You rise in love. The love is not really coming from the other. It just is. Then the relationship is just a reflection of the love you already feel within. Love has become a simple reality for you. It is your very self and yet that self is universal. There is a poem by Pablo Neruda that hints at that state of being. He writes,
I love you without knowing how, or when or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way.
When you are in the immediacy of this love you simply love others, regardless of whether they are a romantic partner or not. There is a connection that resonates, especially if the other is in the same awareness. If that is not yet your experience, then I would encourage you to keep acknowledging what love you do feel. Seek to extend and express it, because this is what heals the mind.
What heals is not just to receive love—that’s just a beginning—but to see that you have love to give. If you are depressed and someone comes to your door starving or injured, you would help that person. And by giving to that person you would be uplifted and taken out of your depression.
Depression is a closing in upon oneself in isolation, whereas when the heart is outgoing with its love, one cannot be depressed. Only in the giving of love do we find purpose, connection, and sanity. There is no cure for depression within the energetic field of depression. A new energy has to enter the equation, which is the energy of communication and giving. So at some point the only healing for you is to simply be love and to look to give constantly.
By acknowledging your love you cease to wait for the reflection of love from outside of you. It is always here now. Continue acknowledging love and you will approach the removal of that duality, which is the greatest healing that a human being can experience. This brings us back to the innocence we once knew but were not fully conscious of and able to carry forward as we grew up.
In a poem called “Love After Love,” Derek Walcott speaks about this great homecoming:
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
The reason you have to peel your image from the mirror is that an image of yourself can never measure up to what you are. Initially we used the image to create a sense of security. Gradually our self-image revealed its inadequacy to house our spirit, its majesty and its freedom. The image turned into a set of self-judgments, hopes, and fears. In one moment it smiled and promised you would someday be enough. In the next moment it spoke with a voice of self-loathing and shame.
You had written love letters, the poet says, kept photographs, wrote in journals about your thoughts and feelings. But your distance from yourself—your underlying rejection and neglect of your real being—kept your attention focused on fleeting and fragmentary reflections of love.
The mind is the mirror. We placed images on the mirror; we placed our dreams there and we told ourselves many stories when we felt lonely and wanted to hear a voice, any voice. The mirror itself is not the problem. The mind was only doing its job of reflection. Like a computer, it gave you back whatever you put into it.
When we peel the image from the mirror, we find the mirror is perfectly clean and bright. The mind like a diamond reflects the light of consciousness, love, and creativity. When our search for love finally leads us to peel off the images and gaze in that mirror long enough, what we behold is the intrinsic benevolence of spirit.
Perhaps we turn away and entertain images again, only to take them down again and gaze some more, acquainting with the pure love and wholeness arising in consciousness. Gradually we gain confidence that the mirror of the mind is always going to reflect the original, unchanging truth of our being, and that we simply have to get used to this new view.
The view from love’s eyes is often more perfect than we can stand. It seems unbelievable that we can make this shift and stop squeezing ourselves back into a small and disempowered view. It feels like such a bold and daring step because love, we realize, is not weak. Love is very strong. A person who knows their nature as love is gentle and kind but is also incredibly strong and cannot be manipulated.
When deep love shines within, as your nature and as the vision through which you see others, then you can look at the ugliest, most painful aspects of life and not recoil. This love will root itself in the ground of practical insight and action. For love is true power and communication. When you come home to love you no longer desire substitute powers. You see that all other powers rely on a break in communication, a form of dishonesty or separation. From the standpoint of our true nature, power is a meaningless idea because power is what we use to get something. The real power is to share in what is real.