This article is graciously provided for republication by the author, Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati (Dr. Christa-Maria Herrmann), German by birth, naturalized British, originally studied Theology her university studies soon expanded to Education, Psychology, Philosophy and Art and Design (Ceramics). Different teaching jobs (in colleges and universities) in various countries followed. At the center of her studies (as well as her teaching) was always the subject of 'Self-awareness'.
In many parts of so called modern world people celebrate "romantic love". Throughout time "love" has been probably the most talked about and written about subject there is, so what can there possibly - still to be said?
Love is a bit like "consciousness', there are many words for it, often even several in one language, because there are so many levels and angles. As a song-line says: "love is a many-splendorous thing."
Basically we think of love, as romantic love that finds its expression in a physical relationship; however there is love beyond that. Obviously there is love for children and parents, there is love for one's self, there is love for an object such as a painting or a beautiful piece of music; there is love for all sentient beings, there is even 'love of God.'
Let's contemplate this far reaching emotion and start with the most common association: i.e. romantic love, which we connect with sexual union...? It's a manifestation of man's (probably strongest) desire for continuity (procreation). But this is not all, behind what seems a pure physical drive (one of the "four primitive fountains"; Swami Rama) hides something else: a desire to wholeness; the desire to lift the sense of separateness between me/and not me. And this desire has a biological base. For a moment in sexual union we feel one; we lose the sense of separateness.
This holds an interesting key to our understanding: Normally any foreign organisms, cells, tissues, fluids that enter the body are considered "invaders" and the thymus gland kicks in to trigger a mechanism to 'annihilate these". In the sexual act the thymus (immune-system) relaxes meaning: it does not fight that which is other! So when sexual energy rises, in preparation for the act of procreation the thymus gland shuts off its fighting mode, turns down its defense mode.
This energizes the area, which we call the heart chakra (seat of the thymus); so there is a correspondence between stimulation of sexual energy and heart energy; i.e. sexual chakra and heart chakra work together; when these work in tandem, there is romantic love.
Obviously the sexual organs work also without the emotional involvement (meaning without the involvement of the heart area/thymus. (Could here be a key to the rise of illnesses of the immune-system in a sexually promiscuous society?)
On the other-hand, the heart chakra too can function solo; it can accumulate and store energy, without directing it to the lower chakra (but using it in other ways). This might well be the reason, why spiritual practices, across the globe, advocate celibacy or at least the "monitoring of spending sexual energy."
What does this mean? Underlying the biological happenings is the issue of protecting what is mine, fighting of what is other; i.e. the issue of me/not me. The thymus/ in a wider sense- the heart chakra - is the place where decisions are made about me and 'not me'. When this duality is lifted, one-ness is experienced, love for the other is experienced. The duality between separateness versus wholeness is lifted - the interpretation of this, involves the mind. The mind gives meaning to all our experience, so too here, the mind also gives meaning to the accumulating energy- we call it romantic love . Similarly the mind gives meaning to our love for parents, children, friendships, and all experiences that evoke the feeling of energy in the heart chakra; meaning not feeling separate from the 'other'; this then is what is experienced as 'love' (defenses are down, emotionally and physically, mental and spiritual). Then love is rising energy in the heart chakra, experienced as "no separation between me/not me". LOVE now can be defined quiet differently (from romantic love leading to procreation), it is that energy, which arises with, and supports, our awareness of non-separation.
There is: love of friends/family/ relations...; thinking about them gives us a warm energy -feeling in the heart, making us feel close/whole/ connected.
We mean love of an object, when there is a warm feeling arising in our heart which makes us feel close /whole/ connected (to the object).
We experience love of God, when thinking about God gives us a warm energetic sense in the heart chakra, making us feel connected.
We experience universal love, when awareness of sentient beings, of humanity gives us a sense of warm energy in the heart, a sense of wholeness, connectedness.
So the experience of love is quiet clearly connected to the state of our Heart Chakra.
There is love when there is energy in the Heart Chakra!
And this is a problem of our times. In recent decades, may be centuries, in all modern cultures, we have trained the intellect, we have trained the rational mind, and forgot the heart. Hence as a result we live in a heart-less society, a loveless world!
The problem is, even if we recognize the feelings in our heart- how do we behave from that awareness? Recognizing it is one thing, living from it another. We recognize, what in psychology is called the archetyp, but have not been taught the actualization of it. We lack the capacity of putting it into action. We can define love, but loving is a totally different thing.
And there is another angle, causing a problem. Our mind gives meaning to relationships and objects, and we know how our mind can fake things; it often makes a fool out of ourselves, it can trick us. In fact it's the biggest trickster. For example,
a) there is a earthquake somewhere, we see pictures of suffering beings, we feel touched by their plight. We suddenly are aware of loving humanity (a kind of love that the Greeks call charitas) ; we want to help. We identify with the suffering; if that happened to me..then what would I do...So I give money generously! Well done!
BUT are you actually acting out of love for humanity, or are you acting out of love for yourself?
b) Imagine you see a beautiful picture of the Divine Mother, it touches your heart, you discover your love of the divine Mother; and become a devotee of HER.
Are you actually becoming a devotee, for the recognition of the Shakti, the beautiful life-energy we call "the Goddess" ? Or are you simply projecting the experience of your mother i.e. how she loved you/ or are you projecting wish-full thinking, of how she should have loved you- on the image of the Divine Mother? Do you love HER or your projection, your daydreams?
c) Or even more obvious: You find the partner of your dreams; do you actually love him/her as she is; or do you love the dream- image , being blinded by your projections...
There are myriads of examples we can give. The mind even paints falls pictures of ourselves. We think we love ourselves because we are like this and that. But occasionally the paint cracks and we see... that we are not like the image we see, nor do we love our true face, do we accept the true "me".
Let's get back to that 'love' which is the energy that flows through the heart chakra; (we know that, otherwise we would not have the heart as a universal symbol for Love!).
But it's not as simple; the energy arises because of not squandering the energy on fighting , on building barriers between us-and others! (withdrawal of the immune reaction). We could say there is an innate desire to wholeness.
There is the animalistic desire in mankind to fulfill the four primitive urges, drives, powers, or fountains, as Swami Rama called them (the urge to sleep, procreate, food and shelter). We recognize, the love for rest and recreation, the love of sexual union, the love of food; the love of security/home/belonging/community/friends etc. However we are not so aware, that there is a higher desire - the desire for wholeness. However it is this, which has its roots in an awareness of our original nature , and is what makes a human truly human. That desire is connected to know the source, where we came from and return to that "wholeness". It's the source of our ultimate belonging, which is that, which we never left; which is the awareness of Being One.
With the "awareness of this ", love takes on a different flavor: Swami Rama talks of that love as "the source of life!" Love and Life then are the same, love becomes inclusive! The gap between "me and not me" closes and that not just for second, not just while the friendship lasts, not just to one person who makes me feel good, but to humanity en large, and more over to all sentient beings!!" Without this love there is little progress or spiritual attainment. "This positive emotion is the biggest gift to human beings....it is love that is not contraction into "me and mine" but its love that opens, expands to self-less actions/ self-less service to all of humanity." (Swami Rama/Swami Ajaya ; Creative use of Emotion) ; we are aware of that love as an inner joy!
Love energy in the heart is there first and our recognition of it is joy.
This kind of love means to live from an energized Heart Chakra; a person who lives from that energy is recognized because love flows through every pore of that person's being. Why? Because there is nothing that person wants for themselves, there is no "Me" to want something different/separate than you! You and I are One...on a total scale. That is living love. A love that does not distinguish between loving my child, my partner, my home, my car, my treasure, my life, my God...but knows that there are only children, people - there is only One humanity; there is only life; there is only One.
So how can Yoga bring us to live life joyfully from that awareness?
How can yoga bring us to live life joyfully? The short answer is:
There are two "inroads:
Swami Rama says: you have to understand that ahimsa is love, love is ahimsa. "If you want to develop love, then you should do no violence (no harm, no hurting, not even in the smallest and subtlest way!). Whether you are learning to love your husband, wife, children, friends - the first thing is, to do no violence in action, speech or mind. If you refrain from hurting, injuring or killing, then you will naturally open your heart, generate energy in your heart; love. Your behavior in this world, towards this world will change. When fully and seriously observing the principle of ahimsa, you become loving..." ('the art of joyful living' SR.)
What does it mean:
Love really means giving -giving without any condition, constantly selflessly -because whenever you are truly self-less you'll enjoy life; self-less means letting go of the self-interest!
Which brings us to the second point:
We need to let go of anything that interferes with the awareness of love, meaning anything that makes me feel separate, that makes me cling to me and mine! Tall order...
That is why Yoga teaches vairagya , non-attachment. It is quite obvious now that love comes not-as we commonly believe from attachment to a person or thing, or belief or even God, but from the opposite. Love comes from detachment!
Even detachment from God...? yes, if it is a limited concept of our mind, we have to let go even of that. Our preconception of what God is, has to go, so that we can become free - uncluttered to hear His/Her expression of himself/herself; i.e. so the Divine can reveal Itself - as it is, not as I project (of how he should be!).
How to understand this detachment?
What makes me feel separate or special, is what I am attached to as "me...."; it's like I have build a wall around me, saying: this is my personality, this is my belonging, these are my people...these are my children etc. We have to realize that this "my/me" is actually limiting, it's a fence...a wall the small self has build! Why because it is afraid, (recall the 4 primitive fountains/i.e. shelter) afraid of being alone in this great wide world! We become attached to things out of fear... not out of love!
Don't get me wrong , I am not saying do not look after the people in your responsibility - no, they are part of humanity, part of life....you need to take care, of them, but open your heart, so you can take care of others too! Do not be attached, and limited ! If you take care without attachment, you are free to love, to take care of others as well...
We react "crazy": when my child is ill, hungry or has an accident..we whale and cry for justice etc...if another child is hungry, ill or has an accident..it is of no concern...! How crazy can we be? Love grows out of detachment? Out of letting go of me and mine. Attachment is a limitation of the mind; yes and the BG says: "Without doubt the mind is difficult to restrain; but by practice and detachment it is restrained". So it's not about detaching from the people or our duty towards them, but we need to detach from the limitations of our minds; open the doors, the gates of your mind to others... because there is no separation, no "other"!
We cannot succeed on the spiritual path and grow closer to universal love (oneness) without practicing detachment from our limitations.
Where to start? Ask yourselves "what am I attached to that limits me, that creates a barrier between me and others..." -then let go of that (be it laziness, stupor, judgments...anger, possessiveness, jealousy or attachment to the opinions of other... ) These opinions have build our personality.
Swami Rama says: You let yourself be effected by what other people say about you...Why do you carry the load of other people's opinion? You allow yourself to be a garbage bin for other people's opinion; check your thoughts, your mental attitudes, how much of it is other people's opinion. Find out who you are...not what parents, friends, teachers, the society etc. say about you." Because all that builds up barriers between you and others! Love...is pulling down these barriers! (Think of the thymus gland.... Oneness! Love is experienced, when "there is no other!" Certainly don't accept any negativity, prejudice etc.etc...
You are the eternal Self, live from that, not from your attachment to your own limitations, or other people's negativity.
Such detachment means to love; love yourself, consider yourself from a different perspective.
The worst culprit - that stop us from experiencing love and giving love - are the habits our mind has formed. Detachment, in its most clear and important form is: detaching from our habits, for that we need to know them; Swami Rama writes: "Your habits have a powerful role in your life and a strong influence on your spiritual development and once you understand how to form habit patterns -you can understand the path of positive living." (Art of joyful living) To live joyfully, with an open heart, we need to learn to understand our habit patterns- and turn what we learned around to create positive, helpful patterns. Just as the limiting patters have hindered us- we can form opening patterns that make us free and inclusive...
Become aware of how you limit yourself, learn to discriminate between those habits that are helpful, that pull down barriers and those that isolate, put up barriers. Detach and be free, this way you are in charge of your Life!
How to discriminate, between those patterns that limit, and those that open to love? Easy!
Negative habits are injurious to your health, your mental and spiritual development - and above all they create barriers to others.
Good habits are improving health and help you walk the spiritual path, help you to open your heart and embrace others. Let go of anything that is not helpful to expand your heart and mind on the spiritual path. Anything that contracts, excludes and makes you small, takes you away from the awareness that the Divine is within you as You, and that we are all One.
Let go of anything that blocks the discovery of love inside you.
If you don't love yourself, how can you love others?
Detach from the negative, diminishing things inside you!
This must be practiced all the time, not just in a cave/ashram only then can we raise above all conditionings and obsessions. "Me and mine" (body/role dis-identification) have to be discarded.
When that is understood, one has zero expectations, nothing can disturb us, nothing can disappoint us, and consequently we are free to love all, we have no more agenda!
IT brings us to stillness and stability (equilibrium) .
That is the joy, the gladness of the heart; that is the sign, the expression of love! There is that steady stream of love flowing from such a heart; there is steady- calm, even flow... no disturbances.
Swami Rama says: "In the outer-world we move; for the work inside - we need to be still. That is the great difference; it's a new job; it needs to be learned." When we are still we meet the one in ourself, that is always the same, always there to embrace us, the greatest friend we have. When we are troubled , deeply trouble that inner friend will help. Seek that inner friend..let go of outer limitations.
Swami Rama says: Your prime duty is to know yourself, and when you know yourself you know the self of all, that is God (The Art of Joyful Living).
Then you know Love.