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Continua of Practice: From Contraction to Love

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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2016-02-02
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center



Many of us find the word, love, unsettling. We may be afraid to be loved or afraid to be loving. Some of us have been tormented and jaded by this word that can have such gut wrenching consequences and overwhelming emotions. Others of us feel the word is overly sentimental, leading to a weak or emotional response. Spiritually it is important to redefine love and free it from our past associations. First, love is not the way two individuals feel about one another, it is the way the universe holds us all. Love is not an individual possession and does not bring two people together; it is an expression of all things being together. Love preexists our efforts and is the disposition of the universe at all times and in all places regardless of our recognition of that fact. There is nothing sentimental about love anymore than being sentimental about the air we breathe.

But it is toward love that all authentic spiritual practices move. A cluttered and confused consciousness obscures this natural existing relationship with all forms. We don’t feel the availability of love because we are more interested in validating our personal emotions. We end up supporting what is fleeting, and bypassing what is timeless. The first movement toward love is the recognition of how contracted and isolated we feel. At this point we don’t know what to do to access love, but the awareness of the problem begins to open us to solutions. Perhaps we get involved in meditation where we find relief in opening a space around our contracted spirit. We slowly learn that every reactive pattern does not represent something fundamentally wrong about us. This unburdening of consciousness is the first emanation of love, and the process deepens as we move across the continuum. As the processes of mind become normalized, we notice more space within ourselves. Opportunities spontaneously arise from this space that were impossible within our contracted state. We begin to feel the joy of love.

We learn how to work with the mind, which frees up more space. We stop scolding ourselves, and arguing with reality, and discover that with less identification with the mind there is more love. But there is one obstacle that still remains intact, and that is the egoic sense of us. With the appearances of the ego all the arrows of our attention point inward to “me,” and with its absence, all the arrows point outward toward others. With the understanding that the presence of the ego there is denial of love, we now move our attention toward the ego. But having practice sufficiently we now understand the nature of mind, and we do not bring contention to the ego, which only fans the flames of its arrogance. We bring love to the ego. Love is the one quality which does not strengthen the ego and is the single attribute that can lead to the ego’s demise. Since love is space and ego is density, it is only in through self-appreciation that we unravel ourselves into love.


Establish the intention to use the phrase, “Is there love for this too,” this week when difficulties arise. Pause when using the phrase and feel what it means to allow something to be loved. The pause will provide the necessary gap between the contracted reactivity and the open space of love. Is the difficult or unpleasant still worth loving? Do not hold anything back, just give yourself over to the love rather than the resistance. See what love reveals that defensiveness never could. Notice that love demands everything from us. Reflect on how much are we willing to meet it?


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