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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Ability to Give and Receive Love

The 12 Steps have much to teach us about that highest of human emotions, love.

Displaced, misplaced or suppressed as it may have been, we find once more (or, perhaps, for the first time ever) the ability to consciously give and receive love as we grow in the Steps and in the unconditioned love of a Power which is always greater than the self. Indeed, the ego, based as it is on fear and unfulfillable desires, is not capable and knows nothing of love in its purest sense.

Is this truly possible?

"We found," we read in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous, "that we had been worshipers. What a state of mental goose-flesh that used to bring on! Had we not variously worshiped people, sentiment, things, money and ourselves? And then, with a better motive, had we not worshipfully beheld the sunset, the sea, or a flower? Who of us had not loved something or somebody? How much did these feelings, these loves, these worships, have to do with pure reason? Little or nothing, we saw at last. Were not these things the tissue out of which our lives were constructed? Did not these feelings after all, determine the course of our existence? It was impossible to say we had no capacity for faith, or love, or worship. In one form or another we had been living by faith and little else."
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 54.]

Yet, in the throes of our addiction, even these loves were insufficient to bring us back to a sense of reality. Despite our loves, the gratification of our cravings and soothing the obsessions of the mind dictated that, finally, we could love no more; and, if it were not for recovery from this seemingly hopeless state, perhaps we would have, sooner or later, rendered ourselves incapable of either giving or receiving love for all time.

Now, having recovered this, our natural ability to love, what are we to make of it? To what extent do we exercise our capacity to give and receive love? And, how do we perfect, or attempt to perfect it? This is the great human challenge, and the great opportunity for spiritual awakening.

In The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (at pp. 92-93), we read:
"Not many people can truthfully assert that they love everybody. Most of us must admit that we have loved but a few; that we have been quite indifferent to the many. As for the remainder - well, we have really disliked or hated them."

"We A.A.'s find we need something much better than this in order to keep our balance. The idea that we can be possessively loving of a few, can ignore the many, and can continue to fear or hate anybody at all, has to be abandoned, if only a little at a time."

"We can try to stop making unreasonable demands upon those we love. We can show kindness where we had formerly shown none. With those we dislike we can at least begin to practice justice and courtesy, perhaps going out of our way at time to understand and help them."
To summon the courage and will to do these things, to bring us to the state of consciousness in which love which is not only unconditional but unconditioned begins to dominate our thinking and motives, we can meditate upon our Eleventh Step prayer.
"Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted," we read, "to understand, than to be understood - to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life."
 In striving, mentally and then practically, to comfort, understand and love, to forget "self" and to "die" to the ego, gradually and/or suddenly we will awaken to the greater consciousness within us. We will find, as we read in the "Spiritual Experience" appendix, "an unsuspected inner resource" within us that can change our way of thinking; and we will enter what Bill W. describes as a "new state of consciousness and being" (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 103.)
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
The way of love is not
a subtle argument.

The door there
is devastation.

Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it.

They fall, and falling,
they are given wings.

Let you throat-song
be clear and strong enough

to make an emperor fall full-length
suppliant, at the door.

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I have phrases and whole pages memorized,
but nothing can be told of love.

You must wait until you and I
are living together.

In the conversation we'll have
then . . . be patient . . . then.
-- Jalalludin Rumi --
(Coleman Barks, "The Incredible Rumi," pp. 243-244.)

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