I realize, sometimes, that when I say the word ‘love,’ a vacuum can appear to suck up my credibility as a being of this world. I’ve seen how mention of the word ‘heart’ and direction to place hands over it often leads to a pause. In that pause, a brief internal struggle… will a simple gesture toward the heart leave me weak? Will I become vulnerable?
Weak, no. Vulnerable? Absolutely.
The strength to go to the heart is herculean precisely because the journey asks for a confrontation with our defenses. We believe we’re alone and must keep ourselves protected. At the heart, we realize our deep and abiding connection. We connect to our selves, to others, to the divine. It’s in the heart that we encounter our true mission in life and the longings that must be settled as we accomplish that mission.
An example from my personal life? I used to be a lawyer who wanted to help. I wanted to secure justice for those who suffered. I fought hard and argued often against the ways our systems impose inequities because of poor health, limited bank accounts, skin color and place of birth. It was important work. And it broke my heart. With every success, I watched, again and again, a new challenge arise to replace our victories. In grief, I left my career to heal my heart.
That was when I had to contend with my embarrassment and misunderstandings about the ideas of love, hearts, god, and self. I did it with the help of a few sage travelers: teachers, friends, trees, bees. I learned, over time, that my heart was always waiting for me. She is eternally patient and compassionate. And when I go to her, she gives me the whole world without a fight.
The only thing my defenses guarded well was my resistance.
Still, a resistance is a blessing. It gives us a rope to follow when we can’t quite see clearly. Eventually, I understood the route.
It isn’t always easy, however, to give myself to my heart.
It’s a decision. Daily, it requires that I catch myself in my judgments and opinions. Frequently, I find myself thinking I know better than love’s guidance. And rarely, but importantly, I land in a position of not understanding at all how to find my way back.
Which is when I learn the most. What I learn is this: whatever the situation is showing me is a path I’ve yet to navigate.
Unfortunately, the brutality committed by police isn’t a new path. I’ve seen this before. It precedes me even. And, in my own life, at 20, I was beat by riot police. It’s a horrifying display of power. I yelled and I pleaded as they held , threatened and hurt me. I settled a case against the police when I was 22. Several months later, the police shot a black man multiple times as he reached for his wallet. I felt the horror of my decision to forego trial.
I became a lawyer, in part, because I thought I owed service to justice for the injustice I accepted. As I practiced, I learned that justice doesn’t serve our hearts. As I recovered from my former career, I realized that love does.
Still, these last few months have challenged my choice to love. It isn’t just the murder of George Floyd that got me. I lost the path to my heart for a bit because watching Mr. Floyd die as others officers watched followed a string of hurtful realities.
Because in this worrying time of pandemic, we also witnessed the shooting of a young man jogging through a neighborhood. And we saw a white woman in Central Park seek to dominate a black man by means of police intervention. So when George Floyd was killed, the arising of rage was immediate. Marching behind: guilt, despair, sorrow.
The disproportionate use of force against black men and women is a hideous example of multiple systems that do not foster either justice or love. Our national inability to foster just and loving relationships between black and white (and all shades in between) speaks to our collective insistence to remain distanced from each other and the heart. We believe we’re meant to be separate. We even laud our great individual rights.
The greatest right of any individual is to discover that her free will may be exercised in removing the obstacles to her heart at any moment. Regardless of her circumstances.
In my life, as I exercise my will, I’ve learned to remember the many ways that our experiences complicate and obscure our path to love. I’ve learned to imagine how I could be as brutal as a provoked cop and to know the weight of the cruelty. I’ve learned that I would not wish that weight on anyone.
Still, in the last week, the return to love was hard work.
I had to follow the rope of my resistance. I worked with each emotion. Rage first. Guilt then. I understood the helplessness it was masking. Despair, because I couldn’t understand how to hope. And sorrow. The sorrow reminded me of love.
In the sorrow, I remembered to pray for George Floyd and his family. I knew there was love there. I prayed for the families of all those who have died or been injured by the police. I felt their love. I prayed for my black friends and reached out to share my love and thank them for the love they’ve given me. I prayed for all my friends. I prayed for my family and all those who are kind, generous, compassionate toward me. I felt the abundance of love.
I returned to my heart.
From there, I prayed for Derek Chauvin and his family. I prayed for the men who beat me decades ago. Love is also there. And though the weight of those actions is overwhelming, love lifts it. My responsibility in life is to decide to love, regardless.
Moving into the heart demands power. Practicing in the heart asks for patience and wonder. Being in the heart requires stability.
Thus, this word ‘love’ and its representation at the heart tries to be a bit of a vulgarity. The effort is great but each of us are strong enough. Just because something is hard does not mean we should reject it. Indeed, the challenge is for us to rise to it.
We seem to reject love because moving through emotion and surrendering ourselves to our true union means our identity has nowhere to stand. It cannot fathom that we stand together, completely connected without even needing to know each others’ names.
My friend, love is what we all share. It requires no particular time or place. It doesn’t require blood or passion or even proximity. These gifts are simply our training. Our vast connections await our decision to put love into play.
The reform we require is the shift to our hearts. The intellect will resist what it doesn’t fathom but we can navigate our resistance. It will take us toward the truth of love. It is our union and our unity. Love is what binds us.
Let us proceed, then, in love and see how we all transform.
Owe no one anything, except to love one another. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.Romans