Friday, December 31, 2010

Love in Action

This will be sort of a wrap up post--at least for this calendar year, although I will be referring to a lot of posts that I wrote through the two and a half years of this blog.

My last post was on the importance of love (Love is the Source, 12/25/10). But in my very early post on Loving-Kindness and Social Change (6/24/08) I pointed out that love wasn't enough. You need to work as well. You need to put love to work.

Freud said, "Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness." Kahlil Gibran puts it even better, "Work is love made visible." So my question is, how do we take our love and make it work in the world?

The first, and a very important way as far as I'm concerned, to put love into action, is through forgiveness. I wrote a post on this a couple of years ago (Forgiveness, 8/7/08) where I quoted Martin Luther King as saying, "Forgiveness is not an occasional act: it is an attitude." Being forgiving and taking an attitude of forgiveness seems a very real way of making love visible.

The Buddhists have some very definite ideas about making love visible. One of these is doing a loving-kindness meditation. (I wrote about this in my posts on Spreading Love, 3/26/10, and Resources for Loving-Kindness, 3/30/10.) They also talk about the 'Brahmaviharas' (or Four Immeasurables/Boundless Virtues/Heavenly Abodes,etc). These are loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity--or as I put it in my post, The Four Gardeners (2/14/2010), simply Love, Compassion, Joy, and Serenity. I later talked about Patience, Forgiveness, Generosity, and Healing, in a post I called And Their Four Offspring (2/24/10), since I saw them proceeding from the four 'boundless virtues'. The more that we practice all of these the more that I think we can spread love in the world.

Rachel Naomi Remen (see my post on Blessings, 3/9/10, and More Blessings, 3/23/10) doesn't talk much about love, but she does talk about blessing others and serving others which I think are marvelous ways of putting love into action. The Dalai Lama uses the phrase 'to benefit others' (see Benefiting Others, 7/21/10) which I think conveys much of the same thing.

Another direct way of showing love is through physical affection--both nonsexual affection and sexual affection. (I have written about this in my posts on Love and Affection, 7/28/08, and Touch, Affection, and Sex, 6/30/09.) In fact, I think any form of closeness can show love. (Also see my post on Intimacy, 7/3/09.)

A great way of demonstrating love and creating closeness is by simply listening. I've written about it in my post on Listening to Each Other (6/7/10). I've also written about it in terms of Stephen Covey's fifth 'habit': 'Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood' (see Seek to Understand, 11/11/10) and in terms of Marshall Rosenberg's 'Nonviolent Communication' (also known as 'Compassionate Communication'--see my post on Nonviolent Communication, 11/25/10). When we really listen to each other, when we truly seek to understand another person, we are doing more than simply showing them respect. In a very real way we are loving them. (I have been studying and trying to practice Tonglen which is a very radical Tibetan Buddhist meditation where you imagine yourself taking in all the hard and awful things in the world, and send out good stuff, like love, joy, and healing. I realized a little while ago that when you can listen to another person's tales of woe--their irritations, upsets, worries, fears, and stories of maltreatment--and respond with compassion and caring, you are doing tonglen.)

Finally, as we go beyond loving each person to loving the whole world--not just the people but the animals and plants and microorganisms and the entire ecosystem--we are truly spreading love. Joanna Macy talks about seeing the 'World as Lover' (see World as Lover, 1/15/10) Yes, I believe that we can love the entire planet--and this means we need to show our love by taking good care of it. I've been thinking a lot about what I will call the great triple love: loving ourselves, loving each other, and loving the world--and in action that becomes caring for ourselves, caring for each other, and caring for the world. This is what I see as major social change, and what I see as love in action.

May you have all the love you could ever want and may you spread much love through the world in this upcoming year.

Quote of the Day: "We cannot avoid Using power,
Cannot escape the compulsion To afflict the world,
So let us, cautious in diction And mighty in contradiction,
Love powerfully." - Martin Buber


Austan said...

What a lovely thing to read at the close of the year. Thanks, you Love Guy you. ;)

MoonRaven said...

This from the woman who gives out free hugs in the town parking lot!

Happy New Year--and love to you as well.