The third question of the Simple Path is another question that works just as well for people who believe in God, those who do not, and those who are not sure one way or the other.
This third question is, “Who do you love in this world with whom you have little or no conflict?”
To make any real progress in the search for wisdom, or the deeper stages of peace, one needs to learn, at a realistic pace, to love all who live. But for people with major resentments and tendencies towards harsh judgement of others this is not an easy thing to do. For many people, especially those who have been badly hurt by others, this is a long term goal that needs to be approached gradually and indirectly.
Clarifying one’s core truths and serious doubts and questions about what to believe is a good first step. Healing one’s relationship with themselves by learning to offer love and forgiveness towards their own life is another essential building block. Embracing the realities of one’s life with greater acceptance, courage, and patience is another part of this.
But before one can perceive the value of forgiving the unforgivable, and before one can develop the capacity to do so, it is of primary importance to start with more basic efforts. These efforts also may not be easy, but they are much easier than loving the unlovable.
This easier effort is to turn your attention to the relationships in your life you are closest to with whom you have the least conflict. Part of this effort is to pause for a moment to realize how many (or how few) people there are in your life that you feel a genuine sense of love for. Another part of this effort is to pause to see whether you feel much in the way of love for others at all.
For most people, when they really stop to think about it, their list is fairly short. There may be only 1 or 2 or 3-6 people at the most they genuinely love and feel emotionally and physically safe around.
How short or long is the list of those people you love the most with whom you have little to no conflict or irritation with?
This is the island within that is the island of safety a person has to work with. Most people will find it is a pretty small island surrounded by a very large sea of the other people in their life and in the larger society in which they live.
How does one further awaken the sense of kindness and love they have to offer?
What does it feel like to love someone?
What does it feel like to call up, or awaken, the sentiments of love and positive wishes that you offer to those you love? How does one summon this sense of love and positive sentiment during meditation? How does one then offer this love in silence and stillness?
The answer is that with practice and sincerity and the guidance and example of mature other people, we stumble our way to being better at love. Those who believe in God can draw upon the divine assistance for help with their efforts. Those who do not will rely on their own efforts and the help of noble friends. Those who are confused about what to believe can just be confused as they seek to improve their skills with love.
What work do you need to do to improve the quality of love and respect you offer to those you love and respect? What do you need to do to improve the openness and vulnerability with which you receive the love and respect others are trying to offer to you?
No one knows exactly how much of the spiritual path is about learning to improve the iur skills with love. But it is a major portion of all the work we do both in meditation and the active hours of our life.
More next week. Please let me know what you think. All constructive comments will be posted.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” host of MeditationPractice.com.