This summer I have the special privilege of officiating at the wedding service of my son Ben and his beloved Olivia. In preparation of my remarks for this momentous occasion I am reminded of the great disconnect we in our culture have with the truest and deepest meanings of love. More than merely a sentiment, an emotion, or a commodity to be grasped and seized upon, love is the very force that holds the universe together. It is the water in which we are swimming. It is this, and it is more.
Nevertheless, the fullness of a committed relationship can offer glimpses into love’s transformative power. Here’s how I will expressed it in some of remarks at the service:
But don’t get me wrong—a committed and intimate relationship can be a royal road to spiritual transformation and abiding happiness, but we just have to get the direction right. More than getting something from the other, it’s about giving what is deepest within us—giving freely and unreservedly to the other. Love’s power is unlocked when we choose to give to the other that which they most deeply need. And surprisingly and quite paradoxically, it is that giving that allows us to fulfill the fullness of our own unique individuality.
It is, then, the daily practice of laying down oneself for the other—exchanging self for other—that a deeper channel is carved in the heart. It is this gesture of open-hearted giving that can take us from the tighter orbit of our usual self-absorbed self-referencing and self-protection to a deeper and more porous sense of ourselves that knows that we belong to the world and that the world belongs to us.
Unfortunately, though, we in our present Western worldview have come to think of love as something we can acquire—from the right partner. A judicious choice is what is believed to be required to ensure that the one we pick can give us the love we most desperately need. Of course, this directs our focus on what we should get rather than what we can give.
We who have been exposed to Wisdom work know that that perspective derives from the smaller self and its egoic operating system. Its job is to protect, promote, and enhance that smaller self-identity. Everything is seen and experienced within that tight orbit of self-referencing.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that a deeper love is impossible from this tighter orbit and orientation. It just means that it will have to swim against the current and get there through a sense of duty, service, or social conformity. As priest and pastor, I have seen stunning examples of this—situations wherein great sacrifice was expressed through such duty or service. And yet, sometimes the missing piece in these examples was joy.
Wisdom knows that there is another path to deep love, and that this doesn’t necessarily travel by duty, service, or social conformity. It operates through finding a different platform from which to see and apprehend realty. This viewing platform affords the fuller perspective of interconnected wholeness. That is, we can see that, rather than a small and scared object in a sea of hostile enemies and competitors, we are integral parts of the whole and connected to the All. But the key to this whole trajectory is that it must be experienced in order to be known. It is so much more than simply believing that this is so.
This is where our Wisdom practice may take us. Rather than thinking that our partner actually hands anything over to us and that, in our receiving this from our partner, we are thereby given the key to intimacy’s door; it is the experience of giving love that gradually opens us up an entirely different awareness. This recognition is that the heart itself, when purified through sincere and authentic giving as well as spiritual practice, already has the quality of intimacy as its essential nature. In this way, loving our partner simply reveals the intimacy that we already have. Pure intimacy has been there all along; we only had to uncover it.
The great discovery of meaningful life, then, is that our own heart is like a hologram of the divine heart and already has (and has always had) the vibrational signature of pure intimacy. And this is true whether we are engaged with a partner or not. But this great reality is only uncovered when we learn how to give love and when we learn how to give ourselves away.