Saturday, February 14, 2009

In Love with Spirit: Method & Purpose

This post was originally going to have a slightly different focus, shaped in part by my reaction to a post over at Dreaming the Future Closer a while back (if you're reading, Ian, I do intend to get back to our aesthetic/scientific discussion--so many ideas, so little time!). But, as Jeff's comment quickly reminded me, this original intention shaped my last post in some significant ways, leading me to skip over some important concepts and leave certain assumptions unmentioned. Seriously, sometimes there are too. many. ideas. to keep you from ever feeling like you've said anything comprehensively coherent!

So let's back up.

Spiritual growth. Like all processes, I suppose it's safe to say that in this, too, there is both method and purpose; that is to say, there is a "how" and a "why." When we look to role models of spiritual growth, then, it follows that sometimes we are seeking an example of how to be spiritual, and at other times we hope to find an inspiration for why a deeper life of spirit is a vital or meaningful one.* Jeff is right to point out that "many pagans look to the natural world as a model to follow," but for me, this statement raises several more questions. The one I want to deal with first is: does nature provide a model of method, or a model of purpose, or both? And in each case, what can the model show us? Instead of jumping right into modern Paganism, which is in many ways still just a bedraggled fledgling, I'd like to look at a few examples from other religious traditions.

*To use my last post as a springboard into this new discussion, I might sum up by saying that in my experience Druidry, though it provides many examples of the spiritual life's various hows, leaves the why, the ultimate purpose of such activities, largely unexamined. One reason for this may be that Paganism as a whole tends to emphasize practice over belief as the common element which defines its communities. Another, perhaps, is the sense of "homecoming" many Pagans express, which takes the "why" of a suitable spiritual path as a given and may never be closely examined from within the Pagan tradition. With only skills to perfect rather than some relationship or ideal to pursue, however, I think we're likely to continue to see some seekers falter and even leave Paganism completely as they struggle without clear sense of purpose or direction.

Models from Nature

I was tempted, in my last post, to mention the Taoist role model for spiritual growth, the sage. In the Chuang-Tzu, the sage or "true person" is often compared to an ancient tree, which has survived to such a great age because it is too twisted and useless for anyone to bother cutting it down. This amusing image perfectly reflects the Taoist emphasis on perfect, effortless integrity in the Way which, when achieved, becomes a source of infinite potential and energy. (Another charming example from the Chuang-Tzu: "The child howls the whole day but its throat does not become hoarse--the height of harmony.") It emphasizes the non-utilitarian essence found in nature, in which a being may be "indispensable to all things," but useful to none. A tree that grows fluidly shaped by the Tao, responsive to its influence, lives intimately with the air, rain and soil, despite being "useless" to them as well as to the man who would cut it down for timber. For Taoists, a "model from nature" leads to ultimate union with the Way, a deep harmony with the web of being which expresses itself in endless diversity but springs from a single source, the Tao:
Let me say a few careless words to you and you listen carelessly, all right? The sage can lean against the sun and moon and tuck the universe under his arm because he melds things into a whole. The mass of men are all hustle-bustle; the sage is slow and simple. He combines myriad years into a single purity.
This purpose or "why" of the spiritual life is strikingly similar to what Jeff describes as the Pagan's goal, "deeper integration and union with the web of life," yet the process by which one arrives at the goal is uniquely Taoist, with an emphasis on non-utilitarian stillness and simplicity: "through nonaction, no action is left undone."

Let us look at another non-monotheistic example of models for spiritual growth: Hinduism. Within Hinduism are four "yogas," or disciplines, of the spiritual life: (a) jnana yoga, the discipline of knowledge or philosophy, in which the yogi passes through the three stages of learning, thinking and shifting awareness; (b) bhakti yoga, the discipline of love or devotion, in which the yogi strives to adore a chosen ideal or form of Divinity as selflessly and sincerely as possible; (c) karma yoga, the discipline of work or service, which can be approached with either of the two aforementioned emphases, knowledge or love; and (d) raja yoga, the discipline of science or experimentation, though not the physical "science" of the West, rather a kind of "science of the soul," in which the yogi investigates the layers of the self through "psychophysical exercises" (this is the "yoga" of meditation and body movement most familiar to, say, California yuppies looking to stay thin). These four disciplines embrace a wide array of personalities and inclinations: thoughtfulness, curiosity, passion, activity, reason, emotion, skepticism... They also may each incorporate or refer to different "models from nature" most suitable for their respective methods: a yogi on the path of knowledge might contemplate the ocean with its waves as a model for the Infinite Being underlying the experience of self, while familial and social relationships found in nature provide models for the yogi seeking a path of love. Each of the four disciplines provides a particular and valuable method for spiritual growth, some of which are strikingly similar to Pagan practices in meditation, ritual and devotion to deity. Yet in Hinduism, these methods all ultimately lead towards the same purpose, the same "why," which is the revelation of the finite personality as distinct from the deepest Self or Atman, and the world as illusory or unreal in comparison to the Infinite Source, or Godhead, or Brahman. Although there is some debate over the particulars, it would be slightly inaccurate in most cases to characterize the "end goal" of these various yogas as a deeper integration within the world itself; rather, the purpose is to transcend both the self and the world, in one sense or another.

Both of these religious traditions, Taoism and Hinduism, look for models in the natural world to provide images and metaphors for the spiritual life, and yet despite their shared Eastern roots and influences, even they differ in how they use these natural models to shape their understanding of the method and purpose of spiritual growth. While Taoism sees in nature models of effortless harmony and the blossoming of all activity and creativity from the stillness of an essential union, Hinduism holds up discipline, intention and effort as fundamental to all approaches to Ultimate Reality, shedding or overcoming finite particularity. These differences are only natural. Literally. For nature is incredibly diverse, and its models of growth and relationship practically infinite. How different, then, might a Western-rooted newly-resuscitated form of modern Paganism be not only from Western monotheistic traditions, but even from other poly-, pan(en)- and non-theistic traditions around the world.

One problem with saying that the Pagan solution to the question of spiritual growth is "to look to nature," is that in some ways such a statement is so broad that it doesn't really say anything, or at least nothing particularly and uniquely applicable (in the West, such a statement usually assumes, rather, a rejection of certain perceived trends in monotheism and Christianity especially, without much elaboration). Even if we take a deep, harmonious integration with the web of life to be the most obvious and consistent model that the natural world provides for us regarding the purpose of spiritual life, there is still the question of method (how practices such as divination, meditation and magic in the Western Pagan tradition relate to models in nature and move us towards this purpose is an important question as well, for another time). William James, in his Varieties of Religious Experience, talks about different spiritual phases that most individuals go through along their respective journeys. The first stage for most of us is that of "healthy-mindedness," when we feel naturally connected and at ease in the world. But few people (the "once born," as he calls them) are lucky enough to remain in this stage for very long. Most of us eventually become "sick souls," torn in multiple directions by conflicts with the world as it naturally exists, confronted with problems like the nature of suffering, the existence of "evil," malice or disharmony, one's relative impotence to accomplish intended good, and the reality and mystery of death, loss and grief. When a person finds herself in conflict with the very world itself and its essential nature, metaphors and examples in the natural world may not always be enough. Reminding ourselves that the wolf does not quibble to kill for food, nor the daisy worry itself about its importance to the field, does not always help us adequately deal with the problem of living as self-aware human beings. (I wrote something about this lacuna of spiritual support a while back, thinking about parallels between pantheism and satire.) .

What's Love Got To Do With It?

(I really need to stop referencing old pop songs in my subheadings. Seriously.)

I have come to wonder if, perhaps, part of spiritual growth is coming to the realization that, to a certain extent, the world cannot always tell us how to be, that we must instead choose for ourselves, decide upon our own values and ideals and work towards them. Arguing that humans are unique creatures in the natural world is not exactly a popular idea in Paganism since it smacks of the kind nature-devaluing human exceptionalism found in some Christian traditions, but the truth that we are self-aware creatures capable of free, creative choice must, I think, be an essential aspect of any model for spiritual growth. We have the potential to choose how we relate to and exist in the world, which ideals we strive towards, which bonds we nurture. In the great Song of the World, we have the freedom to create our own melodies, to modulate and improvise, always guided by a gentle, attentive listening to the harmonies around us.

Which brings me back to the beginning. Love. As I mentioned above, in Hinduism, the path of bhakti yoga, of love and devotion, allows each individual to seek out her own ideal, the form of Divinity which best moves her, to which she can most fervently devote herself. Some Hindus have said that Christianity, with its emphasis on love and especially a personal love for Jesus as Christ, exemplifies the bhakti path (sometimes to the point of eclipsing the valuable role of philosophy, service and curiosity). Ian, of Dreaming the Future Closer, imagines the relationship between person and deity in a very similar way when he discusses unconditional love.

Unconditional love requires that the love be unconditioned by both the lover and the beloved.  Unconditional love must affirm the beloved without taking on the beloved’s real or imagined conditions.  To the extent that the beloved does not return the love, denies the love, the love remains conditioned, by expectation if not outright demand.

In his post, Ian concentrates on the role of the human being as lover seeking the beloved, which in the case of the spiritual life is usually some conception of deity. Yet he rightly points out that when a lover merely replaces her own conditions with those of the beloved, whether human or divine, she has yet to attain to real unconditional (that is, condition-less) love. This is just as true when "the mystic proclaims ‘Better that I suffer [under the conditions imposed by my beloved] than that I place demands, conditions, upon my love for the beloved,’" as when a devotee passes judgment on herself and others according to the conditions laid out by her God in scripture or ritual. A love that utterly unites lover with beloved destroys the former, and even if reciprocated can only establish a kind of self-referential closed circuit.

Yet this is not precisely the model of unconditional love that I learned growing up in a Christian household. As Beatrice Bruteau discusses in her book, Radical Optimism: Practical Spirituality in an Uncertain World, the Catholic model of Divine Unconditional Love is specifically triune. While love between lover and beloved, even when perfectly unconditional and reciprocated, suffers from a stunted self-involvement (lover unites with beloved in loving merely the lover herself, who loves merely the beloved, who loves the lover, who loves...), the inclusion of a third "person" opens up within love an inherent tension in which individuality and unity are both supported, reaffirmed and cultivated. We see this even in human relationships: a couple who find only one another interesting, besides being painfully dull and nauseatingly sweet for the rest of us, are unlikely to help one another grow; on the other hand, a couple comprised of two unique individuals with their own passions and interests, who can unite in appreciating the world not only beyond themselves but beyond each other, will find infinite potential for exploring and developing that love. The Catholic Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--establish a web of engaged loving relationship as the fundamental nature of our existence grounded in Spirit.

As I replied to Ian's original post, as a child raised to my family's Catholicism, I conceived of God not as the beloved, but as the Lover, not only capable of entering into a relationship of reciprocal, unconditional love, but already and forever doing just that. It was never a question of whether or not "God would love me back" or instead place crippling conditions on my devotion. Every Christian child can sing: "Jesus loves me, this I know (for the Bible tells me so)." This is no small distinction. Indeed, it shifts the very nature of our relationship to the Divine, and to deity more specifically. Jesus as Christ, as deity, not only engages in the perfectly unconditional act of loving us, but also of loving God as Father, that is, as Godhead. In this situation, we are the beloved, and so all that remains is for us to aspire to a less conditioned, more perfectly loving relationship with Jesus, and through Jesus as perfectly loving, with God as the infinite, intimate Source or Spirit of our being.

This was the model of spiritual love I found in those mystics and saints I admired as a child. And it was this model that provided me, for so many years, with both a method and a purpose to guide my spiritual growth. The purpose, the why: intimate, experiential relationship with my spiritual Source which, rather than being an end, would support and encourage (and sometimes provoke or instigate against my own stubborn intentions) my on-going growth. The method, the how: love, aspiring to increasingly unconditional devotion and gratitude to deity, and through deity to Spirit, and through Spirit to the world itself which Spirit creates and sustains, the Dancer dancing the Dance in the infinite present, the here-now. Love led me to act, to act playfully and creatively, and this creativity, imagination and sacred play led me, eventually, to the Druid way.


  1. Such a beautiful post, Ali! And I found myself responding on multiple levels -- analytical, emotional, spiritual. Here are some of those responses, trimmed somewhat to fit in a comment...

    * Does Nature provide an unequivocal, reliable guide for both the purpose and the method of spiritual growth? I definitely see what you're saying about the diversity of nature being such that just about any methods and purposes you want can be found in it. But if you look at a different level of granularity, you get a more solid and consistent answer -- particularly to the "method" question. (For the "purpose" question, Nature answered me to my personal satisfaction, described here.) At the level of the ecosystem, the Natural method of achieving goals is again and again: emergent, bottom-up order. Achieve your goals by trying dozens or thousands of different things and seeing what works. Individuals free to act cooperatively or competitively in combination can solve problems in amazingly creative and beautiful ways. Maybe this seems irrelevant to a single struggling being; but -- without going too deep into it -- the "individual" is an illusion; we are each of us a multitude. We are all ecosystems. In a very real sense, we can simply step out of the way and allow ourselves to grow. (This is all very Zen / Taoist of me, I expect, and deserves its own article. :-) )

    * The world cannot tell us how to be? Absolutely agree. Our free will is a fact. And yet the ways of being human are bounded -- while still being infinite. We ARE of this world and in it, and the difference between us and the rest of nature is not, I think, one of kind, but of layers. Our normal mess of emotions and thoughts are a tangled forest; and there is a part of us that is outside the forest, watching and judging and deciding; but that extra part of us is, itself, a tangled forest. A forest, as Lewis said, "higher up and deeper in". So again, I do not think the natural model fails us here. (This deserves its own article as well.)

    * The love of Diety for us. Yes, a thousand times yes! On my very first meditative meeting with Apollo, of all the amazing things he told me, I was most thunderstruck by the incredible Love I felt from him. "Remember you are my own dear son, and I love you." The words alone cannot convey it -- the force of that divine love is bone-shuddering, and I'm getting tingles up my spine simply remembering it. I have felt similar feelings ("feelings" -- what an inadequate word!) from Cernunnos and Odin, and even from "lesser" spirits -- one in particular that blew me away, just a few nights ago, which I will write to you about soon. And this too deserves its own article -- except of course you've already written it, above. :-) THANK you!

  2. Jeff, Stop jumping ahead! :-p I just read your post that you linked to, and I'd been planning for my next post in this blog to be something very similar--a story about finding meaning in nature. I'm struck by how different my experience has been from yours--and also, much more gradual, so that looking back I realize I have been going through a process-of-...something for the past year at the very least and have only now kind of moved out of it (I think!). But I'll wait to tell that story until later...

    I very much like what you say about the meaning of the universe being nothing more (and nothing less) than beauty, and finding purpose in the creation of beauty. On the other hand, for me there are at least two "kinds" of beauty, if I could be so crass as to categorize. There is, as you mention in your post, the beauty of works of art, and working to make one's life and one's relationships beautiful can rightly be compared to such creative artistic goals (you can probably tell I have a preoccupation with aesthetics myself). But then there's the beauty that is created by accident, which is what I think you refer to in your comment above as "emergent" order. To me, experiences of these two different types of beauty are very distinct and have very different effects on me personally. They also lead me to two different views of "method" in the spiritual life.

    Beauty that emerges out of chaos and chance, out of each being pursuing its own needs and desires without concern for and sometimes even blind to the "bigger picture" is not the same as the beauty we experience of artistic works, which are defined primarily by intention (if you were watching the Colbert Report the other night, you saw what's-his-face actually refer to this concept in debate over that now-famous Obama image). That emergent beauty in nature can move us to want to create beauty through art and the aesthetics of living in relationship is wonderful, but this is still essentially an example of us "adding" to nature, I think. What nature alone shows us is that beauty can (sometimes, by accident) emerge out of chaos even when nobody's bothering to work towards such beauty, and it would be easy to draw from this the conclusion that simply living one's life without concern for the "bigger picture"--as the daisy or the wold does--is just as likely as not to lead to the creation of beauty (even if, as part of it, we never see it realized). This in itself can be a valuable insight about the world (especially for A-type personalities who want to take everything on their own shoulders), but it certainly doesn't give us any reason why we should bother doing magic or making music or writing poetry. At best, it might encourage meditation as a way of glimpsing that emergent beauty we might otherwise miss out on.

    I should qualify all of the above with things like "in my experience" and "as I see it"... But for me, the relationship between the intentional, willed creation of beauty and the emergent, chaotic beauty of the natural world remains largely unexamined in Druidry. As a Druid, I might in one instant feel overwhelmed by the power and beauty of a sunset, and in another instant begin composing a poem or song with the intention of communicating this experience of beauty to others, not just by telling them about how I felt but by actually inciting an experience of beauty within them as well. But a sunset is not a poem. I want to understand and work towards articulating the relationship that exists here, the process of experience, intention and exchange. And it is not a process that happens entirely in nature. I cannot learn everything I need to know about art from the daisy or the wolf, neither of whom, as beautiful as they are, gives a damn about aesthetics.

  3. O, I meant to recommend Sartre's Nausea--he comes to a similar conclusion about the essential important of "creating" as the purpose to life, but he comes at it from a completely different direction.

    And another through occurs to me: I wonder if it is possible that, as we discover these forests "higher up and deeper in" we will continue to come up against ways in which they do, indeed, "fail us" in one respect or another, which is exactly what will continue to push us higher and deeper... Individuals at ease with the "external" forests of the natural world, after all, rarely turn inward to search through their own inner wilderness landscapes. I have a friend like this, for whom the world is simple and enjoyable, and that's all there is to it. He thinks little of his self and his own complexities (and so, in some ways, he lives as though he had none).

    And another thought: love, and the concept of giving or generosity towards the beloved, may prove to be a very important aspect of the relationship between emergent beauty and aesthetic beauty.... I just want more Druids and Pagans to talk about this kind of stuff, to explore it in depth. Instead, I mostly hear about personal experiences of feeling loved, as you described, but very little about how this relates to and integrates with the rest of one's spiritual path and practice. I think this is one thing Pagans can learn from Christianity--for (some) Christians, love is not just a nice feeling one gets from the activity of worship, it is fundamental to the theology and metaphysics of reality. Artisson (I'm reading his The Flaming Circle right now) gives lots of lip-service to love as the essential relational bond interconnecting all beings.... but his own philosophies and practices, as he describes them, seem entirely disconnected from this supposedly basic truth, developed and pursued without reference to love at all. I keep struggling with that kind of approach to the spiritual life. Peak experiences of love or unity that aren't integrated and made relevant to the rest of life.... what's the point of them, then?

    But now I'm just brainstorming instead of actually responding to anything you've said, and that's something probably better done on my own time. ;)

  4. (Argh! I can't stop!)

    That is to say--your experience of Apollo's love for you is not exactly what I'm talking about. For me, growing up Christian, there is nothing particularly novel about being loved by a god. Yes, it is an amazingly powerful, overwhelming experience when you stop and honestly try to open yourself to it... but I continued to struggle with the idea of relating to gods and goddesses of a polytheistic pantheon, even when conceiving of them as deities capable and willing to love me as an individual.

    That is, until I stumbled upon a goddess who loved Something Bigger than herself and, in taking me under her wing (if not quite loving me at this early stage in our relationship), helps me to open up to that Something Bigger, as well.

  5. Ali -- what a tease you are! You're going to tell us about finding meaning in nature... you're going to tell us about the role of love in spiritual practice... you're going to tell us about the goddess who is devoted to something greater than herself... We're chomping at the bit, here!

    The two kinds of beauty -- I don't remember coming across this distinction before, but it definitely resonates with me. I think of Tolkien, who was so enamored with the beauty of language that he was compelled to create dozens of them for, as he said, his "own personal aesthetic pleasure". (I heard him say that in an audio interview, and the relish with which he said the words was delightful!) Here natural languages, while created by people, is largely of the "accidental" type of beauty; while Tolkien's languages are definitely of the purposeful type. And yet when he created them, he allowed accidents to occur -- both "intentional" accidents (in which something that appeared to be accidental, like the movements of peoples or the random borrowing of a word, was in fact carefully arranged by him) -- and "unintentional" accidents (in which he would make a mistake in his creation, realize it, and run with it). Perhaps this is all part of working with a medium, as you mentioned in your earlier post on science and art...

    For Tolkien, the call to create Art was one of the most essential parts of being human; for, as he said (I think in "On Fairy Tales"), in his native Catholicism, we as humans are made in the image of the Creator; and therefore we are Creators as well. If creating the universe, and loving that universe, are the most salient facts about God, then to what greater purpose can we aspire? That argument affected me profoundly, though when I read it I was basically athiest.

    When you talk about the forests within, and being pushed higher and deeper, I can't escape the feeling that it is we who are creating the forests as we seek them.

    I desperately want to hear what you come up with when you think more about the role of love in spiritual practice. It definitely seems that it must be some kind of signpost or homing beacon -- an attractive force, as pain is a repulsive force. But beyond that...

    I definitely saw the Colbert Report, and thought of you when I saw it. :-) The idea that art must be Intentional really struck a chord with me; and for some reason it screamed "ALI!" at me. Maybe you've mentioned it before? (Aside -- There's been a raging debate for decades in libertarian circles as to whether intellectual property "really" exists, and if so, what one ought to do about it... I'm not sure how I feel about it, but I can point you to some articles on that if you like.)

  6. Trust me, I'm not trying to be a tease. I feel like I'm teetering on the edge of something HUGE here--not really a something, but an articulation of... stuff... all of which ties together in this vastly complicated way so that I never feel satisfied that I've covered it or even made a good approach to putting things in perspective in any given blog post... I am actually running (at least) a week behind in terms of "intended posts to write," because the internal dialogue keeps going and I only have so many hours of concentrated writing effort in me each day. It almost feels like I'll never catch up, though this isn't a bad thing since, as a writer, a bout of inspiration with no end in sight is a thing to cherish. :) But the part of me that wants to understand what it is I'm thinking and doing and believing is really impatient to get it out in words, send it out into the universe (or just cyberspace) to sit for a bit, and then to actually spend enough time away from it that I can come back to it with some perspective.

    If any of that makes any sense. :)

    Right now, I'm trying to figure out if I am more annoyed by or overwhelmingly grateful for reader feedback, which keeps sending me deeper into ideas I thought I could cover in a single leap. It's like walking through thick mud... I keep sinking in when I want to be moving forward, but the sensation of wet earth between my metaphorical toes teaches me something that mere forward motion can't. On the other hand, my legs are getting tired and I think I permanently lost my shoes a while back...

  7. :-D Just give the word, and I'll shut up. I too am way behind on writing -- I think I owe you a letter or two, for example, and I haven't written a NEW blog post in weeks, and I have all these fiction projects crying out for me plaintively... But your stuff is ridiculously inspiring and infectious. :-)

    Speaking of feet, and toes in mud, how is your heel?

  8. For me the feeling of being loved by a divine presence has come and gone in my life. I think this depends largely on me. When I am open to a sense of wonder and gratitude towards my life and the world, that love seems to come through loud and clear.

    Love in my view is uncontrollable. I have experienced this over the last year in a very real way. From my perspective love cannot be coerced, it either exists or it does not. I do, however, believe in different levels of love. I know, on a heart level, that I am capable of some levels of love and not others depending on the relationship. To me all true knowledge takes root and actualizes in the heart.

    The Gaeilge word croí is one of my new favorite words. It means: heart, core, essence, kernal. I have often felt a feeling of despair that some of the things that I generally thought I integrated and learned at the time only really effected me on an intellectual level. Only when I *know* it with my heart does it seem to really change me and my behavior.

    For example, I knew on an intellectual level that I loved my mother and she would not always be around. I am sure she knew the same, on an intellectual level. When she cam down with cancer, however, everything changed. Everything. The reality of her mortality came home to my heart, mo chroí, in a way it never had before. That is real magic. The power inherent in experience that transmits something eternal. What a blessing and curse cancer is all at the same time.

    I have felt more and more recently how powerful love is at integrating knowledge. In fact it is absolutely necessary in order to effect lasting change. This is one of the reasons that I have absorbed the Tibetan practice of Guru Yoga into my practice (although I do it with Amhairghin instead of Padmasambhava) and another practice from the Faery tradition that uses the Three Realms to bless the world, and also Tonglen.

    Practice can be the "why". Or at least it can be the way of consciously working with the "why". The above three practices that I mentioned are inspired by the "why" and driven by the "why" to enhance the "why". How's that for circular? ;-) Hope that makes some modicum of sense.

  9. Hi Ali,
    I just stumbled upon your blog whilst googling and I am glad I have. What an insightful read and I will return to read more fully when I am coherent and it isn't so early in the morning.

    At this point, I am going through a significant loss and the need to work through this and come to some kind of acceptance. As a consequnce the 'unconditional love' comments resounded. They are so true and, in essence, work on the individual levels between humans as they do on the divine level as well. At the moment I know I am focusing too much on the individual level!!

    In striving to recognise one as the whole, I find love is so important and seeking to love unconditionally one of the hardest things. It involves being able to put ones' ego aside and say 'I am part of one great whole and the universe does not revolve around me' This, for me ayway, also brings a conflict, as I am part of a whole but also the universe is inside me...

    Blimey, I can talk more coherently, as I say, when it isn't so early and I my mind isn't wondering so much. I just wanted to stop by and say hi... Maybe I should have left it at that!! haha


  10. Melanie, welcome! I'm glad you've found some things here that resonate with you. :)

    I definitely agree that unconditional love can be incredibly challenging but also vitally important. I've heard others talk about how it's "impossible" and we shouldn't pursue such an ideal... But for someone who believes that their essential spirit is an emanation of the Divine (as I do), then at the deepest level we are full of an infinite potential for love and we should always be working to realize that and remembering that potential as a valuable part of ourselves.

    I've gone through periods of loss and grief, too... so I hope you find solace and inspiration in your life, with family and friends, to help you through. There's nothing wrong with focusing on "the individual level"! :) If we can't cultivate loving relationships with the people in our lives, how can we hope to do so with the world and with Spirit on a larger scale, right? :)