Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Rule 40: Love is the Essence of Life

A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western…. divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire. The universe turns differently when fire loves water.        

A life without love means to take living beings just as things, as object without self value for unrestricted use – plants, animals, humans. They all have one task, to serve my purposes and to be consumed for that. Even more, all the other existent things, namely lifeless nature get deprived of any self-worth.

Materialistic consciousness has brought this view to perfection and created the maximum alienation possible to mankind. Whatever we encounter as a thing is alien to us, because it has been ripped off its aliveness. We only can develop an inner trust to living beings. It is clear that we create a split in ourselves by turning ourselves to an object without noticing. And this object has to function perfectly. The animate sphere becomes an opposite which we meet with aggression in case it does not fit our purposes. Eventually, we ally ourselves with death by declaring life as an enemy. (Death, by the way, does not accept this offer, as it cannot be treated as an instrument of human will – every materialist will be addressed by death with great reliability in the given time.)

In contrast, love is tuning in to the flow of life. Love is what allows and furthers growth. Love dwells where fear has been confined. Love has so many faces as there are moments for loving. We are in love, when we are connected, with people, with nature, with what is happening right now, inside and outside of us. 

The fire of love is the passion for life and its growth. When it is burning inside of us, we can say: Yes, we can and we want to make a difference in this world, as we can open up more for the power of life and foster and support it consciously. The work to which the fire of love calls us is mainly resolving our fears and thus free us from our confinements.

This should become our passion: Removing everything which is in the way of awareness, of being in the moment, of swinging with love. When we feel we have resolved an inner block and regain our connection to life, we have used the power of the fire. It is burning down what is no longer needed and is in the way. It symbolizes the radicalness of seeking (it is not more and not less about the further existence of life and humanity) and the radicalness to discriminate: commitment for life or against it. 

Love is a child of freedom, as a French proverb says. Love cannot be jailed by the jealous guardians of “true love”, it cannot be owned by definers and small minds. Love blasts all limitations and subdues its wardens in a surprise attack. Love changes its face and shows new sides in every moment. It surprises the seeker when she finds it in a flower by the road or in an unimpressive person in the subway.

When we believe we should have to find divine love as incorporated by Jesus Christ or others, we can make the mistake to try to imitate an unreachable idol and by this overlook or disregard mundane love – love is in all places where people support and serve other people. Even in economical connections in which every service is defined in terms of payment, love can work when the action is connected with respect to the bigger whole which encompasses everything. 

So I do not need to give off my love when leaving my home, but can take it with me and feel it when I meet unknown people on the street, when I am thankful to the bus driver or feel compassion for the mother taking her three kids to kindergarten or for the old man with tired legs or the business woman full of stress etc.

This can also work for our professions we do for earning our living. Wherever and whatever we work, we can do it with carelessness or aversion or rather with awareness and openness for the service we give to other people and to the whole. Then the power of love flows into all those actions we often see in the perspective of duty and compulsion. By this, we transform a must into a wanting and connect to the flow of life instead of blocking by inner resistance that which we give the most energy and endeavor. 

Jesus has shown in many examples who deserve our love the most: the sinners and the excluded and not just those we like anyway; the enemies we condemn and not just the friends. There will always be people in our lives with whom we have problems – as colleagues or bosses, neighbors or contemporaries from the media world. Instead of judging these people according to our immediate reaction which comes from some superficial impression of them, we can try to see their deeper core – a core which makes them precious and unique beings, equal to us in value and uniqueness. We just need to connect to this core and all we judge or dislike about them will become negligible and unimportant.

We ought to expand our compassion beyond the limitations of our habits and comfort, this is the message of Jesus. In every act of compassion which transcends our interior area we enlarge and enrich the world as a whole. Then it will become a place in which we can live in an essential way and grow in peace. By engaging in compassion and empathy, we will notice that it wants to grow by itself. There is no border to stop this expansion. It strives towards the whole and is only content when it can encompass everything. As single persons, we will not succeed in one life with this task, yet in connection with all we will create a net of love around the world. It is up to us to deliver the best possible contribution.

In these forms and exercises of expansion which are the essence of love, we link the mundane with the divine, or in other words, we realize its inner entanglement: The divine being nothing else as the mundane and vice versa. (We do not perceive the divine anywhere else than in this world; even if God would appear to us, He would do so in the world of visible things. And in any other form in which we get into contact with God or He with us, divine and mundane meet.)

The rules are taken from Elif Shafak's novel “The Forty Rules of Love” (Viking 2010). They are inspired by the Sufi tradition and worded by the autor's imagination.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Rule 39:

While the parts change, the whole always remains the same. For every thief who departs the world, a new one is born. And every decent person who passes away is replaced by a new one. In this way not only does nothing remain the same but also nothing ever really changes.

Mystics love the paradoxa as they mess up the usual and habitual concepts of thinking. The order the mind wants to bring into the world only serves its own stabilization and protection. To lever out thinking by means of thinking is the most efficient technique in many spiritual teachings. Thinking creates oppositions, and with thinking these oppositions can be overcome or disempowered. An opportunity to stop and dive into silence and wideness…

The previous rule reflected on the unconditional willingness to change. What sense could the idea make that the whole is always the same, while we ought to be in permanent change and need to get aware that we are in permanent change?

The aspect of change takes care of differences. Life develops from one to the next, creates new forms all the time and enriches the universe. Yet every difference exists within a connectedness. All new things are linked with all that has been around before, or, in other words, in the new moment all is new. The change is only in the proceeding of time which produces new moments over and over again. One moment is different from the next. But our thinking is shortsighted – time is not a staccato of distinct points of time in one line but a flow with differences in staying identical. So in reality, these moments we talked about do not exist. They only serve to anchor our consciousness in its way out of the distortions of thinking. Though on close look, this anchor falls into the void. There is no counter position in the flow of life. And we only need it as long as we cling to the clumsiness of our thoughts. As soon as we are connected to the lightness of flowing we do not need concepts and explanations any more.

Then we open up or wake up for a closer look at the whole. The whole is our home. Change is our journey. It leads us through many regions in which we can feel at home, and others in which we feel alien. All these places and times belong to the whole, and Life leads us there to get to know it better. Gradually, on our travels in the outer and inner worlds, we start to realize that the same is hidden in all places and times, that they are just variations of the one big theme. Mystics often use images like the drop in the ocean or the sand grain on the beach. We are tiny particles and we are the immense whole. We are infinitely important and infinitely unimportant. All the things we consider so important for us, our little ego, are unimportant in the bigger reality, and the central aspects of life we hardly notice at all are of real importance for the larger reality.

What is the place of thieves and decent persons in this reality? The dying thief is the thief inside ourselves whom we do not need any more. The thief who is born anew is the next layer of a part inside of us who wants to steal or do anything harmful to others. Such layers will appear till we have finally seen, acknowledged and gracefully and lovingly dismissed these parts. Then thieves are no longer needed in our world as there is nothing to steal. We realize that all is ours as we are the whole, and nothing is ours, as we are just a tiny part.

The same is true for the decent person. It is the part inside of me, which wants to do everything in a nice and tidy way and does not want to hurt anyone. Also this part has to be overcome to give way for a broader view of humanity in which decency is no longer needed as everything has its rightness and is acknowledged in its essential being.

From the perspective of the whole, in the process of becoming conscious (which is the obligatory way for the single beings as well as for mankind) suffering and anxieties caused by unconsciousness get reduced. The fixation and attachment to roles and aspects of personality diminish. Instead, the space for love, joy and creativity grows. The whole stays the same in itself and changes and grows at the same time. It is the power of evolution inherent in the whole, which causes and nurtures this growth.

Even if it is a vanishingly small growth in relation to planetary or intergalactic dimensions happening on this tiny star in the vast space, it is of crucial importance for us to know about this power of growth, the power of spiritual evolution. We should allow it to work through us, in other words, we just need to open ourselves up to its activity and to strengthen it with our abilities and awareness.

For this can be our contribution to support the reduction of human suffering. The civilizations, societies and spaces of love in this world should not only be safeguarded in the way they exist, but should grow and enfold more and more to raise the level of consciousness to extend the blessings of love and wellbeing to people and to the whole of existence. Here lies our noble duty and innermost desire.

The rules are taken from Elif Shafak's novel “The Forty Rules of Love” (Viking 2010). They are inspired by the Sufi tradition and worded by the autor's imagination.

Rule 38: Every Moment is a New Beginning

It is never too late to ask yourself, “Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?” Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.

Change means dying, letting go of what has become a familiar habit, what gives us safety – from outer objects to what we hold on to internally like concepts about ourselves. Who am I, and what of that can change, what will always stay the same and never be unhinged? What are the core pieces of my identity? And what would happen, when these pieces change?
I meet the border to the void at the point where all concepts by which my life had been adjusted to a raster have gone lost, light as the clouds in the sky. There are no more coordinates which indicate my position, as the zero point has started to wander. Thus I die into the moment of emptiness, free and unbound like a bird, lofted out of all the gravities
Internally free I am only then, when I am willing to allow myself being changed permanently, which is to totally trust into all that life has planned for me, without resistance and stubbornness. Yet what does it entail to give up my obstinacy? Would I just conform like a piece of laundry on the clothes line to every breeze? Would I just do what others want me to? Who or what is this life I should surrender to?
Life is what permanently changes, what starts every day anew and in an unprecedent form. What remains the same is our idea and concept of this life. We act as if the bed we get out in the morning were the same we have climbed in before the night. Yet wherefrom do we take this certainty? As far as we are concerned, we hardly can deny that we are different from the ones who have gone to bed, enriched by dreams and regeneration, or burdened by irritation and unrest.
To tune in to the changes of life is probably the highest art of living we can acquire as humans. The question remains on which wave offered by life we should jump and which we should let roll by, because it is not meant for us? As soon as we ask for a rule which should tell us what to do and what to leave, we are off the track. There is no rule according to which life would serve us the respective best on a silver plate. All we can do is look from one moment to the next what life is offering and pay attention to what impulses come from inside.
The more we become liberated from our conditioned desires and the expectations and illusions fueled by them, the clearer we can make an internal distinction: What feels coherent and what would distract me from my destination? Life will offer us in every moment the feedback for our decision and for our actions and presents us the next crossroad.
As this life is an interaction of inside and outside, as this life works inside of us all the time, there is nothing like a wrong decision, a false action, a failed life, no errors and meanders. Our internal world with its processes of evaluation and decision making is simply a part of the whole orchestra and appears only to our short sightedness as something that just belongs to us, and that it runs according to a totally different logic in a totally different place as the outside world. Rather life works through us by offering the ratings of the outside and the orientations for action derived from them.
Seemingly we can miss our lives when we do not perceive what life has for us in the moment. The feeling of boredom serves as indicator on what we are overlooking right now, an important surprise presented to us. So instead of dropping into boredom or hectically searching for distraction to overcome it, we can look for the gift of this very moment – a swallow flying by, a raindrop bursting on the windowpane, a breath feeling fresh …
Yet seemingly missing life is part of life, a part which decreases the more awareness grows. Awareness means that we include the changes of life into our view and that we follow it consciously, while leaving all which seems unchanging, on the edges of our vision. As soon as the unchanging aspects of life push to the foreground, we have lost the awareness of the moment and find ourselves in the thinking mode, presumably governed by a fear pattern.
Awareness means also, that every moment lets the prior die, that nothing can be saved from the past and that every moment is an absolute fresh beginning, opening a new time and creating a new man. So we die in every moment, as soon as we become conscious. We learn to die and learn by dying so that the “big” death will be no surprise or shock.

The rules are taken from Elif Shafak's novel “The Forty Rules of Love” (Viking 2010). They are inspired by the Sufi tradition and worded by the autor's imagination.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Rule 37: A Time to Love and a Time to Die

God is a meticulous clockmaker. So precise is His order that everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception the clock works accurately. For each there is a time to love and a time to die.

God as clockmaker is an image presented by the deists of the 18th century. According to the materialistic paradigm, which was popular among the educated scholars of that time, symbolized this image that God had prepared the creation in the beginning with an exact program like a precise clockwork representing the highest quality of craftsmanship. The program would run as written until the springs became tired and the gears defective, at the end of time. According to this assumption, God would not care about the world and leave it up to its course. So there would be no sense in blaming Him for lacking care and attention for his creation.

To understand the quotation above, we should abandon this mechanistic image. Here the hint is directed to the idea of predetermination of everything that happens as if it would run according to a clockwork. The milk overcooked, the bus too late – it is meant to happen like this and cannot be any different. Of course, according to possibility, everything could be different; yet reality exists only once in a given moment, in a single and unique version. So it does not make sense to nag about it and to want it different to what it is. I can take the pot from the stove and wipe up the burned milk but I cannot reverse the milk into an uncooked state. I can take a taxi instead of the bus but I cannot retrieve the lost time.

Seeing life like that can help us to great equanimity by accepting everything as it is whether it fits our plans and expectations or not, whether it is pleasant for us or not. We do not need to quarrel about the events in our lives, as quarreling does not change anything about it except that we create a new problem: the original problem plus our quarreling about it. Of course, our complaints are also part of the clockwork as well as the idea which comes from somewhere at some point in time that there has been enough quarreling and that without it life could become easier.

When we allow this idea to come into our experience, we accept a higher intelligence „above“ us which is superior to us and know immensely more as we could ever conceive of. This is the idea of God which is placed in an area beyond all that is conceivable for us. With this idea, we accept the limitations of our models and of our attempts for explanations. It helps us to let go of the tiresome urge to search for all the reasons of our hardships. What is left for us are attempts to understand rather than final explanations. We look for explanations because we like to do this, but without the expectation to solve any problems by doing so. Problems get solved to the degree and direction which is designed for them, sometimes with our collaboration, sometimes without.

Relieved and liberated from self-excruciation, we gain extra time and energy for other activities, e.g. for loving. There is always a time to love, every moment waits for us to “act” like this. We cannot always connect us with the moment and its openness for love, often we are entangled in a chaos of thinking and feeling, totally absorbed by our hungry self relatedness.

Since ages, the contemplation on higher wisdom, which acts behind all the events and processes, should liberate us from this bedevilment. Then our view would be directed not only and permanently on ourselves and our own well-being as we would notice that we are cared for and carried. Rather we would be open towards the outside, towards those around us. Then our view would no longer be fixed on what they could take away from us or how they threaten us, but on what God has put into them as treasures and preciosities waiting for us to be discovered.

The time to die causes sorrow only when we have dropped out of the time to love. In these cases it can be that we think about our life to end some day, as we just have ended this life which consists of love (mostly without knowing how and why, not even noticing that it had happened). Immediately, the thought about dying causes fear, because so many things are still open. We think about what had to be done and is not yet completed. Love is patient and does not need any hurry, it leads into the moment which is always perfect in itself.

Why is death such a problem? Philosophers have defined humans as “Sein zum Tode”, as beings characterized by the tragic of knowing about their end. Why can we not just leave, in any moment, from this form of existence into the unknown? Of course, no one wants pain, which is often connected with dying. But pain is part of life, and as long as pain persists, we are still alive. And of course, we are afraid of the unknown, the nameless which follows dying. Whereto is the journey? Will there be a heavenly law court, various bardo rooms, a river to cross or simply nothing?

The typical aspect about the border of death is that we cannot know what will show up behind it. So it is an absolute border to our knowing. Knowledge is always connected to a sensual experience which is processed in a living brain. We do not have access and experience with any other kind of knowledge. Death is signified by the definitive ending of all functions of our sensual organs as well as of our brain. So all information gained and developed there will be deleted and gone. Consequently, there is nothing, which could experience fear – we know from reports by people who had near death experience that there is no fear after the first step on the way to death. When we cannot feel anxiety any more, will we just be flooded by light and happiness? People who were clinically dead have after their return often, but not always told that they had had such states of bliss. Yet, as they had returned before the next step, they cannot report what would happen after that, when also those circuits of metabolic functions belonging to those experiences had broken down.

When we say goodbye, we also say goodbye to our beloved ones. We have to leave the people back we have shared most in our lives. We have given a lot and received a lot. When we encounter death consciously, we realize that a cycle has come to completion. Now it is crucial that we move on and also that our beloveds move on. The love which connects us changes its form but not its inner contents.

When we are in love, we are connected to life and its force of development and growth. Then no thought about death can cause fear. Certainly we like to life, but why should it be so important that just we should go on living forever? New Life is created all the time, and old life leaves. A huge web is spun around all those processes and weaves them into a gigantic tapestry of stories. And every story has a beginning and needs an end. Only when one story has ended, the next can begin. All those stories are stories of life, and stories of life are stories of love. So our dying ends a love story and a new one begins, with new protagonists playing their role. We have added our humble knot to this net – not more to do and not less.

We are well advised to show respect to death – it is a mighty power. But we also can meet it with trust, like a guide leading us to unknown territory, with much experience and security, like a friend who renders his one and last service to us.

Alike, death shows its respect to us as it will only be at service when the time has come which we has been given to us. We can and shall trust that the time which has been conceded to us has the exact length and that death will be waiting for us when our clock has come to its end. In this great arch of trust, which even includes death, both of them meet: The time to love and the time to die.

The rules are taken from Elif Shafak's novel “The Forty Rules of Love” (Viking 2010). They are inspired by the Sufi tradition and worded by the autor's imagination.

Rule 36: The Principle of Reciprocity

This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain unreciprocated. Fear not the plots, deceptions or tricks of other people. If someone is setting a trap remember so is God. He is the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf sits outside of God’s knowledge. Simply and fully believe in that. Whatever God does He does beautifully.

The law of reciprocity states that what is given comes back again. The energy of the whole is preserved, all that happens are transformations of the form which energy takes on. This is what we have learned from the physicists. All there is are processes in which one form of energy transmutes into another, and the amount of the whole stays the same all the time. All existing things give away from what they have and receive back from the others, and the sum of all these actions do not change by this.

How are these matters among humans? Here we have immensely numerous levels for exchange, starting from breathing the shared air on to all the social and economical processes up to ethereal and subtle realms. A detailed consideration on all these structures and their innate logics is of course not possible in this framework.

As we have the inclination to reduce complexities in order to make the world more manageable, esoteric simplifications of reciprocity become quite popular like the law of attraction which says that we attract what we send out („The Secret“). We should be aware when dealing with such concepts not to become paranoid in the sense that we just have to transmit our wishes in the right way and the universe has to serve us accordingly. We just have to align our energy with the great whole and then we will get everything we dream of. When we fail, it is our fault as we have not applied the appropriate methods consistently enough.

This is the track of the materialistic consciousness, which believes that we just have to invent suitable procedures to govern the world and then all our wishes will be fulfilled. We can make gold from straw and increase our wealth more and more and more. This is the fairy tale of the capitalist, and esoteric prophets like to copy such fantasies.

In my opinion, esoteric can be distinguished from spirituality as the former does not make a clear and radical distinction from manipulation and strengthening of the ego. Many esoteric insights are targets of marketing and selling for the purpose of the individual improvement of life and self enhancement. Spiritual insights have no profit, but in the best case reach a person and touch her, so that inside of her a change arises and the world becomes new. When we meet wisdom which attracts and grasps us, we can pay our attention to what enlarges inside of us: Our loving heart or our greedy belly.

How could we use the concept of reciprocity for our practical life? Here I will try to take a closer look at the area of giving and receiving. Starting from the image of an egomaniac we believe about ourselves that we prefer taking over giving. So we know a lot of rules which should ease our giving: Give and so you will be given. What you want to receive, give in the first place. Giving is more blessed than taking etc. Following these rules is not always easy as it goes against our self-will.

Yet the insight they contain says that we have the chance to change the course of affairs in a direction which serves life or in another direction which diminishes it. We can widen the area of love or reduce it. Again and again we can find anchor points in our own history, basically in any moment. Anchor points are those, in which something new wants to start. By setting an anchor point consciously, we stop to go on spinning the old threads and start to give: We give a new direction to life which opens and frees. We stop to take by using old patterns for our purposes in a rut. Instead, we jump over our shadow.

For all that has been used up and become comfortable, all we cling to as soon as it is over, becomes part of the shadow area. However, following the courage to try new trails in giving from a deep inner source of creativity, enriching and beautifying life, then we move out of the shadow towards the sun, towards the light.

What we receive back from this giving, we feel right in that moment where we accomplish the new: A simple, yet clear feeling of joy and fulfillment arises. This is the immediate gratification for our friendliness and kindness towards life.

So life offers us immediate recognition as soon as we have given selflessly and altruistically. Thus the reciprocal equilibrium is created straight away and does not need further compensation. The cycle is closed in the act of giving and in the momentary feedback of life.

Yet we tend to move on and open the next cycle by overlooking the gratification we just have been offered. Instead, we expect, claim or wish another form of getting as soon as we have given. When I give A, I expect to receive B. By this, I narrow down the world to B, only B can satisfy me; although I get C, I am disappointed (except when C is an augmentation of B, which can help me over my disappointment, when I get an invitation to a dinner instead to a drink for have given a service to someone). In any case I act as if the world, which is usually the other people, should know exactly what I need to regain my reciprocal balance.

In many areas reality works approximately like that – I take a good and give the money printed on the label in return. The economical = materialistic consciousness has furnished the world in a way that possibly every object and every action has a distinct numeric value a quantification, which indicates the appropriate equivalent.

This is the origin of the following idea: I produce, by this I give value, e.g. cake, and for this I want a certain value back, e.g. money. It was exactly this connection which Karl Marx termed as alienation. For our theme this means that we alienate ourselves from our actions, when we subject it to quantification. Then it is no longer our unique contribution to the world but a product which is obeying the logic of the world of wares. One of the consequences of this form of reciprocity is that not only the results of human labor are reified but even more that these things get quantified, which means turned into numeric values. Eventually there are only numbers in the internal world of the capitalistic man, and his or her mood runs parallel to the rise and fall of the numbers in the account or stock markets.

So should we no more charge money for anything? A society which works without money and is still able to regulate a highly complex system of exchange of goods and services has not been invented so far. Up to then, we have to live with the current system and handle its shortcomings. When we act consciously within the economical processes of a capitalistic world, we can keep the human dimension of these processes of exchange alive at the same time. We can become aware of the human investment in every object we buy, and also that everyone who sells this object to us, is a person who gives. It is up to us and our awareness, whether we hand our power over to the capitalistic system or to humanity and kindness by taking every form of giving and receiving as a spiritual practice. Then we avoid the pitfalls which have been installed in the elaborate world of wares and consumers with its reified enticements on every corner.

The rules are taken from Elif Shafak's novel “The Forty Rules of Love” (Viking 2010). They are inspired by the Sufi tradition and worded by the autor's imagination.