Get a group of people from our community together and you're bound to hear about love: loving thoughts, kind deeds, smiling warmth and radiance. Being together can be very squishy and sweet like marshmallow filling in a vanilla cake. But send us back to the highways and byways and we can cuss and shake our fists with the best of them! So, if we truly believe in unconditional love for all, how do we accomplish it in the "real" world?
First of all, let's be clear that loving someone does not mean we approve of the person or their
actions or that we want to take them home with us. We can love someone without liking them, without even meeting them. Loving people is more about the attitude we hold towards them than it is about the feelings we have about them.
When I want to meditate on the concept of love, I use the sun as my focal point. The sun shines on everyone and makes no distinction among us. Rich, poor, intellectually gifted or challenged, fat or thin, male and female, murderers and saintly ones, the sun doesn't know the difference. It shines without having consultations or opinions about who receives its light and warmth. That's unconditional sunshine and is a marvelous symbol for unconditional loving. In practical terms, this means we see ourselves as transmitters of an inexhaustible source of loving energy. Experiencing ourselves as suns makes this a really easy concept to get and to practice in everyday life.
Sometimes we make being a loving and spiritual person too difficult, so difficult that we don't bother to try except when we're with a spiritual group or in a church or circle setting of some kind. Somehow we've been given the idea that being spiritual and loving means we become doormats or martyrs. Not so. We don't let ourselves be used or taken advantage of just because we're a loving person.
Quite a few years ago when I was working with a typesetter on my book Comments on Leading the Spiritual Life I ran headlong into this attitude. The bill I was presented with was over twice the amount I had been quoted. During the time the work was being done, I had been told everything was "within budget." When I told the typesetter I would not pay more than what I had agreed to, she said, "Well, I'll leave that up to you--keeping in mind the title of your book--if you really think you shouldn' pay it, I'll abide by your decision." She was trying to say that if I were a truly spiritual person I would allow her to take advantage of me by overcharging for her work. I refused and paid only the original amount. I don't know if this was a learning experience for her or not, but it was an eye-opener for me!
When we align ourselves with loving energy and decide to live within this space, it changes everything around us. The changes may not mean we get our way or that everyone is nice to us, although that does seem to happen more often. It does mean that there is a new element of freshness and aliveness to everything we do and that we bring the blessings of the universe into every transaction. When we're in the middle of a trying event, it can be difficult to remember our principles and beliefs. We can get sucked into a space of forgetting everything we know about love and allow ourselves to become petty and very small-minded. A good way to avoid this happening is to make a practice of experiencing ourselves as a sun constantly radiating goodness and kindness. When the tough times come, we'll be in the habit of radiating love and won't have to think about it.
Loving strangers, especially those who are not playing nice, requires that we become bigger than we are now. It means we learn how to step outside our self-imposed lines of what is acceptable to us, ignore their behavior, and allow the love of Spirit to flow through us to them. It is also helpful to remember that we're not always so sweet ourselves and treat them the way we want to be treated when we're having a bad day.When I experience someone being less than what they are capable of, I try to allow them the space I want when I'm more in touch with my lesser evolved self. I try to give them room to be having a bad day, bad week, and in some cases, a bad lifetime. There are some folks who just always seem to be under the weather and they need a lot of elbow room from the rest of us!
I'm not talking about being phony, either. It is very important that we be in touch with our feelings and that we express them in appropriate ways. But even in the midst of that, it is possible to have a part of us tuned in to a "higher" station and continue to be like the sun who, by the way, still shines during a rainstorm; we just don't see it!
This is the midst of summertime which means the sun is shining more often than not. What a great time to use it as our model of giving unconditional love. Every time you see sunshine this month or feel its warmth on your face, use this as a reminder to be a sun in your own life. Let your radiance and love beam onto everything and everyone around you no matter what is going on in your life. If you like the results you might think about making it a permanent practice!