“I don’t like this love shit,” a woman I was about to meditate with whispered to me while in the circle of our six-person meditation “community.”
“This love shit?” I repeated loud enough for others in the group to get to share. Not sure she wanted me to open my mouth — that orifice that normally gets me into trouble when a PTSD moment flails up pinching some nerve. She had told us that she was recently with other people when two “leaders,” a man and a woman, spoke about meditation, and that it was difficult for her to keep her own tongue, particularly, when one of the speakers, the female focused on the word, ‘love,” repeatedly, evidently using it as a verb and noun to describe her meditation techniques or something.
The little boy inside of me rebelled. With a knee-jerk reaction, I spoke up, out of turn, directing my words toward her, and not to our Zen teacher, of whom we normally address while in group. A back-and-forth discussion ensued. I looked at the floor not wanting to face the person with whom I disagreed, my friend who sat with me on a two-person love seat. I spoke from the heart, telling the group for the first time that I go to my center, the small child within me, and touch love when I meditate and try to enable that awareness to spread throughout my body, letting it consume me and force the energy — the love — to expand and expand until it nearly threatens to explode with goodness.
I felt as if I had opened a vein on one of my wrists!
Vulnerable? You bet. Naked and humbled, even, yet with a growing sense of honesty that comforted me as I spoke with compassion and tried not to challenge anyone. “It’s starts with loving yourself,” I said, looking at my fellow aspirant’s face for the first time in this discourse. You must first forgive yourself . . . forgive failing to live up to your . . . or someone else expectations. I wanted to add, yet followed up instead with a question that came from somewhere I could not name.
“Do you love yourself?” I asked ever so softly with all the “*Agape Love” I have ever felt for another person.
She answered in the negative. I can’t recall her exact words. I can’t really say beyond a reasonable doubt that I heard her correctly, and will gladly give her the benefit of that doubt and allow her to say I mis-interpreted what she said, particularly when I asked her later out of earshot of the others if she really was unable to love herself and she countered that she had never said such a thing. I have a hearing problem, along with a bunch of other physical deficits from my days in the service. I could have been wrong with what I thought she had said.
However, two others in our group spoke up shortly after. Our teacher had encouraged members in the Monday morning weekly meeting group to share anything they might have experienced during the brief give and take.
“I felt sad,” one said. She added that an actual physical emotion started to well up in side of her, but subsided quickly and the sadness then disappeared. “I agree,” another said, clarifying for all that she experienced no surge of emotion, but simply “felt sad.”
There was more discussion. We normally would have been in our “body scan” meditation with eyes closed and the intent to focus on our breathing, our “anchor” as I call it. But we were still speaking, eyes wide open in what I hoped would be an enlightening experience. It has before, at least for me, when listening to other members, one of whom I call my “guru” because she succinctly focuses on words and phrases that capture how I feel sometimes but can never seem to put in words like her.
Fear, rejection, and anxiety hit me all of a sudden. Perhaps all the others in our group shared with my friend that feeling of irritation upon hearing the word “love.” It was just me that did not mind it, and in certain circumstances, enjoyed hearing it. Just me, my mind repeated. Maybe I really am different, strange or even weird.
I can’t remember what I next said, but our teacher followed up with a question that went to the core of the “child” inside. “Maybe it was due to loneliness,” she wondered out loud. I spoke again, but this time with no holds barred, blurting out, “Maybe people just see me as an asshole.” I went on the defense, lashing out, trying to swing wildly to protect my self. Maybe my talk of “love” or “joy” simply irritates people, my mind continued to offer. Maybe the love talk is too “gushy,” “too plastic,” “too insincere- sounding,” and it gets under their skin and makes them think less of me, (less of my message?). I hadn’t said any of this, but I clearly wanted to make the point.
Rescue came in the shape of the remaining member of our group, a woman who has battled passivity, wanting to be more assertive in a world where men decade after decade had dominated what the ’50s told the universe was the “weaker sex; when men believed they could talk over a woman to win an argument (Ancient Sparta believed the man who could yell the loudest won the argument!) and unfortunately, treated them as second class citizens.
This lovely woman simply counseled me “not to bother with what other people might say,” but that I should “stay true to myself” and, more importantly, . . . . “BE” . . . myself.
Her words were like jewels; It was a wonderful, eloquent and inspirational remark she made, immediately uplifting me and filling me with confidence. She was as assertive as a queen passing down a royal decree: a clear, sharp command to do away with doubt and continue to love! And I obeyed.
The story doesn’t end there, though. Our group eventually did meditate for a short period and, as we were getting ready to leave, my friend with the opposing opinion spoke to me, and I confided to her that I had recently started a blog where I write about meditation, hope, gratitude and of course, love.
“You ought to start a second career,” she said.
We were standing at this point, two students having left and three of us remaining in the room with our teacher.
I walked across the floor, placed my arm around my teacher (something I had never done before), and bragged to my friend almost defensively, that this would not be a second, but fourth or a fifth career, explaining how I was an army officer who once thought of a establishing a full-time career in the service; then I worked as a journalist on a newspaper; a union organizer; and lastly a lawyer who set an informal record at the Philadelphia Defender Association as a public defender who once tried 10 jury trials in the span of nine weeks. (I withheld telling them of my short singing career with an a cappella group in my youth).
The two fellow students sat down. My bragging ego receded, and I began to feel something wonderful and beautiful had just happened. No, not with what I had said. But with what I experienced.
I touched an angel, wings and all!
When I embraced my teacher, she let her head roll to the side of my shoulder and I felt a warmth and an energy that was palpable. Image after image of a celestial angel came to me in the form of this wise mindfulness meditation instructor and Zen teacher. She actually appeared to me with wings and with an aura that resembled a halo, for Christ sake!
She pulsated love, forgiveness, understanding, comfort and joy. I felt her exhale, kind of like one of those really deep exhalation they try to teach you in Yoga. I sensed I was floating on a cloud as the air rose inside of her and then slowly expelled. Smell! She had the sweetest scent I had noticed in such a long time, like the kind of smell I remember loving as a child when a priest spread aroma from one of those swinging metal devices that burned its contents, creating such a rich and earthy (some may say heavenly?) contact with our nostrils, with our, dare I say, Soul or Spirit within.
I got my “love groove” back again. I’ll share it with anyone except those that get irritated with such talk. I’m not a holy roller, a preacher, or a proselytizer. I meditate and simply want to share the results of meditation with others.
Hell, I’ll even share it with those prone to being irritable upon hearing the words of “love.” After all, ” . . . the beauty of the pearl can not shine without a little sand irritation . . .”**
* (Agape is one of several Greek words for love translated into English,” according to Wikipedia. “Many have thought that this word represents divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love. Although the word does not have specific religious connotation, the word has been used by a variety of contemporary and ancient sources, including Biblical authors and Christian authors. Thomas Jay Oordhas defined agape as “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.” In his book, The Pilgrimage, author Paulo Coelho defines it as “the love that consumes,” i.e., the highest and purest form of love, one that surpasses all other types of affection.”
** (Old Greek saying coined right here . . .)