What is Love? (17.5 min)

What Yogananda said is very interesting, it’s always inspired me. He said that the gravity holding the planets and balancing them in the solar system, around the sun and elsewhere in the universe was a manifestation of Divine Love. And I love that and I think about it all the time and I have my own perception of it, my own ideas. But I try to keep what I’m talking true to my own experience, but also to what my guru Yogananda taught.

So what I wanted to say is that if I’ve learned anything through meditation and living and trying to be a better person and trying to grow and mature and be more functional and more happy and more useful in this world, is that especially through meditation there is a connection that we can experience with each other, or with things, like with nature, beauty, things that we respect and inspire us, that we can actually deepen that connection with those things. And in the beginning maybe it feels like an affirmation, like I’m really into gardening and flowers or I really love the sun, the moon and the stars or the eclipse or whatever’s going on. Or if you live in a place where you could see the stars, it can be very inspiring when you look and see all that light all around you in the dark and the moon, then close your eyes and just kind of feel like you’re connected with it. But I do believe that the more you do that and the more you allow yourself to feel connected, let’s say with nature to begin with because it’s usually easier it’s not so personal, what you’re doing is more than an affirmation and you can create a dynamic relationship with it.

I remember Swami Kriyananda when he was younger, he went through a phase where he did a lot of photography and people talked about his photos as if they were special. They would ask him “How did you get that bird or how did you get that flower to look this way?” and he said that what he believed is that because he appreciated nature or God in nature is the way he would have said it, so much, he felt that it was talking back to him and he felt that it was responsive to him and he talked about that a lot.

This idea that we’re not so separate comes from meditating, closing your eyes and perceiving your connection with things without the senses and more from let’s say our intuition. In the beginning it might just sound like a creative idea or a visualization. But let’s say you know a person that’s a really good musician of some kind, with some particular instrument or really good at a certain sport or a certain hobby or maybe they’re a really good architect or they can solve problems mathematically, in physics or chemistry or whatever it is. Certain people definitely have displayed through history an unusual attunement and ability in one field or another. Like a sculptor or an inventor or Einstein, right? Or maybe it’s something more production related, like Henry Ford or something like that. People have gifts and they have abilities to tune in to different things and the more we do that (we talk about attunement a lot in yoga), the more we’re listening, we can learn from our environment, we can learn from our inspiration, we can learn from others, but we can also just learn from nature.

Yoga is union, right? It means uniting your consciousness to one great reality and it’s not like us and them, it’s just like experiencing our connection with nature, right? We know that every cell in our body is made of elements and particles and chemicals and whatever they are, but it comes from stars, it comes from planets, it comes from space, it comes from so far away, right? and it’s all cycling through everything and do we really believe – I just want to accept it, OK? – do we really believe that our awareness is just like a chemical reaction coincidence that just happens to be in this body at this one time? No way! I’ve experienced enough of life and death in my own life that I know for a fact that it’s not true and you can experience it in meditation, if you haven’t already. That your consciousness and your awareness and your spirit is filtered, it’s coming through your eyes and your senses and your mouth and your nose and what you say and what you feel and what you think right now, but it’s definitely not limited to your body. And the more that we can close our eyes and feel our connection with things, with the ocean, with the sky, whatever turns us on, or another way to do it is with people, so those people that inspire us, those people that we really feel connected to.

Think about what love is for you. What does it mean to be loved unconditionally, hopefully by a reasonable person or a parent that is semi functional and not totally dysfunctional, abusive or crazy? because I know some of us we’ve all dealt with different things. But what does it mean? If you just were going to write a story book for children or something and you’re going to talk about love and relationships. What is it? Is love really based on, like the love that we feel, is it really based on likes and dislikes? I don’t think that’s love. That’s preference. But when you have a child or you have a partner or a friend that’s totally imperfect or at least somehow imperfect and you develop that relationship with them and that respect to where you accept their imperfections and you still love them. You accept the things that don’t really like about them, but you still love them, you still support them, you still want to see the best in them. Isn’t that more of a loving thing? I never could do this with people, but I learned to do it with nature. We’ve become so specific and so picky about how people should treat us and how people need to respect us and how life should be right? Yet we’ll be a mountain climber and we’ll accept the risk that if we screw up we’ll fall and die. We will never blame the mountain, right? I accept the risk when I went surfing when I was younger and I was surfing kind of crazy, I might die. I never blame the ocean, right? I remember when my son was really little and he got all excited, went out, the waves are a little bit too big, he got all bummed out. I said “Hey, the ocean is your friend”. He thought I was crazy because at that moment it felt like the ocean was being mean to him, but I said “It’s not being mean to you. It’ll kill you, but it’s not personal. You have to tune yourself into the ocean. You need to know when to go in and when to not or how to use the currents, right?” OK, I learned to love the ocean and appreciate nature and finally God, what I call God, by realizing that at any moment it could take my life away, but it’s impersonal and it’s still beautiful and it’s the way life is, right?

And so we learn with the things that we love, we learn to accept them with all levels of their realities, whether they feel good or bad or they are harmful or not, right? We start to have a deeper relationship with things when we can accept the whole picture, not just what we want and that relationship can be very freeing because only then do we start to have a dynamic connection with it and so with people, when we can accept people as they are, with all their imperfections, like the mountainside that will kill you, like the ocean that will drown you if you let them, right? because certain people might kill you, but you don’t have to hate them, you need to respect them. The ocean can kill me, but I don’t hate it. I respect it. I respect its power and I also respect the delusion in people. I know the people are very limited expressions of their higher potential. I know that for a fact, because I know it in me. I know that I have a high potential and I know sometimes I don’t live up to it, but I know that when I don’t live up to it, even when I fall, at that moment I was trying my best. So I forgive myself. If I can forgive myself, why can’t I forgive other people? And if I don’t allow myself to forgive other people, I suffer because I create a definition in some aspect of life that surrounds me and is a part of me that I can’t accept it, that I can’t love it or I can’t be with it. It bothers me, it pisses me off, it hurts my heart and I pay the price. The more time that we spend not loving or at least not accepting, the more time our body is in stress, our consciousness is weighed down and we suffer.

And so I believe that what Yogananda said was true. That Divine Love, different than human love, that Divine Love is what connects us all, that holds the bodies in space and brings us all in the orbit of each other and that I think true love is that love that in a way is impersonal. In other words, I feel like my connection with the ocean evolved into a connection with nature and when I understood the ocean, I understood nature and I started to understand meditation and I actually started to understand myself. When I began to understand myself through meditation, I actually learned to accept my failings, accept my past, accept my faults as a necessary part of who I am right now, but they don’t identify who I really am inside and with that I learned to accept others. And each step of the way I became happier, healthier and more free.

And when I say the word God, I’ll just say that I don’t know what God is. But I know God is real for me and so the way I define God is just the sum total of everything, the known and unknown. It’s just God. It’s just a word. It’s like its nature, it’s the same thing. So the nature that we experience on this planet and the nature at the farthest reaches of whatever we can imagine is real or happening on the physical plane, on the energetic plane, on the spiritual plane, whatever it is, all of it lives within this dream, this image in my mind that I call God. It’s definitely not a person, definitely not an old guy in a cloud, it’s definitely not a heaven and hell thing, like in the Bible. Those are metaphorical truths, but I would say they’re not literal, but anyway I don’t want to get into that argument. All I’m saying is that if we can close our eyes and learn to work with the breath without controlling it, accept what’s happening right now, accept ourselves gradually if we can’t already, the past the future and everything in between and begin to accept others as imperfect expressions of nature or something greater than what all you’ve become, you’re not personally me. Dave, I love you but you’re not personal to me and so you say something to me that I don’t like or I don’t get, you’re like the wave, you’re like a little piece of ice falling down when I’m climbing up a mountain. It’s nothing personal, right? But your desire to be happy, to figure out what’s going on right now in your life, the challenges that you face, your sincere desire just to be a good, honest guy inspires the hell out of me. But not because it’s you, because it’s all of us. Everyone in this room is trying to do the right thing and trying to be a good person and I believe it doesn’t come from any one of us, but it comes from whatever that thing is in nature that makes us all one. So I call that love. That’s all I know.

That’s all I know and I feel like when we’re meditating, if we want to, we can be in the moment, we can be mindful of the thoughts and all this kind of stuff and the feelings in our bodies, but there’s another level where we can – I guess maybe just by focusing on beauty and what inspires us – there’s this higher level where we can just start feeling this connected feeling of appreciation, gratitude and deep respect for everything that everybody’s going through and everything that’s motivating us and all that we seek in life.
That’s about all I know personally. I can’t define it the way it’s been defined by great teachers, I can’t define it the way it’s defined in the teachings of yoga, but just as a beginner on the spiritual path and basically a beginner with meditation and consciousness in my own self, my own personal feeling of it is that there definitely is a reality that connects us and makes life makes life sweet.

And the last thing I want to say is that if we allow ourselves to have a dynamic relationship with life through people, through experiences, through the senses and also through the intuition, then, it’s a weird thing, but life does respond. And if we bring kindness to it and we bring love to it and we bring goodwill to it, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to go easy. We’ll always be tested and everything will be taken away that we’re attached to (that’s another topic) but at the same time, you can be on that mountain and you can take a moment to not focus so much on what you’re doing, but look around and see what’s happening everywhere, in the sky and in the trees and in the snow and in the wind and in the rivers and in people – people who are good and people who are bad, people who are mean and nasty and people who are friendly and loving and see them like waves. You know sometimes nature is beautiful and it’s all green and moist and other times it’s a big wildfire moving across the plain, but the end of the day it’s healthy, it’s just part of the game. I don’t know what that’s all about, but we have that duality. We have the good and the bad, the dark and the light, the life and the death. But at the end of the day, there is a relationship and a dynamic connection we can have through meditation and just through goodwill and the willingness to perceive beauty around us that will carry us through any test and it will help make us strong for others when they lose hope. And life becomes really sweet.

That’s all I can say. So life becomes really sweet.

Swami Kriyananda said that the hardships are like shadows on a statue, like a white marble statue (we were just in Italy, you see that stuff). You wouldn’t appreciate it without the shadows to show the light and it’s the same way in life – without the difficulties and the challenges that we all face and we have to deal with, what would success be?

Recorded at Yogananda Meditation Center on September 4, 2017.
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