What does it feel like to be loved? What does it feel like to be loving – as it is happening?
To receive love from another is to receive somebody’s undivided attention. They’re not preoccupied with anybody or anything else; they have forgotten themselves and are wholeheartedly attending to us. There’s a tremendous beauty, richness and fullness in so receiving the heart of another.
If we were to consider the experience of our own undivided attention directed inwards, we would come upon ‘one-pointedness’, the essence of formal meditation. Cultivating this one-pointedness is our samadhi practice. In samadhi we experience a sense of profound beauty and fullness, an incomparable aliveness directly related to the quality of attention involved. However, as important as the cultivation of this unified inner state may be, this evening’s question is about the same undivided heart-quality directed outwards, towards another person.
It’s natural that we want to know the truth about love. It is such a mysterious and unfathomable experience, and yet our hearts yearn to fathom it.
Various objects and situations can draw us into this state of being undivided. If we’ve consciously experienced our ability to offer such attention, we know how it feels in the company of another individual, but we might also have experienced it unexpectedly on a mountaintop or alone out on the ocean. There might also have been occasions when we felt lifted into an altogether different reality through proximity to a particular individual who has fully realised the heart’s capacity for being loving. Simply being in their company might have induced us into a state of love that we had not known before. In these various ways it happens that conditions sometimes conspire to free us from fear; and when fear ceases, when for some magical reason fear is not happening, love is.
Having become aware through personal experience of this tremendous quality of undivided attention, it becomes possible for us to enquire into how, where and when attention becomes divided. Our attention is usually divided, and we soon recognise how difficult it is not to be divided – not to be taking sides for and against our experience. It’s not easy to make ourselves be loving; in fact we can’t do it; ‘I’ can’t make myself be loving. Being loving happens.
However, we can, through developing an interest, direct ourselves towards an awareness of the divided state; we can investigate it and become familiar with its dynamic. As we make this investigation, we start to find that we can undo the compulsion to be divided. Accordingly, as we are freed from the compulsion to be divided in our lives, we begin to realise the heart’s capacity to live free from fear.
Slowly but surely we once again uncover the natural ability to be loving, and in doing so we emerge from reactivity into responsible living.
This reflection by Ajahn Munindo is from the book, Unexpected Freedom, (pdf) pp.53-55.