Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (from Random House in October ...Read More
What’s carrying you?
Lived by love.
Feeling both the world and myself these days, one phrase keeps calling: lived by love.
Explicitly, this means coming from love in a broad sense, from compassion, good intentions, self-control, warmth, finding what’s to like, caring, connecting, and kindness.
Implicitly, and more fundamentally, this practice means a relaxed opening into the love – in a very very broad sense – that is the actual nature of everything. Moment by moment, the world and the mind reliably carry you along. This isn’t airy-fairy, it’s real. Our physical selves are woven in the tapestry of materiality, whose particles and energies never fail. The supplies – the light and air, the furniture and flowers – that are present this instant are here, available, whatever the future may hold. So too is the caring and goodwill that others have for you, and the momentum of your own accomplishments, and the healthy workings of your body. Meanwhile, your mind goes on being, while dependably weaving this thought, this sound, this moment of consciousness.
It’s hard to sustain a felt knowing of this nature of everything. The brain evolved to keep our ancestors afraid to keep them alive. But if you look, and look again, you can see directly that right now, and in every now you’re alive, you’re cradled by the world and the mind like a child carried to bed by her mother. This cradling is a kind of love, and when you trust it enough to soften and fall back into it, there’s an untangling of the knots of fear and separation. Then comes both an undoing of the craving that drives suffering and harm, and a freeing and fueling love living through you and as you out into the world.
Imagine a single day in which you were often – not continuously, not perfectly – lived by love. When I try this myself, the events of the day don’t change much -but my experience of them, and their effects, improve dramatically. Consider this as a practice for a day, a week – or the year altogether.
More widely, imagine a world in which many people, enough people – known and unknown, the low and the mighty – were lived by love. As our world teeters on the edge of a sword – and could tip either into realistic prosperity, justice, and peace, or into growing resource wars, despotism, or fundamentalism – it seems to me that it’s not just possible for a critical mass of human hearts to be lived by love. It’s necessary.
The essence of this practice is a yielding into all that lives you. This is a paradigm shift from the typical top-down, subtly contracted, moving-out-from-a-unified-center-of-view-and-action way of operating…to a relaxed receptive abiding, feeling supported by the ocean of causes creating each momentary wave of awareness. Then on this basis, there is an encouraging of love in all its forms to flow through you. The suggestions that follow are different ways to do this, and you can also find your own.
Soften and open in the heart. Notice that you are alright right now: listen to your body telling your brain that you are basically OK. Feel the fullness that is already here, all the perceptions and thoughts and feelings pop-pop-popping in this moment of consciousness. Feel the buoying currents of nature and life, waves of gifts from over 3 billion years of evolution on our blue and green pebble. Look around and see objects, including your own hands and body, and consider the unfailing generosity of the material realm, blossoming for over 12 billion years from a seed of light.
Be aware of the warmth and good will from others toward you. Sense your connecting to others, how you are supported by a net of relationships. They don’t have to be perfect. Some people do care about you. You are almost certainly loved.
Feel carried by consciousness, the effortless knowing of perception and thought. When stress, worry, pressure, or pain appear in the mind, see that the fabric of this suffering – the underlying operating of the mind – is itself fine, is always already fine.
Again and again making this little but profound shift, this giving over to the carrying cradling of mind and matter, you can afford to let your own love flow freely. Bring this down to earth: if you lived from love in your first encounter with another person today, how would you be, what would you do, how would you speak? What would a week, a year, be like in which you lived by love? How about trying this? Who knows, if enough people share in this practice, the world could become a much better place.
Let love’s currents glide you home.