Monday, November 10, 2008

Learning Through Relationships

The insights we attain come through the heart. Perhaps the intellect can be a vehicle for enlightenment, but for me and millions of others, the pathway through the heart is the most healing and beautiful way to learn and grow. Relationships with friends and family are filled with learning opportunities. They come in many forms, and could be intellectually discussed for many hours, though there is only one true lesson to learn. We learn to give service unselfishly to our partners or friends and others who may knock on our doors.

True selflessness is demonstrated by enlightened individuals like Mother Teresa. For the largest percentage of the population, this level of service is unattainable and not in our current learning.


Being aware of our thoughts, words and actions is enough in itself to make us feel overwhelmed and throw in the towel. However, as we progress, mindfulness is vital and attainable. Our ego will always be ready to remind us of all the things we need to do for ourselves. How many of these things do we really need to do? How much joy and satisfaction do we draw from them? Serving others is a way of learning some very hard lessons. Service brings out our lack of capacity to give. Partnerships give us so many opportunities to put aside our own personal desires by giving with love to our partners. Serving our partners is not meant to be a mindless duty, but a gift of love through the highest channel available to us, no matter how menial the task may be.


One evening I was discussing with Sonia my response to a letter I had received. Sonia accepted my request for assistance with the reply and worked hard on it. I then made a mindless comment. "Well, I may as well rewrite the whole letter." I spoke without thinking, and the result was hurtful towards someone who had extended to me her love and assistance. Even though we say and do things without any intention to hurt, mindless acts usually do hurt others.


As we serve with love, learning selflessness, we approach God through the pathway of love and forgiveness. Subtle feelings in our heart sing of a new consciousness. Here dawns a new age of light where the unifying power of love washes away the darkness of the past. At this point the small I (the ego) begins to lose its grip over the experience of the soul forever. Freedom is within reach. Personal needs are lovingly and willingly replaced by the needs of others. As the ego loses it hold, there is a feeling of expanded consciousness where our needs are met through service to others and the transient nature of the physical is clear.


Insights come from the deepest level of our beings. We may spend our whole lives, or most of them, focusing on our own perceived needs. At some stage in our growth, we must see that we have experienced most things the world has to offer, yet we are still unfulfilled. The transient nature of the world was never designed to fulfill our inner needs. The greatest servants of mankind knew this and served others.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize winner, gave up his personal life around forty years of age to serve humanity. He said the following in an interview in 1947: "Today the task is to get the mass of individuals to reclaim their spiritual heritage and so to regain the privilege they have renounced of thinking as free personalities. They must work themselves out of the condition of spiritual weakness and dependence to which they have brought themselves." You and I must at some point leave this existence. Knowing this, we need to find permanence. Spiritual strength will be found within us when we find the inner light and we see the truth of the world with new eyes; our personal needs based on the physical world are then changed forever. Permanence will only be found in the experience of self (the soul).


In your partnership, or relationships with children and parents, you have a feeling of permanence to a large degree. There is a comfort zone built around denial that this is going to end one day. Oh yes, we say, I know. However, we pay little attention to what must be. Many object that it is morbid to concentrate on such a negative subject. My answer is simple: when we prepare ourselves for what must happen, we find our focus moves to the moment, where we can be absorbed in love. Each moment of life becomes precious. Egotistical behavior, sulking, anger and resentment are replaced with the desire to be in love always, for we don't have time to waste. Arguments resolve quickly, with a deeper caring for the partner's well-being. The precious moments that we have together put life in perspective when we know that life can end at any time.

A question that I ask my friends is, "If you had to leave this earth right now and were unable to say goodbye, what is the most important thing you would wish you could have done before leaving?" Almost always the answer has something to do with expressing love to a dear one. What more can I say?

Remind yourself every day of the impermanent nature of this world, so that it will lose its grip on you. Building your inner life on spiritual values will bring much peace and happiness. Once the well of heart has been reached, nothing else can quench your thirst, because when you serve another soul with love, you serve God.


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