'Down by the River'
Everyone looks for love. Some in ways leading from love, others in ways leading to love. Yet, all are looking for love, even those who do not know they are. In this seeking, some become criminal, some saintly, some curse others, some bless others. There may come a time when you look no more for love, for the looking will have led you to the end of the quest. The scent of the Wine leads you to the Wine. You realize the end is the beginning - love has always been near, is part of who you essentially are - that is why you looked for it and felt so blessed when receiving or giving it. So, you look no more: you enjoy. You enjoy love so much, you want to share it all the time. You cannot help but share it. You want to be in love with the world.
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A Muslim tale tells of the prophet, Muhammad, teaching in the desert, reciting from the Koran. A cat walked into the camp and up to Muhammad. The cat laid itself down and slept on the hem of the prophet's exquisite robe.
The prophet was unaware of the cat, while he remained speaking for the rest of the day. The cat continued to find healing and warmth in the prophet's shadow.
When the teaching was over, the attendees left. The prophet, seeing the cat asleep, took a knife and cut off the hem of his robe. He destroyed a beautiful robe, but the cat was left to rest in its slumber.
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We find devotion natural to us, for in the Heart-of-hearts, we find refuge, respite, and renewal, we relax in the Presence of unconditional acceptance. We relish this safe place amid the oft unsafe world, a graceful oasis amid the oft gracelessness about us.
When in this inner worship, we cannot bring anything and say, "Look, I deserve You. I warrant Your love." If we deserved Love's love, the love would not be unconditional. In Love, we cannot say "I deserve," and we cannot even say, "I don't deserve." Rumi illustrates this in a prayer -
You have no idea how hard I've looked for a gift to bring You. Nothing seemed right. What's the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the ocean. Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient. It's not good enough giving my heart and my soul because you already have these. So I've brought you a mirror. Look at Yourself and remember me.
*A. Helway. Secrets of Divine Love.
Hence, by resting in this Light of Love, like the cat on Muhammad's robe, we become Love's lovers, we become the Divine's love letters to the world. We feel love more deeply, purely, and we grow in skill to share and receive love. We progressively become in Spirit's likeness, through which we can see our true self, and others can find with us a safe presence to be and to give. We become mirrors for others to see they are a likeness to Grace. The wellspring of this is our returning to the heart to accept the freely-given graciousness there.
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Years ago, late in the night, I had an onset of tachycardia symptoms. Living by myself, I had no one to help calm me, when this occurred - I infrequently had these attacks, and had for many years. So, in the dark, my heart was jumping and racing. When it started, as prior times, the anxiety only increased the symptoms. This night, I called a friend in the northern part of the state, knowing she would welcome the call at such a late hour. She listened and talked with me. Simply her presence and voice over the phone was all needed to bring the speeding and jumping heart to rest. I called her on other occassions, when I felt the need for a calm, unconditional presence. When one acts with this nonjudgmental care, one is ministering grace for us. These persons embody peace for us and, so, inspire us to do the same for others who seek solace in our presence. We are mirrors of Love for each other through simple acts of kindness, even as through the simplicity of Silence we imbibe of the Beloved's kindness.
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In the attraction to give and receive love, we come into contact as persons with what we indeed are: we are a presence. Not, I am a presence, you are a presence, he is a presence, she is a presence, it is a presence, ... No! we are a presence. We have been taught we are persons with a soul, or not even that, a mass of dying flesh. We are, instead, one presence appearing as different persons. And we enjoy love much, and we are drawn to give and receive it naturally, for presence is love, even as presence is all we can call good, true, and beautiful. So, in devotion, we are disrobed of the illusion of our being a struggling, aging, and sinful person. Then, we share that gift with others, by seeing that for ourselves. We share not by setting out on a mission to convert others to this realization. Love loves, for we are attuned to Love, which is the same as saying we are attuned to our heart. Love follows you like a shadow. You do not even have to give attention to loving anyone - it happens, it cannot not happen. Why? You are no longer thinking as a person needing to get love, give love, find love, not lose love, be resentful at someone who loved you and no longer loves you, ... You are living as presence. You are no longer striving, you are thriving.
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For many years, I felt sorry for myself. I felt unloved, an underlying, pervasive saddness. In this sense of lack of love, I got involved in romantic relationships with persons themselves who felt they had not been loved well, that they had been betrayed before. Being in a helping profession, my lack of feeling loved was drawn to them, and I saw myself as the one who could be what they had dreamed of but had not had before. I was sorely mistaken. I no longer feel a need for someone to give me what I already have. I see those past mistakes, and I see the cost I paid for them. Yet, I blame no one. There is no blame, only gladdness to have learned that all the love I wanted was always with me. If we do not find the love within ourselves and for ourselves from ourselves, no amount of love outside will heal that deep wound we carry around with us. Others can mirror that love to us, but no one, not even God, can give us what we already have and need no one to give us.
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As we grow in Grace, attraction to Silence grows, and we become more attuned to the Beloved within. The love in us is attracted to the Beloved, and a mutual sharing occurs, for love replies to love.
How long I pushed you away.
In feelings of unworthiness to be loved,
I pushed away You - the One most worthy and desirous
Light the candle, again, long unlit,
help me to trust in Love - You -, again,
as I did long ago, before the losses
separated me from that first native, innocent vision.
Breathe upon the flickering flame within,
until Your Light glowing penetrates every cell of my being
with fervent Grace, and Your gentleness draws to me
a Joy that expands my heart fearlessly, freely.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher FirstBooks. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.