*Brian Wilcox. 'Floating in the Light'. Flickr
A continuance of encounters with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
I prepared to wash her feet, following Jesus' example of serving his closest friends by washing their feet. He did this in preparation for leaving them, also as an example of our serving one another in humble caring. I wanted to do this as a sign of unconditional Love for this dear woman, even though we were amid strong disagreement about something she was doing that was hurting her health and which she was lying about to me, doing this in secret. She was receptive to the rite. I hoped this expression of love would be healing for us both.
I was one month from moving several states northward to be with her, but on this last visit prior, I knew our relationship was potentially near ending. I was prepared to let go of the relationship peacefully, our saying our goodbye in a mature, dignified way, honorable to the time we had shared over the last months, if that was the inevitable conclusion to our relationship.
Near the end of this rite, my friend looked into my eyes. She said, "I'm looking at Love." I did not want to receive this in a personal way, honoring what she saw was Love, not me. If there was this Love she was seeing, the Love was only a gift in and through me, not something I myself possessed in any way or needed to feel was mine. Nothing was happening I, or anyone, could claim as one's own.
Later in the evening and after readdressing one of the differences we had, I left the room where we were talking. I was admitting the relationship was over, at least for the time. I did not seek to cast blame on her, not at all. Before resting some to get ready to leave on the long trip home, a trip of about 18 hours, I was preparing a fruit dish in the kitchen. My dear friend came to the entrance of the room and angrily spoke out in a very loud, harsh tone, yelling: "I have one last thing to say to you. You're a selfish ass!" She turned, and walked back to her bedroom and closed the door. I stood stunned. Within an hour, I went from being appreciated for being a means of Grace, to being called a "selfish ass."
I hurried up in gathering belongings. I went outside onto the lovely backyard adorned with snow, walked to the wood and prayed and gave the situation to Spirit. I walked back toward the home, stood and prayed for my friend and her two children in the home. I left, stopping on the way out, and praying once more. I have not seen her since, that was the goodbye.
I feel a longing for a true, deep friendship, like the spiritual intimacy of which you speak being a spiritual reality, not just being a person with a person. Were you seeking this with her?
I would say so. I was not as aware of the nature of this spiritual intimacy then as now. I was younger. Even this ending of the relationship served to encourage me to explore more what intimacy I was truly longing for. This was part of a pattern of seeking an intimacy that only Grace can give, and experiencing the suffering arising from trying to get it or receive it with persons unable to share it with me, heart-with-heart on a consistent basis. So, I went through a lot of suffering by doing this.
Yet, even in the felt-absence of that you seek in the other, it is present in the other. It is never asleep, though many are asleep to it. It is never absent, though you may sense it and the other not. Still, this intimacy being present in the other can hook you, for you can mistake its presence for its sustainability by the other. That you sense it in and through another, this does not mean you can share this intimacy that is within you both, moving between you both, like a silent, subtle breeze.
That's it! ~ sensing it makes me long for it more, hurt more, for it seems outside my grasp to find.
You were designed with the capacity and destiny for spiritual intimacy. So, without it, why be surprised there will be hurt? While some spiritual guides speak of being beyond such pain, I say celebrate being human, meaning life will always present you with some pain. Even as pain can arise from ignoble action, pain can arise from unfulfilled aspiration noble in character.
As to this being outside your grasp ~ drop that word from your vocabulary in regard to receiving anything of Grace, for what is graceful is received only with open hands. So, spiritual intimacy is outside your grasp to find, but not receive. As to the ache, if you express it, channeling it, in devotion with your God, you will feel the pain less, but never want the pain of this quiet, subtle longing to leave you and never return. Longing, too, is a gift, as much as that one longs for. In fact, what you long for and the longing are not two, but one.
the taste of this Wine
was born on your born lips
your tongue relished this before you ached for it
that you have tasted the Wine
you long anew for the Wine
one is the taste and one the Wine
one Love, you, everyone,
the offering from the wine press,
where has been prepared your heart for the altar of the Beloved ~
much pain of love not found, love lost, has pressed the Wine from your being ~
sweet the ache of longing for Love
sweet when Love returns to Love to love
sweet when the Wine, the Lover, and the Beloved become one
But I thought in oneness the longing goes away.
In the ego longing is a sign of inner lack. Here, the ache arises as a result of fullness receptive to its likeness, fullness. So, we are not speaking of a mere psychological ache. The longing, arising from the heart, becomes sweet, rather than bitter, less intense, and may arise less and less frequently, for now not arising from person needing person to get what no person can give you; rather, Grace welcomes Grace, with receptivity to receive what you can share with another, that the other and you cannot give each other. Most of what is called friendship is based on shared interests, spiritual friendship is based on a shared calling, a dedication to the virtues of a path, soul drawn to soul, depth to depth, to lead you both to more indepth depth. As says the Jewish Scriptures, "Deep calls to deep."
Do I, then, not seek this depth of friendship, seeing it comes as a gift?
Why seek what you cannot find? Why not prepare yourself to receive it? Of course, you can cooperate in varied ways, such as making yourself available to others. I am not saying do not put forth effort. Simply be wise, knowing that what you seek cannot be gotten like wanting to enjoy a cup of coffee or pastry or a new vehicle. Material means do not apply to spiritual ways. Seek connections with others, but do not seek spiritual intimacy with anyone. Simply share, without an agenda to make the relationship into an intimate, spiritual friendship. It comes as a gift, it arises in the spaciousness within yourself to receive the gift.
I've had a few friendships that I thought were of this spiritual closeness, but they didn't turn out to be. I wonder if I'm not ready? At times, I feel it unsafe to try anymore, and I kind of turn in on myself.
Most of your friendships will remain personal, not spiritual, for most persons believe they are the "I," the ego, they think themselves to be. They will push back, often passively, feigning politeness, while being subtly aggressive, if they feel the relationship is becoming more than personal. This movement into spiritual intimacy can be sabotaged, again, for most persons are not comfortable moving beyond sharing as a person among persons. Also, simply that you have heart-with-heart sharing with someone, that does not mean there is a friendship of spiritual intimacy, visits to heart-with-heart does not mean a heart-with-heart relationship. That only means you are enjoying some times of such closeness with the other. This is much like joyful times when in worship it seems the Spirit manifests vividly, strongly; I used to wait for these visitations to return, so I was rarely fulfilled in worship. So, as with your relationship with the Spirit, so with persons, I would recommend not to wait for these intimatic visitations. They are only visitations, they are not what your heart longs for, finally, your heart longs for more than these heightened moments along the Way. But they are reminders of what your heart longs for. So, welcome them when they arise.
If you are enjoying spiritual intimacy with someone, even for one meeting together, receive it with gratitude, but do not jump to conclusions that you now have received someone who will be able to share this intimacy with you in a consistent manner. Only time will show that true or not.
Also, do not assume that if this intimacy does not occur consistently or never occurs, the sharing is without value. Never think you are above common discourse with others; that is spiritualized arrogance. However, also, do not assume anyone has a right to trap you into sharing a lot of time talking about matters that do not enrich your heart and do not comport with the path you are devoted to. And, frankly, some relationships are simply not the kind that are edifying, in fact, can be so un-edifying it is best to avoid them and, if not possible, limit contact. Remember, you do not owe anyone time with them or closeness with them. All is gift. Choose wisely. There is nothing to feel guilty about taking care of yourself by avoiding unedifying energy, however it presents itself. Would you rightly be blamed for moving from a place with thick smog to a place of refreshing, fresh air?
Often persons tell me of how busy they are, when I'm trying to be a close friend, to spend some time with them. They inform me why they can't do so, don't have time. I feel like I'm just not a priority to them, at least as I wish them to be for me. Seems this being too busy is a trite way persons push us away, rather than admit the truth. When they present this reason, or excuse, it's a turn-off now to me.
Better to be alone, than with someone who is with you without wanting to be with you. No one is too busy for anyone, you are right about this. It is all a matter of choice, of priority. We all have the same amount of time given us, to use as we choose, and we choose, no one else. How can they be honest with you, when they cannot be honest with themselves? Why want to share with someone who cannot "find" time to share with you? Do you want to be a friend with someone who has to "find time" for you? It is about them, not you. And, yes, "too busy" is a lame excuse, not a reason, a socialized gesture that is really a lie packaged in the gift wrapping of facile politeness. Good you are not fooled by the foolery of it.
So, just see it as the person needing to create distance, to push to keep you at a distance. And see the space remaining without him or her, as the space ready to receive a true, intimate friendship. The Universe enjoys filling up space, so let it, do not try to fill it with a substitute for the real thing. Recall, in such times, Love is invitational, and true Love can only thrive in that kind of invitational environment. Spiritual intimacy is by mutual invitation, shared welcoming.
What if I get into a relationship and find out it's not spiritually in my best interest?
If it is not in your best interest, it is, likewise, not in the best interest of the other. You may need to back away some from a person who is trying to have this intimacy with you, for you, in spirit, sense this is not what the person is ready for, or it is not what the inner Grace is validating is within the divine Will for the other and you at the time. Still, when you feel lacking this connection with another, this can lead you deeper into yourself, to find this in union with Grace. Being alone with the Alone, however, can never replace being with other beings, and this can include other beings of nature, like plants, animals, rocks, hills, the Sun, a river, ... However, and I stress, whatever the reason for the ending of a relationship, do not allow resentment to linger. Once, when I felt a person was moving away from me, or a relationship ended, I would feel resentment. I had trouble moving on past it. That was simply an expression of my feeling needy. When you relate with persons from the fullness of your intimacy with Grace, you do not move toward them with the same strength of personal need, you move from Love to Love. So, if it does not work out, that is okay. You feel that it is okay. You may still struggle with feelings, but not as you once did. So, if you feel hurt, feel resentful, unforgiving, work with that, so you can move beyond it as soon as possible.
How does a solitary relate with friendship and intimacy?
If you sense an inner, divine calling to a solitary life, this does not have to mean isolation. Yet, as a solitary, all you engage in will flow from your time apart, alone with the Alone. Most persons find time apart as secondary to time with others, not you, it will take priority. Many will not understand this about you, so you will need to wisely guard your alone time. Your gift to the world is first, not second, your solitariness. In time alone, this is your way to intimacy with others, even when apart from them. Persons vastly underestimate, often do not even acknowledge, how intimate one can be with others in the Silence. They, likewise, do not esteem well how aloneness, apart from others, enriches togetherness with them. So, do not see your solitariness as a hindrance to intimacy, do not see yourself as less helpful to the world than those who feel a calling to engage it directly and actively. Your calling is as important as their calling, though your life will not be recognized by most as equally valuable. In fact, one who directly, actively engages the world of others, that one may be avoiding working with himself or herself in a manner that would most prepare himself or herself to help the world. As solitariness can be an escape, so can activism be an escape, both fabricating a life that is not dealing with the self that needs to be intimately engaged in order to better be of compassionate service to the world ~ oneself.
Still, what do I do when this ache for union is unfulfilled?
The fruition of union is in the longing for union. You would not long for union if oneness were not already present, oneness being the ground of longing for oneness itself. Become intimate with the longing, thereby you become intimate with God. To know yourself, know God; then you have no fear of being known by anyone else.
What would you say is the primary end of a spiritual friendship?
This could be answered in two ways. First, spiritual intimacy is its own end. No purpose need to be placed on it, this would be contrary to the intimacy itself. Yet, yes, fruition arises from the oneness shared together. Kahlil Gibran, in The Prophet, posited it this way...
And let there be no purpose in friendship
save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure
of its own mystery is not love but
a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
Likewise, Gibran says...
The soul unfolds itself,
like a lotus of countless petals.
Spiritual intimacy with someone, even briefly, is like the Sun shining on the lotus, drawing forth the fruition of the soul, inspiring its unfolding of life into the Light.
You said, recently, you would speak to the sexual attraction that can arise in spiritual intimacy.
Yes, it can arise, often does. In fact, most relationships have at least a subtle sexual component, simply for we are sexual beings. A friend and spiritual teacher once, realizing I was needing the blessing of such energy ~ I was living a secluded and celibate lifestyle ~, said he wanted me to have lunch with his wife, for she was highly sexual. I was taken aback. Later, I realized he was speaking of my needing this input of energy, and this had nothing to do with having sex with his wife or fantasizing about such with her. He knew how much we need sexual energy, as we need other qualities of energy. He knew, also, that feeling this energy from someone, even married to someone else, is not immoral, it is simply the way Nature gifts us to imbibe of Its life. Sexual energy in itself is not personal, not about a her or him, but is neutral, impersonal. You can receive the energy free of identifying it with the other.
So, what do we do with this energy in a relationship?
I will reply as someone who has lived mostly a celibate life, and is now doing so, and I know you are, also, and several others here are. So, understand my comments in that context. First, if it is with someone in a committed relationship with someone else, do not fantasize about sex with that one. Honor the relationship. Also, when receiving such energy from someone, integrate the energy into your being through meditation. Also, a celibate person can channel this in spiritual fantasy, as well as in self-pleasing, but these are beyond the scope of our sharing today. The most fundamental act to do with the energy is be with it, quietly, feel it, allow it to integrate and transform in the body, and recognize it as another expression of Grace. Always be aware that spiritual intimacy is a vessel for strong energy; so, remain vigilant with this energy, for it can be very powerful, treat it with sacredness, never assuming you are beyond yielding to the lure of engaging in the act of sex with that other.
You mean I'm to admit to myself that I might have sex with the other?
No, simply never assume you, of all humans, are beyond doing so. This protects you, rather than the feeling many have, "Oh! Shame on him! I would never do that," or "How could she do that!" Realize that you are in this human body, and many have yielded to impropriety in the area of sex; and, likely, most of them assumed they would never do so. Remain humble, respect the power of the energy, all the qualities of energy, arising from spiritual union. Simply put, "Don't walk around with a metal pole in the air in a lightening storm."
*Brian Wilcox. 'closer than close'. Flickr
*The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.