No, not that Divine, silly!
As divine as that Divine, may be (you know I love me some “Hairspray”), my thoughts this last week were more along the lines of God, or Life Force, that Other the vast majority of our species contemplates every day.
I came to write on love and the divine after starting a journal entry on the concept of Ishvarapranidana. It’s a niyama (observance) in Hinduism and Yoga that translates as “surrender” or “attention to” the “divine.”
In ten years of travel and exploration, I’m always drawn to contemplate faith systems, understanding and experiencing religions and spiritual paths of other cultures. I wasn’t raised to be religious, and my only experiences with an organized sect – Catholicism – were fairly negative.
But I see value and empowerment in belief. And I feel connected, in the groove, purely honest – when I’m in a space that welcomes reverence, respect, and a humility that can come only from recognizing that we are seeing just one aspect of an infinite existence.
So I contemplate this concept of ishvarapranidana with great care, quite regularly. Yoga has been the closest thing to a religion I could find – though Buddhism’s philosophies resonate deeply with me as well. Yoga practice has infiltrated every aspect of my life, from my relationships with others, to my work ethic, to the way my internal monologue serves to create my external reality.
And if ishvarapranidana is a key concept on the yogic path, at least according to scriptures, and will serve my evolution as a human being, then I’m happy to take pause and consider whether or not it’s appropriate for my spiritual growth.
Do I believe in the Divine? Yes. I don’t believe in an all-knowing all-seeing entity that created humans and all the universe, necessarily. But I believe there is a Greatness and a Truth that I will never be fully conscious of, but come closer to understanding every day. I also believe in the divine potential within each human. Although, unless consciously explored, challenged, and nurtured, I’d theorize that this potential remains dormant.
The place where I am most unable to take a step in either direction, is on the crossroads between ‘surrender’ and ‘manifest.’ The most common interpretation of ishvarapranidana has been “surrender to the Lord.” I’ve chosen to replace “Lord” – which has male implications in my little noggin’ – with Divine or Truth or Love. And I’m afraid I’ll need to replace ‘surrender’ with the other academically sound translation of the term, ‘attention to.’ To me, ‘surrender’ connotes defeat, as though there were some previous battle at hand – far too violent an analogy for my life!
Life is a “dance with the Divine” or “making art with Creation,” “serving a Greater Cause,” or “discovering meaning and Truth.” This is how I can “give attention to the Divine,” by finding a harmonious way to interact with my Other.
And here’s where love comes in.
For the last ten years, I had made Love my Other. I searched not for Truth or Divinity, Creation or Service, but for Love. It was my religion. All my major life decisions (save one or two) were based on this concept. I regret none of it, but I learned some very difficult lessons. I finally understand why “all is fair in love and war.” And yes, that’s love with a lower case ‘l’!
For most people, love is just as linear as the concept of war. Tit for tat, give and take, I scratch your back, you scratch mine. But it’s not about that.
It’s not about the feeling they give you, or the way they make you feel. Because that’s just chemistry, or a simple trade, at best.
The idea with Love is to just give. Give your love freely, because your resources are more infinite than you can imagine. All the other stuff, just works itself out.
This was something I’ve always known, and never really wrote down. But my ponderings on ishvarapranidana elicited a somewhat coherent and shareable version of a decade-long mantra.
So already, the practice is working!
Now, what’s interesting is within days of writing this entry, I came across two videos. Below is the first of the videos, of the Dalai Lama, speaking on the necessity of self-love on the path of compassion.
Yes, of course, if you don’t love yourself, how can you love another? It’s an age-old question, that may seem trite at first, but if you really contemplate how you love yourself, you may find you don’t give much time to such endeavors at all!
Many people, women and mothers in particular, are brilliant at putting others before themselves, at shining the light of their kindness to as many people as are receptive. But what do we do, on a daily basis, to ensure our own mental – and physical! – health and wellbeing?
Simply eating, drinking, and breathing is just not enough. That’s survival. What about nourishment? What about food for growth?
And only days later, doing a search on Osho (who I’ve been reading on the bus to work), I found this beautiful session, where he discusses nearly the exact same concept:
All these people, loving their neighbors, without a clue about how to love themselves. Perhaps, yes.
Something I’m learning is how to engender healthy habits for myself. This sounds so simple, like second nature, of course, but the fact is, so many of us are poisoning ourselves with horrifically unhealthy foods and drinks – this is harmful, in the long run. So many of us have a chastising internal monologue that prevents us from reaching our goals, but are too unaware to identify and stop the phenomenon.
So, loving yourself, loving other humans, and even loving the Divine are all so inextricably intertwined, here I am, at the end of a philosophical rant, wondering what my point was to begin with. So I’ll leave it to one of the pros to sum up at least some it <pause, as author flips through books for just the right quote . . . ah yes, there it is, synchronicity . . . >:
“Love is the door to the kingdom of god – but it is spontaneous love, natural love, not a love enforced by others but something that arises within you for no reason at all. Love for love’s sake; then love has such beauty, such grace, such incomprehensible depth and such heights that the Himalayan peaks are nothing compared to it.” ~Osho