Over the last week I have been running a Love Experiment. The experiment was inspired by this quote, from my good friend Verity Pabla.
When all the people in the world love one another, then the strong will not overpower the weak, the many will not oppress the few, the rich will not mock the poor, the honored will not disdain the humble, and the cunning will not deceive the simple. And it is all due to universal love that calamities, strife, complaints, and hatred are prevented from arising.
(Mo Tzu, Chinese Philosopher)
Verity texted me this quote while I was asleep, after a Skype conversation about love and making a difference in the world. I woke up and read the quote she had sent and was immediately inspired. I wondered, is it possible to love everyone? Could I love everything that I did?
So I set out to run an experiment. My research questions were:
- Is it possible to put love in every single waking moment and action?
- What would be the effect of cultivating inner compassion and placing that compassion into everything I do?
Recently I had observed that when I felt carefree and at ease, the way I combed my hair changed dramatically. When I put love into brushing my hair, it softened my actions and my hair felt and looked nicer. I wondered if there had been an energy transaction here. Had brushing my hair in a kind and loving way given my hair some positive energy? Had this energy allowed it naturally to fall in the way I preferred? Could an energy begot from love yield a happier life?
And so over the last week, I have cultivated feelings of love and tried to be with them in all of my interactions. I have not tried to force feelings of love, but have noted when it became more difficult or more easy.
Sometimes I feel like my life becomes a to-do list, as activities are ticked off or ‘achieved’. I wanted through this experiment to pay greater attention to the means rather than the end.
And so, one week on, how did it go?
Well, I have found feelings of love easier to maintain when alone, with plenty of time. To wash up and really put my heart and soul into that one bowl I am washing is beautiful. It is like a meditation.
I have enjoyed the softness I have experienced when typing tenderly, loving each key rather than making it my slave, and bashing it to death. I have found a femininity in loving every action, and this feels new and vulnerable and rich.
I have appreciated the people I work with even more; been even kinder to children and been even more grateful for every mouthful of food I have eaten. All this has come from living with love.
I have felt happier and more at ease; more relaxed. Being more loving has given me a better quality of life. I have found it easier to get along with people and easier to forgive.
Creatively, I have felt more drawn to poetry. I found myself listening to lots of Rumi this week, particularly Podiobook’s free audio downloads of The Masnavi, read by Jawid Mojaddedi. I was inspired by The Masnavi so much that I composed my own verses in my van. I would like to dedicate a future blog entry to this.
I have found the Love Experiment more challenging the more people I have to deal with, when deadlines loom, when I feel rushed or stressed or have a lot to accomplish in a short space of time. Sometimes during a faster-paced period, that loving feeling has become more urgent, and felt more passionate. Sometimes, in the words of the Righteous Brothers, I lost that loving feeling.
However, the experiment in itself has enhanced my awareness. It has brought greater awareness into how I act in life. Many times I noticed when I lost that feeling of love, and was sometimes able to shift into feeling loving again.
I also became acutely aware of when love arose naturally. When with good friends, during yoga and meditation or singing in my van it seemed to spring forth! When working with children, love is very present.
This experiment has helped indicate when I am in great natural flow, and might be a good indicator of my true role in life.
Eckhardt Tolle discovered a similar ease, although rather than run a love experiment, he awoke unexpectedly with such a feeling and it lasted for over two years. In that time he felt deep bliss and inner peace. His mind was uncontrived and undisturbed. He was able to be in the moment at every single moment, and writes about it at length in The Power Of Now. This book is particularly useful as a toolkit of exercises for keeping you calm and aware and present.
I have experienced a time in my life when I felt something similar.
It was in Tenerife. Over the summer, I had spent three weeks on a working retreat at Casa Saraswati, the retreat centre of sacred clown and spiritual teacher Didier Danthois. Our schedule there was morning meditation, followed by an organic breakfast; work, then an organic lunch and rest time; then more work, yoga practise, organic dinner, relaxation time and finally bed. This schedule suited my body, my emotions, my soul perfectly. Didier helps people find their own sacred clown; a fool, full of childlike awareness, who has no concept of time and space and savours every new experience. His workshop method transferred to the running of his farm on working retreat, which was similarly easy-going and all about quality of experience. The banner photo on this blog is a picture of sunset at Casa Saraswati, by the way.
Without even forming a concept or conducting an experiment, I was living in the moment, and putting love naturally into my actions. A retreat space is perfect for this as there are fewer responsibilities and deadlines than in daily working life.
Sogyal Rinpoche is an esteemed Buddhist teacher and the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He talks about an old Tibetan phrase:
Water, when not stirred, will become clear;
The mind, when unaltered, will find peace.
In my experiment, the times I felt love were also very peaceful for me. Peaceful and simple. I only had to do one thing: love. Love everything.
I feel that modern life is hectic. I feel that the education system places higher emphasis on passing exams than how to life our lives as successful people. I feel that love is not something that comes from outside you, but from inside you. I would love to see greater teachings on love in the school system, in the workplace, in the home. We spend a long time chasing a love outside ourselves, when we can find it in an instant in our hearts.
I believe that it is possible for me to try and live with even greater love in my heart, and give love more freely, more openly, with less limitations.
Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
This does not mean we have to say yes to everything. It means that we can choose to find love, and give love. It means we can notice when we feel love naturally, or when it becomes a struggle. We can spend our time on the things we love. We can improve the quality of our lives and those around us by putting love into the tiniest action.
Have you ever eaten a homemade meal, cooked with love? You would choose to eat such a meal over a microwave dinner any day, right?
I guess that’s my point : )