Friday, April 29, 2005

The habit of love

I've been characterizing love in terms of attraction, attachment, and union. At different levels of human experience and expression, attraction, attachment and union characterize love, but it should by clear by now that not every attraction and attachment manifest as love, although physical and emotional love do involve attraction and attachment. With regard to union, that is ultimately a demonstration of love alone, as that state cannot be experienced from any other perspective, as it is definitive of love at its most essential level. Spiritual union is the experience of love unadulterated. It's pretty intense, so I hear!

When we spoke about attraction and deliberate intent, free will and choice, you could see also that such matters can go "either way," as it were. You can attract for good or ill, you can choose for good or ill, you can intend for good or ill, in a free-will universe. So if you want to attract, intend, choose and act in a manner that is coherent with the will of the source of all and universal law, it is essential that you take responsibility for your choices again and again, through the process of introspection. It is through the process of introspection that you study your experiences to root out the role you are playing and to make behavioral adjustments in the direction of service and self mastery. In that way you can consciously create a deeply satisfying life experience because it is coherent with the divine will-pleasure, and generates an integral experience of the self.

Put in terms of love, the path of service and self mastery is about creating a life which is a habit of love. In my dissertation back in graduate school I spoke of marriage in particular as a habit of love. By that I meant that marriage itself is a loving relationship between two people which is generated through their practice of loving acts with respect to each other, and who through that day-in and day-out practice, generate a disposition or tendency, inhering in their mutually oriented wills, of love for one another which is enduring. The converse implication is that where those same two partners in relationship practice not loving acts but controlling acts or mean acts or spiteful and vindictive acts over and over again, they generate not a habit of love but a mean spirited relationship which essentially represents a viscious rather than a virtuous habit. Such a relationship should be dissolved in its tendencies at the very least, through a recommitment to a habit of love, in order to dissolve the viscious habit, for in itself it does not represent a marriage at all. Marriage is not a ceremonial event but a relationship process having a certain character. Sometimes it is the case that through lack of will and comittment on the part of one or both partners it is not possible to truly marry, and in that case, despite ceremonies and cohabitation and children and shared property, a marriage understood in terms of a habit of love simply cannot form.

So a habit is a disposition to act inhering in the will. Since the will is free, such dispositions can be changed, but a habit is by definition enduring, so it takes considerable intention and effort to shift from one direction to another. Anyone who has ever experienced changing the contents of a drawer from one place to another or moved a light switch permanently knows what I am talking about. You may find yourself checking the old drawer before the new, or trying to flip the old light switch now gone, for years to come! "Old habits die hard." This is true whether they represent exclusively physical dispositions, or emotional ones, or patterns of thought. Two points follow: it is unreasonable to expect instant transformation from one habit to another, so be compassionate with yourself and with others who have generated an honest initial intention for transformation but do not yet act in perfect coherence with that intention. There is a learning/practice curve to be mastered in the endeavor of forming new habits and dissolving old ones which must be accepted. It is also unreasonable to expect that by merely generating a new intention a former habit could be dissolved and a new one generated on the spot, without the concommitent practice and repetition of action over time which represent the meat of the new behavioral groove.

So this is some of the backround for my statement that the path of service and self mastery is about creating a life which is a habit of love. A marriage which is a habit of love is a particular relationship based on the practice of loving acts between two people. A life which is a habit of love represents a more general orientation of love. Such a life involves a commitment to act in a loving manner, to generate a loving disposition writ large, to pursue the experience of love with regard to all, enemy as well as friend, with the knowledge that the "maximization" or universalization of the intent and practice of a loving disposition with regard to all does not imply or require that everyone will love you back!

A marriage which is a habit of love, and a family which is a habit of love, are awesome training grounds for a person who would seek to live a life which is a habit of love, and they certainly represent good foundations upon which to build such patterning of character. It is also possible for a person to transcend their less-than-loving circumstances of familial origin and generate a life and family and marriage which are habits of love nonetheless. In either case, the life which is a habit of love is dependent upon lots of practice, introspection, employment of the tools of self mastery, and devotion to the source of all as the ultimate lover radiant behind the veils of form and everpresent for loving union.

When manners controlling and aloof, or patterns of belief, thinking, behavior and relationship rooted in the victim consciousness are recognized and acknowledged, when you accept yourself as you are in spite of the fact that such manners are still operative in your life (and mine!), the stage is set for the formulation of new intentions which are coherent with the will of the source of all and universal law, and the ongoing practice of love.


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