By Katie Ammon
Love is patient; Love is kind
It does not envy, it does not boast
It is not proud.
Love does not delight in evil
But rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
Always perseveres, love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
In the past few weeks, love has been the subject of one of the Tuesday night classes at Earthsong. The Ancient Wisdom teachings define love as, “…not an emotion, sentiment, desire or selfish motive for right action,” but as “an impersonal magnetic force that holds everything together.” Love works in harmony, encompasses all life and is in constant motion. All creation is an expression of love.
The biblical quote above explains what some of love’s qualities are. From this quote, it sounds like love is an older individual who has learned all the difficult lessons of life. These hard-won aspects of patience, kindness, finding joy in the successes of others, being silent about accomplishments, remaining humble, not dwelling on negativity, living from the heart, and keeping positive energy, while trusting and hoping for the best results, while enduring and being present day after day are often present in people with much life experience. All these qualities can be learned by any of us with awareness and effort.
First, we observe that we need patience when our path is blocked by another person, incident or change in routine. Since most of us like to have a set routine or schedule, any deviation or interruption is usually viewed as an irritation. We become anxious, agitated and/or angry and may go into the fight or flight response. After much time, we learn that negative emotions hamper rather than help at these times. Eventually we learn patience, which teaches us that most situations improve if met with a calm, grounded demeanor. Like most things in life, we deal with patience until it seems easier to overcome, but then life throws us another lesson to handle.
Second, we learn kindness when we realize we may not be treating others in a respectful manner. We begin to look at others with “new eyes” and see them as having the same needs, wants, fears and dreams as we do. We lose our prejudices when we see beyond the culture, belief systems and physical differences of other people, and think of them as the same as or equal to ourselves. Then we begin to treat others as we would like to be treated-with compassion and kindness. We understand that being kind does not diminish or take away from ourselves but rather creates an atmosphere of cooperation and harmony. Then from our inner space another lesson appears.
Thirdly, for us to find joy in the accomplishments of others seems to be a tougher lesson. Perhaps it is human nature for us to feel jealous or a bit envious of others who have risen to a higher pinnacle than we have. This lesson seems to come up for us many times before we realize each person is on their own path. So if we envy what others have accomplished, we may not be accepting ourselves and the path we have chosen in this life-time. Once we accept that each person shines in different ways, we develop an appreciation, respect and acceptance of the life journeys of others. When we learn to accept that each person has their own gifts and talents, we begin to see the diversity that makes life colorful and interesting. To see wonder in someone else’s success gives us a feeling of hope for ourselves in the future and maybe our own successes.
However our next lesson is that we do not boast about our own creations. This lesson comes at the cost of not being the center of attention or trying to gain the admiration of others. It keeps us on an equal level with others. Where, we are approachable, able to connect with others but not lost in self-aggrandizement. Here is where we learn to be in the world, but not get caught up in being the “big star” or glamour of the world. A big part of this is not letting our egos take over, by showing off our knowledge, deeds, material goods, successes or strengths to put ourselves above others. So we need to remain humble, which is our next lesson.
Humility is our fifth lesson. It goes beyond not being boastful, remaining approachable, accepting others as ourselves, being patient and kind. This is where we learn to allow others to be who they are without trying to control or fix them. This is often a harsh lesson for us and takes much introspection on our part, to examine our thought processes. We can then begin to curb our need to take charge and/or control. Sometimes we think we have answers or ideas that will help others. However, eventually we learn, either quickly or slowly, that others do not want to hear our ideas but rather want to continue to express their anxiety and doubts about a situation. Again we have to accept the fact that others need to make their own decisions and learn from them. It becomes a process for us to step back, to let them learn their lessons without us. When we are no longer enmeshed in the business of others we are free to move on to other lessons.
Not dwelling on the misfortunes of others nor the negativity of the world is our sixth lesson. How tricky this is; it depends on the amount of stimulation and level of drama we feel we need to experience in our lives. Being negative can be a great distraction from the mundane chores of our daily life. It also pulls us away from working on our personal growth by getting us involved in gossip, speculation, judgments and other behaviors. It keeps us from looking honestly at who we are and from evolving into a more loving, caring being. As we overcome this, it is like breaking an addictive habit. Negativity has a strong pull on us for a while but soon it has a repetitious quality that becomes mind-numbing. Negativity starts to become like the drone of a sermon that puts us to sleep. But while we sleep, we find ourselves going deeper within to find the real light of truth and then may abandon negativity altogether.
Finally, we see love is to be joyful while living in our truth. While we live and learn, we are always questioning, searching for truth and balance. So what we choose helps us live from our hearts, face adversity with calmness, while we stay grounded and centered the majority of the time. Even though events still arise that need our attention, these situations do not throw us as far off balance as they did when we were not as adept or experienced at handling the problems. This equanimity protects our energy because we are steadier and grounded, having learned not to give our energy to things out of our control. From here we can persist in going forward, trusting and hoping that we are evolving into better people through these lessons of love.