I ran across an interesting quotation from Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level : “If you have any sort of a problem, send love at it. If you’re dealing with a bully, send love at him. If your life is stuck, send love at it.”
It’s fascinating because it makes love into an active proposition, rather than a passive state of being. He’s not talking about just sitting in a meditative state of love, he’s talking about consciously generating it and using it to solve problems.
There is a principle that’s called, “ahimsa,” which is one of the five Yamas, or ethical rules of behavior, in yoga philosophy. It’s widely translated as non-violence or doing no harm to any living thing. I know a lot of Buddhists and Wiccans who have incorporated that idea into their lives. If they find a spider in their house, they carry it outside and let it live rather than squashing it against the wall. It’s a basic measure of respect for life and not taking it or harming it.
If we dig a little further into the idea, though, we find Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras saying, “once ahimsa is mastered, even wild animals and ferocious criminals will become tame and harmless in our presence. … Ahimsa, rightly understood, is the ultimate weapon; it turns one’s enemy into a friend, thereby banishing the possibility of further conflict.”
In other words, send love at them. Use love as an active force to dissolve other people’s aggression.
One of the problems with sending love at people and things that threaten us is the limbic system in our brains. That’s that very ancient part of our brains – sometimes called the crocodile brain – which is responsible for the fight or flight reaction. If it detects a threat, it immediately dumps massive amounts of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into our systems. Our heart rates go up, our blood pressure goes up, we become hyper focused on the threat, and our thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex, pretty much stops functioning. We’re ready to fight like hell or run like hell, whichever action is most likely to help us survive.
The thing is, it’s very easy for other people to reach right past our conscious minds and our spiritual beliefs and tap into that fight or flight reaction. If someone at a business meeting makes fun of us, or a coworker is nasty to us, or a friend puts us down, we reflexively, unconsciously go into fight or flight. We can see that happening in the Five of Wands: everyone is madly swinging their clubs at everyone else and no one is stepping outside of the conflict and thinking things through.
The problem with fight or flight – aside from being a really unhappy, miserable way to go through life – is that aggression breeds aggression. If you get up in my face, I’m going to get right back up in yours. Which will make you even more aggressive, which will make me even more aggressive and on and on until someone gets hurt or someone flees. It’s a self-feeding cycle that inevitably leads to someone being wounded, either emotionally or physically.
And that’s the genius behind Ahimsa: it short circuits the fight or flight reaction by changing the energy field.
To put it in New Agey terms, incompatible energies cannot exist in the same energy field. If we’re actively generating love and nurturance and caring from our heart centers, then hatred and anger and aggression can’t enter into that field. One of two things will happen with the people around us who are generating anger: (1) they’ll go away because their anger isn’t compatible with our love; or, (2) they’ll change into more loving, mellow people in order to be compatible with the energy we’re putting out.
All of that starts, though, with our actively, consciously generating love and applying it to our problems. It’s not just a state of being that we sometimes live in and sometimes lose sight of. It’s beginning to see love as a very powerful force for change and not just some wimpy phrases on a Valentine’s card.
It makes perfect sense when we think about it. The Buddhists have an old aphorism that we don’t take darkness OUT, we bring light IN. We don’t just sit in a dark cave and imagine that there’s light – we actually light a candle.
It’s not an easy place to get to, certainly not in our society. We’re constantly programmed that violence and anger are solutions, rather than problems. Our heroes carry guns and know karate and drop bombs on other people. Love, on the other hand, is seen as something that’s weak and wussy, appropriate, perhaps, for mothers who are nursing babies but not very useful in the, “real world.” Love, when our tough guy heroes encounter it, is something that happens TO them, something that they have no control over and have to put up with, despite their best instincts to the contrary.
Changing that paradigm is going to involve embracing the idea of love as being much, much stronger than hatred and rage. As being an irresistible energy that’s an undercurrent in the universe. It’s going to involve realizing that people who are living in constant anger are the ones who are really afraid and the people who are living in love are the ones who have the courage to embrace life to the fullest.
It’s sort of like imagining John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in a bar, face to face with the BAD HOMBRE’. They’re glaring back and forth at each other, their hands are resting on their pistols, and everyone else in the bar is hiding under the tables. The music slowly builds to a crescendo and at that exact moment of the highest tensions in the scene, John Wayne reaches over, hugs the bad hombre’, and says, “I love you, man. I’m sorry that you’re having to live in such a terrible, negative space, and I know a good therapist I could recommend. Here, let me buy you a drink and we’ll talk about it.”
It works. Try it.
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