Monday, January 21, 2013

The Pain of Conditional Love

There is a reason Leigh Brasington teaches loving kindness as a preparation practice for the jhanas. Unless the heart is fully opened, and unhindered, the mind cannot fully settle. And a disturbed mind bars one from the possibility of inner peace and freedom. 

Loving kindness is a benchmarking practice for the heart. It shows us how many obstacles the mind sets to love flowing out freely. It also bumps against automatic responses from a body most often used to closing up.

Sitting, practicing loving kindness, I  get to see all the idiotic reasons perpetuated by the mind, for why I should not love such and such person. 

"I hardly know him. Love is for close loved ones, ins't it?" Mind operates under the delusion that love is a limited resource, to be allocated parsimoniously only under certain conditions.

"He has hurt me.  I cannot trust him. I don't feel like loving him." Mind makes gigantic leaps, from needing to be cautious, to slamming the heart door . . . Not realizing that each slam is a source of stress for the whole system. I am not hurting him who has no idea of the movie playing in my heart. I am hurting myself.

"She does not seem to care. Why should I love her?" Mind keeps on dispensing evaluations. Lovable? Yes, a little, or maybe a lot, or not at all? 

Turning towards the heart, I get to see all the conditions set up in the mind only, and that keep me from finding the joy within. 


  1. And in Ch'an, they preface Ch'an meditation with practices like chanting to Kwan Yin or the Great Compassion Mantra... similar reasons... to open the heart and prepare for Ch'an (jhana).

  2. This is a wonderful post and I really needed to read it right now. Someone recently asked me why my attitude had changed toward someone when nothing with my relationship with this person had changed and I answered because I love them. I am not going to keep pretending not to love them and hurt myself.

    I realized you can love someone but keep yourself in check with reality, so as not to expect the same from them. Maybe they are showing up the best they can and love shouldn't have strings attached.

  3. In Marks gospel Jesus is asked which commandment is the most important. His answer is that there are two which are the most important. The first is to love God.The second is "to love your neighbour as yourself".(Mark12:28-31).He mentions no others.In Buddhism I think love is more complicated. The Buddha, of course, walked out on his wife and young son to enter the homeless life which was a common practice in that place and time.Like Mary in the gospels his wife became a single parent(we don't know what happened to Mary's husband Joseph).The point I am trying to make is that love is very complicated and most of us tend to think first of ourselves.We want others to like and admire us
    and think what nice people we are but of course none of this has anything to do with love. So what is love really? I like the Buddhist concept of loving kindness because while its impossible to love most people at least we can try to be kind to them.Likewise we can be kind to ourselves without being vain or expecting others to love us because we know that ,mostly, they don't.

  4. I am not certain how I found your blog but I am so grateful I did!
    I am 67, I have worked with dementia patients and I do art as a 'therapy" for myself. I am also working situation that is to say is a challenge is an understatement. I have never meditated and have known nothing about Zen Buddhism or the teachings. You have a link for Abhayagiri which I have been listening....what a treasure! Your postings touch my heart, mind and spirit and give me hope that there may yet be peace and healing, at least here and there, one moment at a time. As far as love- loving kindness some people can accept the love given when given and some may hold it as memory to retrieve when most needed, some don't know love and understand kindness. It has nothing to do with the other but has everything to do with our own integrity. To remember that all beings are living with fear and desire seems to level the playing field making for less pain - now if only I can remember that!!

    Thank Marguerite for your postings!!!!

  5. Lori, yes, I am understanding more and more the connection between the need to purify the heart, and setting the hindrances aside, and concentration, and peace and freedom.

  6. Debra, yes, as Gil Fronsdal once said in one of his talks, you don't have to like him, but you can love him.

  7. Anonymous #1, yes. Love is both very complicated and very simple. Most useful to me has been the experience of seeing how the mind is the culprit when it comes to closing the heart door, and also the realization that love is always there in our heart. It is just that some of our mind habits don't let it flow in or out.

  8. Anonymous #2 thank you for all your good work in the world. And glad that you are discovering the possibilities of mindfulness practice. May you continue with your journey on that path!