One of the teachers I’ve gotten to work with, Marc Gafni, says that we live in a world of outrageous pain, and that often it causes us to close our hearts. But, he says, the call, the practice, the way through, is to meet that outrageous pain with outrageous love. To become outrageous lovers in the world.
So how do I do this? How do I meet outrageous pain with outrageous love?
First I feel the outrageous pain. I feel it completely. I watch a tv show where a fictional character is describing being raped, and I feel sick to my stomach; I have to press pause. My throat contracts; my muscles tense. I notice the aliveness in my body: poised to move; to act. And what is my available action? To feel it 100%. And somewhere in the feeling of it, I find the seed of the Holy. The part of me that notices the empathy I feel for a world so caught in a paradigm that produces perpetrators and victims. That finds compassion for all the victims and perpetrators and perpetuators of the culture who sustain it and fall prey to it.
It is a difficult and liberating thing, to step outside one’s paradigm; to go counter-cultural. Not to rebel against the culture you’re in, but to truly transform your worldview. Not everyone is open to that kind of radical leap, and it’s not for everyone. When you step into a new paradigm, everything shifts, and it can take a while to find your footing.
When I started studying Tantra, I learned that the first principle is “Everything is an Experiment” and that part of understanding that is that there’s no right and no wrong – just the experiment and the data that results and is used to inform the next experiment. I couldn’t even quite grasp what it could mean for right and wrong not to exist. But I was pulled forward, by the longings of my heart and the knowings of my intuition, and embarked on a journey outside the paradigm of ideas of “right” and “wrong” and “good” and “bad”. The journey is not complete; nor should it be. It is a slow unwinding in a world that is built on the principle of duality.
But I have come a long way in my understanding, and it is a glorious endeavor. Outside of right and wrong, it’s easy to love everyone – to choose love and hold compassion and goodwill for them – because they’ve done nothing wrong. Even where they have caused suffering; even when the impact of their actions has been lasting in a widespread wave of pain and misery and patterns of violence that self-perpetuate and evolve…it was all in the pursuit of the One Great Longing: to love and be loved.
Not the human conception of love, not the smallness of it…not even the beautiful practice of intentional loving I’ve learned and trained in at Shalom Mountain, but something beyond any possible comprehension; the Infinite Mystery; the Infinite All.
That is what we pursue, at our core – it is the divine dissatisfaction that draws us onward, that propels our evolution even as choice and discipline shape it and pleasure and connection color it. Loving and being Loved, on a cosmic scale. Participating in the Infinite Benevolent Evolving. Opening, over and over, to our largest-yet-understood understanding of divinity, and bringing that experience into embodiment by living into it and in doing so, expanding the self. And when the self expands, the imagination expands, and one can conceive of a yet-grander divine, and therefore experience a yet-grander divine, and weave the new expansion of consciousness into a further expansion of experience, and on and on, until God is fully Realized.
Because if in the beginning, there was nothing but God, and then God yearned strongly enough to move into creation, what could God possibly long for other than God? To know God, to experience God, to make love with God and give birth to more God, on and on and on without end? To fully Realize God. To shape the syllables of God’s name and hear them with God’s ears; to reflect God back to Godself in a perfect meeting of love with love; to dance forever in the ecstasy of the timeless burst of creation as nothingness manifests into infinite ecstasy, and to slow down and savor every moment of that timeless burst… to both feel the big bang in its entirety and individually experience the journey of every tiny particle contained within it.
If there was nothing but God, and God longed and created, then everything that is longed for and created is also God; that is to say: if in the beginning there was nothing but God, then there is still nothing but God, and that is the miracle of Ex Nihilo, and the secret behind Dhumavati’s smile (she’s the Tantric Goddess of the Void). Out of the nothingness of God, came the everythingness of God, and it’s all God.
And we forget that. It’s part of the game – we forget so we can focus completely on the one small part of it we’re busy experiencing. The part of the story where the I-we’re-currently-incarnated-as is the center of the universe, simply because it’s the I-we’re-currently-incarnated-as. This is the experience, so experience this. And then we get to remember our fullness of being, because remembering our god-ness is so completely delicious that it pulls us into itself, and that remembering helps us stay aligned with our True Self. And then we forget again, and focus on the now of our experience. And the more we remember and forget and remember and forget, the more we can begin to integrate – to both focus on the complete, sensual, embodied now and the expanded ecstatic all. To fully experience ecstasy, incarnate, and live awake to that experience.
But in the forgetting, our ideas get distorted. And we begin to manifest our realities through those distorted ideas. Our stories shift; subtly, but enough to alter us in long-lasting ways. And as we change, we lose our alignment with the Sacred Grace we came from. The weight of our karmas loans extra gravity to our orbits; the balance is slightly off; the weather patterns change.
And the more we remember, the more we come into alignment. The more we find balance. And the more we align with Grace, the more Grace pours down on us and through us, and the more we learn to live as Love, knowing ourselves to be a unique embodiment of the infinite benevolence evolving.
And so when I gaze upon another human, or remember the faces of those people in my life who have challenged me; who have betrayed or wounded me, I must first remember that they, too, are a unique embodiment of that same infinite benevolence evolving, and that they are driven at their core by the same longing that drives me: to love and be loved. And I must remember second that we are on the same side; that there is no ‘us’ or ‘them’ but just this entire collective of souls and spirits, on this planet at this time, participating in the evolution of love. Thirdly I must remember that it is not for me to judge whether this human I am faced with is in distortion or in alignment; it is their journey to experience, and where it impacts my own experience in uncomfortable or pleasurable ways, it is not mine to judge that discomfort or pleasure as something negative or positive, but to feel that experience as fully as I am able, and bask in the miracle it is to be able to feel such a thing.
If I can accept my part – the feeling of it – and release what was never mine to give in the first place – the blame of it and judgment of it – then I am left standing in front of a human, like me, who is part of the Infinite All, like me, who longs to love and be loved, like me; who is participating in the evolution taking place on this planet at this time, like me. How can I meet this being, who I now understand to be part of the evolution of love, with anything but love, if I am awake to the fact that I myself am part of the evolution of love? How can I be anything but grateful that this being exists and this moment exists and this experience exists?
And so I watch TV, and a character describes being raped. And I feel it, totally. And I feel compassion for all who have been raped. And I feel compassion for all who have raped. And I feel compassion for the culture that perpetuates the idea of rapists and victims, and all of us who live within that culture, which is a subculture of the entire paradigm of violence at play on a global scale. And so my compassion expands to encompass the world and I feel a surge of love for all of us who are here, living so miraculously in human bodies that can experience things in a manifest way. And in that wave of love I feel bliss, and holy grace, and a rush of words comes pouring out my fingers onto the screen, and I know that some piece of the pain and horror of rape culture has been transmuted, just in this small and quiet space of time here, because I let myself fully feel the outrageous pain of the existence of rape, and fully experience it until my own outrageous love, sourced in divine love, came rushing up to meet the experience of the pain, and compassion and creativity burst forth from their place of meeting.
And as the waves of emotion and sensation recede, there is now a little less violence and a little more peace in me, and therefore in the world. And I am basking in delight and wonder at how amazing it is to be formed into a body with the ability to feel so fully and transmute so beautifully.
And all is well. And the dance of Outrageous Love and Outrageous Pain continues on, always in it’s perfect unfolding in the Evolution of Love.