“Amor saca amor ‘ - Love begets Love - Saint Teresa of Avila
At yesterday’s Royal wedding, Bishop Michael Curry said the word “Love” 58 times.
In an address titled “the Power of Love”, he moved millions, including me, so an early sunny Sunday morning offered a perfect opportunity to reflect on love in a Yogic context and how we can use the Power of Love more fruitfully in our own lives.
The saints and mystics are the world’s greatest authorities on love. When Saint Teresa says, “Love begets love,” she is giving us a precious secret. One of the most beautiful things about love is that even today it cannot be purchased. It cannot be stolen; it cannot be ransomed; it cannot be cajoled; it cannot be seduced. "Amor saca amor" - only genuine love begets love.
All of us have been conditioned, even though we may not put it in such crass terms, to believe that if you love me six units, I should love you at most six units in return. I can feel secure in loving you six units because you have already committed yourself that far. But if you get annoyed with me and stomp out, slamming the door, I should pull back, at least temporarily, my six units of love. Yoga would have us (try to) think otherwise.
Yoga is ALL about the love …
Yoga offers us ten ethical recommendations - the ‘Yama & Niyamas’. They form the foundation of the eight limbs of classical Yoga according to the sage Patanjali. The first Yama, 'Ahimsa' is the root of all other recommendations. It's assumed that it was placed intentionally at the beginning to emphasise its priority.
It is love – Ahimsa, or non-violence - love towards all creatures, a conscious way of being in which we intend not to cause any harm. It is an invitation to live a peaceful life full of concern and compassion.
“At the center (sic) of non-violence stands the principle of love.”
– Martin Luther King Junior.
I know too well that we are fallible and frequently fall back to physical, verbal or mental violence, harming ourselves especially and others in countless ways: killing, beating, hurting, our body language, and facial expressions, neglecting or avoiding someone in need, manipulating others, offering judgement, the list goes on (and on.....)
However by sincerely acknowledging the consequences of our actions we can become aware of their damaging impact. Once we start to notice the universal interconnectedness of all phenomena, we can intuitively adopt a considered and loving attitude in any situation.
Aspiring for omnipresent love is a demanding ideal and so we need to aim for progress on different levels. First we try to stop physical expressions of violence, then reduce verbal forms of violence, and then learn to gradually diminish the subtle mental manifestations of violence.
“Peace in ourselves, peace in the world. Working for peace in the future is to work for peace in the present moment.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Love starts with an acceptance and appreciation of ourself. This requires us to make peace with one’s life and to embrace our own imperfections. This is not to be confused as arrogance or a refusal of improvement. Cultivating loving-kindness helps us to stay grateful even in challenging moments of failure and fear; and we can learn to become established in undisturbed inner peace.
Practicing Ahimsa allows us to learn how to share and give compassion, love, and understanding to others and ourselves. This practice encourages you to focus, and remind yourself to be loving and thoughtful. You’re not judging yourself or others, or thinking or saying negative things about yourself or others. You are thinking, saying, and doing things that embody love to yourself and others.
“Without Ahimsa, there is no yoga”
Practicing Ahimsa in our everyday lives can be difficult, especially if you already have a hard time meeting yourself with compassion and patience. But without meeting yourself where you are, or being inconsiderate of your needs (and so other's needs), you reinforce the disconnect between yourself and others.