The Way of Love vs. the Way of Discipline
Let's compare the Way of Love to the way of self-discipline. Generally, spiritual seekers consider discipline--especially self-discipline--as the driving force of spiritual ascent. For example, we rely on discipline to focus the mind and the energy. And we work hard to overcome the lower tendencies of ego--or at least think we should. Discipline has a lot to be said for it, but friends, if you want to bring order to your life and focus the mind, love works much better than self-discipline.
These great things that we, as seekers, strive for -- focus, constancy, and well-ordered living -- are but inherent properties of love. Consider this: When people fall in love, that love starts to bring order to their lives, almost immediately. It happens on virtually every level. They quickly change everything in their life -- naturally and happily.
Everyone knows that focus is important in spiritual ascent. Well, when in love, the most scatterbrained persons suddenly become perfectly single-pointed--focused on the beloved.
There can be no question that constancy, too, is achieved through the power of love. The lower mind is naturally fickle. And obviously, that's why great effort must be made to discipline, direct, and re-direct the mind. It's like trying to control a herd of wild horses. But the true heart is naturally constant. When one really loves something, one is naturally attracted to that thing. One naturally focuses on that thing, and does not have to make an effort to stop the mind from wandering. Thus, when the heart is allowed to lead, the heart makes the mind constant.
So as you can see, the results of being in love duplicate, and even exceed, the results of disciplined attempts to put life in order. Love achieves the goals of ordinary self-discipline and traditional spiritual effort -- focus, constancy, bringing life into a perfect order -- completely naturally. Effortlessly. Happily. Ecstatically, even. And that is a claim that no ordinary self-discipline, of a traditional nature, can possibly make.
There is a value to self-discipline, certainly. But the kind of self-discipline that is a natural expression of love is most effective. The usual ego-styled approach to problem-solving is often so problematical, and so problem-focused, as to actually reinforce problems. In contrast, love solves problems by seeing/being beyond them. Effort is self-limited; love is Self-unlimited. Love moves mountains; effort moves molehills. Effort overcomes some little challenges; love conquers all.
Any life moved by love is well-focused, uplifting, careFull. Can there be any doubt that such a life is truly Godly? Indeed, since God is love, a life directed by love is Divinely directed -- and not egoically directed, or egoically "perfected."
So we see a real difference between that discipline which exists in reaction to the ego and that love which exists in response to life, and which is of one's own heart nature. They are two very different things. The usual spiritual effort is an act in relation to ego, embraced and performed by ego. The true Way is the Way of Love. It is a response to Divinity -- even as manifest in persons -- and it is a creative expression of Divinity.
The true and natural way of the heart
The Way of Love is quite natural to us -- not in the sense that the survival instinct is "natural," but in the sense that love is inherent to who we are. So we're speaking of heart nature. No sane person would claim to be hateful or evil at heart. "I am good and loving at heart," people say. And when we respond from the heart, as the heart, we see how true that statement is. Every heart is warmed by a love exchange, while it is bored by a mediocre exchange, and chilled by a hate exchange.
And the Way of Love is natural to us, because we already love! We love our own true Self, we love the true Self of all, and we love Divinity. Ask any person these questions, and you can verify this: "Do you love Divinity: Do you love your own indwelling Divinity, such as you have seen of it? And do you love the God that is, the Divinity of all?" Invariably, the answer is, "Yes, I love that." You see, whether we call it "God" or not, surely everyone knows -- both intuitively and through various kinds of experiences -- the beauty and the power of the Divinity that is, and the Divinity that they themselves are.
And then you ask, "Do you love egoic nature? Do you love egoic tendencies?" Now, when they think about that, and they consider the grief that ego has caused to them and others, the answer will invariably be, "Certainly not!" One cannot love it. It is not lovable!
So, when we point to the Way of Love as the true and natural way, we simply point to the honest truth of who you are and what you already feel: "I love that which is Divine, and I do not love that which is of ego." We do not point to something to be achieved. We point to a love that exists and persists in the heart. And we point to who you are -- you yourself, as you are, without any lies, or pretext, or distortions in relation to that. The one who you are loves as you love, and loves what you love. And, at the same time, the one who you are does not love what it cannot and does not love.
Once the existence and persistence of love is simply acknowledged, then love can be lived as a true and natural constancy. For as we have said, people naturally focus on what they love. And they naturally order their life as love asks them to. When we love, we don't have to make an arduous, self-disciplined effort to overcome all kinds of resistance. The nature of love takes care of that.
So when we ask, "Why should it be so hard to love?" there's an intuitive rightness about that complaint. Love shouldn't be hard. Love doesn't hurt. If pain is felt by love, love is not the source of the pain -- even though love may, at times, enhance our awareness of what is painful. Love keenly feels the pain of love-refusal, the pain of smallness, the pain of egotism.
But, if loving feels hard, we are out of touch with the love that we have, and are. We are living in an illusion in which we have forgotten what we love. And in that same illusion, we may be pursuing what we do not love. So, for example, we may choose to withhold rather than share. We may opt for control instead of cooperating. We may prefer privacy to the light of consciousness. In all such choices, we choose against what we love, against who we are. And then, tragically, loving feels hard, and conflicted. This need not be.
Self-conflict arises out of a failure of the human being to truly acknowledge what they love, and what they do not love. How else could self-conflict be? Therefore, resistance and self-conflict are completely eliminated by honestly admitting these two things:
1. I love the Divinity that is, and that I am. And
2. I do not love ego -- my ego, any ego, or egoic tendencies as a whole.
No matter what we think, it's still true that we love what we love -- because we do And it is still true that we don't love what we don't love -- because we don't. We can't.
If these things are true -- and they are true -- then where is the conflict that causes spiritual striving to be arduous, difficult, repetitive, obstructed? Where is the resistance that effortful self-discipline aims to overcome? And finally: Without conflict, where is the need for struggle?
When life is given to Love
If a person is willing to admit that they love what they love, and they do not love what they do not love, then effortful seeking is finished, and enlightened life is.
What could be more enlightened than to exist as love, without conflict? Knowing that you love what you love, and you do not love what you do not love, what more is there to achieve?
In this simple acknowledgment, this daring act of self honesty, the acceptance of that, all that is considered to be the spiritual ordeal is supplanted by an immediately enlightened life -- which is, simply, an honest life.
Who are you? What do you love? If you will give the only true and honest answer, you will have it.
The true love that I am will never require of me the kind of effort ego can make. The true love that I am will never be a show that I, in the mode of ego-identification, could put on. It will never be an effort in the regular sense of the word effort. It will not be the result of regular effort, or regular striving, born of self-conflict.
In my heart and soul, I have no self-conflict. The heart is true. It is the only true thing. The heart is loyal. The heart always loves what it loves. It always does not love what it does not love. And so therefore, the heart is the answer. Love is the Way.
So, give your life wholly to what you love. Only if you do so, will you support it sufficiently to make it viable in and as your life. And if you don't, you're giving too much to what you don't love. The True Way is clear: love what you love, as you are.