The embrace of unconditional love
This column was written on Sunday night, so it cannot reflect the events of the past week. Wise Guyde hopes that everything went peacefully — that Joe Biden is now president, Madame Vice President Barbara Harris is duly in office and He Who Must Not Be Named is now safely out of Washington.
Since I am writing in ignorance of what prevailed this week, this column will be devoted to some eternal verities, which by their nature remain true, regardless of how things went.
The nominee for surgeon general is a very impressive man of Indian origin, named Vivek H. Murthy, M.D. He has written the book, “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.”
Dr. Murthy states he found in his years of medical practice that loneliness was often the underlying pain beneath whatever his patients were presenting as their symptoms. Not to oversimplify his main point, but he determined the solution to loneliness is connecting with others.
He is obviously a person with a spiritual practice, as he refers to it frequently. From this anchor, he tells us that the first step in feeling interiorly free to connect with others, is to love ourselves. This, of course, is the basic tenet of all world religions, to love your neighbor as yourself. If, however, you do not love yourself, your efforts to love your neighbor will be complicated.
So, how do we go about loving ourselves? Psychotherapy can help up to a point, and sometimes it is a necessary complement to our efforts, but the spiritual path can take us deeper into the rich, fertile realm of the unconscious. Here the imagination, which Einstein said is more important than knowledge, holds sway.
One factor that often needs to be dealt with in our quest for a well ordered self- love, is our image of God. Whatever your image of our source is, try replacing it with this: imagine God, not as some sort of divine scorekeeper, always observing you with a critical eye, but rather as one who embraces you with unconditional love seasoned with a vast sense of humor (the Sufis say that laughter is the essence of God). The main hurdle here is the word “unconditional.” What we need to do is interiorize, at a deep level, that “unconditional” means just that. It does not mean we are loved as long as we behave. It means we are loved right here, right now, just as we are. Picture divine love as a transforming fire of energy, embracing you, lifting you up, launching you to new heights as your ancient bindings are cut and old skins are shed.
Give this same embrace to your inner child. Draw her or him into the heart of love. Let that child heal in your arms. Give this all the time it wants, and then you will be connected with yourself at a deeper level and ready, as Dr. Murthy guides us, to connect with others.
Bill O’Brien is a consciousness coach and shamanic practitioner. He and his wife Linda have lived in Shepherdstown since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.