Have you ever noticed that it is the people you have drawn the closest to you that you also harbor the greatest resentments against?
The lover you held close to your skin… until they left, or failed to live up to your expectations, or betrayed your vision of the relationship. The parent who didn’t perceive and respect your genuine needs as a child. The mentor who raised you up under their wing, until one day pecked you in a way that hurt, so you relegated them to the great heap of souls who had wronged you… whom you could no longer include in your field of love.
You may have even outright rejected them at this point. You may find yourself explaining over and over to those in your now-inner-circle about the wrongs that have been wronged upon you… about what they did to you.
As I write this I am sitting on a bench by the East River in Brooklyn. It’s a sunny July day, but I’m cool beneath the shade of a tree that has formed an awning above. Dragonflies are zooming in quick spirals around the walking path. There are sounds of rumbling trains over the Manhattan Bridge, some far-off beepings of construction equipment, the zip of the FDNY motorboat sliding south along the river. As well as this soft wind in the branches and leaves all around. From this distance, it is easy for me to love unconditionally.
This is my second year doing A Course in Miracles. The first year I blasted through the 365 lessons one day at a time as instructed. This year I am moving more slowly in order to make sure I genuinely absorb each lesson before moving on. “Love holds no grievances” it says. It keeps coming back to this. To forgiveness. To aligning with a love that has no enemies, has never been wronged, knows itself as all else.
To attack anyone would be to attack oneself… You think you are separate from that which you rest your attention upon? It seems to ask over and over again… I can feel it smiling at my naivety.
The same message is embedded in the 12 steps of recovery — to acknowledge your resentments. To list them. To make amends. To inhabit and transform the places in your heart that have hardened, knotted, twisted up into little fists against people, moments, places and things.
Every book and teacher I authentically respect keeps leading back to this. They point over and over to the idea of unconditional love. Unseparated love. There, only there, is freedom.
A Solid Step Toward Unconditional Love
In contemplating all this over my years of immersion in self-realization teachings, I have needed to design an intermediary step. A stone between here and there that I might rest a foot on as I reach for this nearly unfathomable idea of loving all unconditionally… of living without grievances or resentments.
This is the question I have formed as that stepping stone: How far does this person need to be from me in order to love them unconditionally? I have found it really is possible to love each being with a whole heart, as long as I keep them at an appropriate distance from my physical self. To love certain people unconditionally, it is best that I see them just once or twice a year with a couple emails in between.
For others, in order for me to maintain deep warmth in my heart, I actually must have no communication at all with them.
Then there are those for whom close proximity and unconditional love is so easy, like my nieces and my sister.
I know that this isn’t perfect. I know there is more for my spirit to understand here. But the beauty of asking yourself the question How far does this person need to be from me in order to love them unconditionally? Is that when you acknowledge and achieve this distance, you no longer throw daggers. You don’t need to harbor violent thoughts of self-defense.
I am of the believe that your punishing thoughts can be felt. Your bitter words carry a vibration. Those fists in your heart still pack a punch in the outer world.
If you can find the healthy distance for all the beings in your life in order to maintain feelings of warmth and kindness, your own inner environment changes dramatically. It turns into a safe place, a place of trust.
And I’ve been getting the sense that by practicing guarding this inner space of unconditional love, it becomes easier to be closer to those who used to trigger such fear, rage and resentment. That outer space you consciously foster turns into inner space. The inner space makes for inner peace. And in that peace, love grows stronger and more resilient.
When your love grows stronger, people who used to threaten you can then come a little closer without setting you off like a cheap pile of fireworks. You can see them impartially. You can include them in your field of genuine well wishes. You can breathe more deeply.
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