Coming home to love: when you are on a spiritual path, what does it mean to love everybody? By Raquel Bravo
Last year, while in the throes of my shadow work, my sister asked me what my spiritual path was all about. She had never really taken an interest before, however, she knew I had changed. That and our relationship went through many different, dramatic shifts over the years.
At the time she asked me, I was still hesitant to open myself up fully. I was still afraid of judgement and rejection. And honestly, I had never really fully articulated out loud to anyone what my path was or what I had been through. So I explained it in a few short sentences.
I said: “It’s about believing in a higher power, not a punishing one, but one of love and acceptance. It’s about believing this higher power is where we all came from. It’s about finding meaning and magic in life. And most of all, it’s about believing we never die and that we all have a purpose in being here.” Her response was, “Oh. Okay. I believe that, too.”
What is a spiritual awakening?
In my experience, the ultimate awakening is realising you are more than just your mind and body. There is a pure essence underneath your thoughts, habits, and patterns. This essence has been coined in many different terms.
The supreme self, god, source energy, the higher self, Buddhanature, the list goes on. In Sanskrit, the word Atman means eternal self or spirit or soul. The eternal self that does not come and go. It is always there. This is the essence of you. Discovering this, your eternal self, can be life changing. The simplest experience can spark this realisation. Once it has been sparked, once there has been a taste of this subtle yet expansive freedom, the seeking begins. The path of uncovering each layer to discover what lies beneath ensues.
What are we really searching for?
The state of Oneness, or Atman, seems to offer different experiences. But because we have to use language to describe it, the human mind searches for words that contain feeling. Words like peace, stillness, freedom, silence, and love are used. But what is also in this state is the lack of noise, lack of chaos, lack of constriction, lack of hatred and anger, lack of emotional roller coasters, lack of judgement, lack of good or bad.
Everything that the human mind appears to be is what is absent in this state of Atman. So you can see it is a state of freedom from the grasp of the human mind. Who wouldn’t want to be free from the ups and downs of life?
Where do we get it wrong?
When we are on a spiritual path, or path of awakening, we think we are supposed to feel good all of the time. We have this belief that we are not supposed to get angry or feel judgemental. We are supposed to love everyone and everything, right? Isn’t this what Oneness is all about? Isn’t this what we read about in books written by spiritual teachers and people who have experienced awakenings?
This is where I got it all wrong. And this is where I see others getting it wrong, too, especially people who are deep empaths. As a young child, I was very sensitive. I could feel what other people were feeling and thinking. I could sense if someone did not like me and could sense if someone thought I was doing something wrong.
Even if they did not speak it aloud. I have the gift/curse of extreme clairsentience (an ability for a person to acquire knowledge by means of feeling). Out of this gift, I determined what felt good to me and what felt bad to me.
Who likes to feel bad? Nobody. I taught myself to read people, discover if they were feeling bad or good. If they felt bad, I would take it upon myself to fix that, even if it meant altering my own behaviours and personality to accommodate that other person.
If someone else felt bad, it made me uncomfortable, which then created a pattern where I tried my hardest not to feel uncomfortable. This played out for most of my teen years and adult life. These patterns of being accommodating created suppression in me and ruined a lot of my relationships because if I could not fix someone’s discomfort, I would leave. I was too uncomfortable with anyone else’s discomfort.
Once I started on the awakening path, this became even more extreme because I thought I was supposed to love everyone. I became even more suppressed. I tried to contain all of these negative emotions, which only backfired. I would erupt in anger, or I would shut down. I would become cold and distant.
What’s love got to do with it?
When we continually offer love from the aspect of personhood, it becomes exhausting. Most of the time, we are offering our love as a way to fix dysfunction. We are offering our love with attachments.
“Let me fix this for you because I love you, but also because your anger is making me uncomfortable.”
“If I offer this to you as a way to fix what you’re feeling, then you are not allowed to be angry anymore.”
“You better behave the way I want you to, because I am offering you my love.”
“You better respond the way I think you should because I am doing something nice for you out of my love.”
“You have nothing to offer me? Then I have no love to give you.”
Do these sound familiar? The famous Krishna Das tells a story of his time in India with his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Krishna Das witnessed a large family gathering filled with love and connection, which brought up a lot of emotion.
Sri Siddhi Ma, a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba, said to Krishna Das, “This love is what you missed growing up. When you were a child, love was used to control you.” This is my story. Is this your story, too? Are you playing out this game of love and control with others? Neem Karoli Baba said, “Tell the truth. And love everyone.”
Love is who we are. It is what we are made of. You cannot help another human being by offering love from the mind, by offering love with attachments. The love Neem Karoli Baba speaks of is the love radiating from our true essence where good and bad do not exist, where there is no judgement. This is what waking up truly means. It is waking up to the Truth of who you are, the essence of you that IS love.
How do we tell the truth AND love everybody?
In Ram Dass’s book, Being Ram Dass, he makes a statement of, “Maharaj-ji said, ‘love everybody.’ He did not say, ‘Don’t get angry.’” What does this mean? It means we will not always feel good, even if we have awakened to our true essence. We are still going to experience pain and anger. We are still going to experience loss and the grief that comes with it.
Be in your anger but still love everyone. Do not allow the emotions to close off your heart. Do not stay in your emotions. Do not fume about them for days and days or even years. Do not identify with those emotions. They are not who you truly are.
Who you are is that essence underneath all of your beliefs, patterns, and emotions. It is in that essence where you “Love everybody.”
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.