Love. I behold it for a moment, and then it slips through my
fingers. It is so powerful, it is almost frightening. How silly! Fear and love
are opposites. It is quite clear, in these moments, that love and fear cannot
exist in the same space. At any given time, there is room only for one.
Well, you could say that. In truth, I think love is always present. It’s just a matter of whether we are aware of it. When we see clearly, we see love. When we are blinded by our own imaginings, that is when we see fear.
The Instant of Infinity
When I look into the eyes of another person, for a moment- maybe just a split second- I am surrounded by an instant of infinite love. It is indescribable. It is amazing. But it doesn’t take long for me to flake out.
I cop out for different reasons, it seems. I don’t want to acknowledge that I’m that strongly connected to this person. Or, on the opposite hand, I don’t want to make the other person feel uncomfortable.
In either case, when the concern arises I again step into the paradigm of separation. I buy into the illusion that it is much safer there. And maybe, for now, it is. If I can’t handle the total-love experience for more than an instant just yet, then I suppose it should make sense that I don’t stay there much longer than that.
There are other times when I feel the sense of unabashed connection starting to take hold, but thought steps in and stops it before it can. It’s just too much—it’s too weird. The thoughts that accompany these experiences are rather unsettling—thoughts I’d rather not share.
Perhaps in these instances I am shown to oneness in a roundabout way. In the first type of experience, I start with the experience of eternal love (the experience feels timeless), where thought is either quiet or nonexistent, and then fear and thought slip in. In this type of experience I start with thought, which I become fearful of, and I then recognize that perhaps in this thought lies a desire to fully recognize my connection with the other person.
Of course, before that odd thought, there is silence—there is silence before all thoughts. It is a very, very small space of silence. But it is in that silence where the concept of “I” is non-existent, for such a concept requires intellect, and there is no intellect in the silence.
It is that silence which is the true space between stimulus and response—between physical and non-physical. In that space there is no time, for time, too, requires a mind to be fathomed. In that space there is no fear, for fear exists only in the paradigm of separation, and this paradigm requires the use of mind to “see.” In the silence before thought, there is only one thing: eternal love.
Growing Into Love
This is the course the path of growth takes. Thought gives the appearance of slowing down, and simultaneously we are able to set aside and cast out disempowering thoughts. In so doing, we are able to process information more effectively and think more clearly. When we think more clearly we have less fear. With this reduction in fear, we can rely more on other modes of information-processing—those which arise, as we may say, from the gut, or the heart, or perhaps even the spirit.
When fear is overwhelming these channels are largely blocked, and what little does squeeze through from them tends to be distorted by that very fear. But as we steadily come to master ourselves these information-channels become more prominent, and it quickly becomes obvious just how powerful they are.
Man is not all mind: if he was, he would be dreadfully slow, and terribly boring. Rarely do you make decisions on intellect alone, unless, perhaps, you regard fear as a product of intellect. Your make-up simply does not allow for this. You are not a computer, and your world is not binary: thus, you cannot make decisions as though it is. Something quick and irrational must take at least the last step in the decision-making process, even though it is difficult to always be aware of this occurrence.
In the end- if there is an end- it is wholly evident that what we are is beyond intellect, beyond feeling, and beyond physicality. In those instances when I am surrounded by infinite love, there are none of these things. I do not feel. I do not think. I do not comprehend my body or that of another. I simply am, without boundaries.
Love is not a feeling: it is the state of things. What we are, it would seem, is the state of things. To say that we are consciousness itself may not even put a close on this. Instead, we are the indescribable awareness in which consciousness occurs—the awareness that is ever-present and always silent. This is the observer behind the observer—the one which cannot be named, and which we certainly cannot stick an “I” to. Being beyond intellect and even feeling, to that end very little can accurately be said. Words, after all, require separation, and in pure awareness there is no such thing.
Yet, words can be used to close the gap of separation. In fact, this is their purpose: to act as a medium for catharsis. Through this catharsis (relief) we clear our minds and let go of fear. All learning may be, in fact, an act of unlearning. All learning points us steadily closer to the truth, wherein nothing that is unreal is perceived to exist.
In each instance we either learn or are deluded. In each moment, one of two forces is present—either love, or fear. Never can there be both. And in each moment, in that space between stimulus and response, we have the power to choose which we shall align with in the next.
Perhaps you cannot see through all your fears and delusions in this moment: to be able to do this completely can take a lifetime—many lifetimes, even. You may not yet be aware enough to discern between all that is illusion and all that is truth. This is fine, for this is the ability that improves along the path of growth. You are here to improve your ability to make this discernment; so, there is no need to become discouraged.
In fact, this is cause for joy. What a privilege it is that we can see ourselves grow over time. What a privilege it is that this growth equates to a greater enjoyment of life. As the journey of self-discovery goes on, we gain more access to the state of joy—and, ultimately, to the state of infinite love. Certainly there are times when we enter a fog, and life does not seem as joyful today as it did yesterday. But beyond this fog is greater clarity than there was before it. We may take a step back, but if we press on, we ultimately shall take two forward. Of course, this appearance of stepping backwards is only an illusion: along the path of growth, we walk only forward.
The instant of infinite love cannot be predicted. However, when in the right frame of mind to begin with, if I simply intend to be in such a state I can come to something vaguely similar to it. Of course, being induced by the mind it cannot be pure and infinite. But what matters here is that I do indeed have the power to feel more peaceful and joyful as I choose.
As I stated earlier, it may not be possible as of yet to cast off all delusions, in this moment, simply at my own choosing. But I certainly can clear away some of the muck. Always we have at least a small scraping of fear that is ready to fall away, if only we finally make the choice to cast it off.
Sure, the state of peace is not perfectly sustainable just yet. Just as with the place of infinite love, it may be only an instant before fear slips in the cracks and tells me I am not ready for this. But I am not here for perfection in the rigid sense—only in its true sense.
It is difficult to accept with every fiber of my being that everything is perfect. It’s hard because it’s so easy. But if I can’t do it just yet, maybe I don’t need to do it just yet.
Of course, the fact of my unreadiness is in itself perfect. The path of growth, whereby I steadily make this acceptance over time, is perfect. Rarely is there a need to linger in the past, or even in the future. Yet, to watch myself unfold into the full recognition of what I am and what this life is is beauty unmatched. It, like awareness itself, ultimately defies description.
There are, interestingly, situations where I seem more apt to enter a state of eternal love, or something like it, than others. Perhaps it is its most powerful and daunting when surrounded by the night sky. When viewed in silence, solitude, and sincerity, the infinite vastness of space, when no longer obscured by the sun, can overtake a person. Perhaps here the infinity of the physical world and the infinity of awareness meet, and it is thus that the infinity of awareness, the ultimate container of reality, becomes most apparent.
Three States of Being: Flow, Joy, and Infinite Love
There are higher levels of awareness which, though their differences may seem subtle and insignificant at this point in conscious development, have differences that matter. Infinite love is not quite the same as joy, and joy is not quite the same as satori, or the state of flow.
What they all have in common is a collapse of time. The degree to which this collapse occurs, though, is different. In the flow state, many hours seem to go by in a short amount of time. There is a perceived collapse of time. In the state of infinite love, on the other hand, there is a literal collapse of time. It is not perceived, because no perceiving is done here—it is totally beyond intellect. This is why, at this point, it is so difficult to sustain—the mind has not yet unlearned enough to allow for this.
The flow state tends to be contained within action. Generally, for a certain individual there are certain actions which are more likely to induce the flow state than others. Usually this is something the person is at least fairly skilled at. If skill is insufficient, the task will require more deliberate thought and effort to complete—too much for flow to be entered (though it certainly can still be enjoyable). For me, this action is running—particularly, running long distances (beyond a marathon is best). To a lesser extent it also occurs when writing and when public speaking, and perhaps, sometimes, when conversing with others.
In the flow state, thought still occurs. There may be a whole lot of thought, in fact. A big, long thought-train may stretch across all those hours. Yet the action goes on, largely, it seems, unaffected. The thoughts are insignificant. There may be a perception that thought and action are largely separate in this state. Certainly, though, they come together for significant stretches of time; additionally, indeed, there are stretches where thought is quite minimal. Perhaps it is this that really “makes” the flow state—the allocation of thought and action to the exact same place. This is to be present.
If there is any distraction during the flow state, it is fleeting. A river may be rippled by falling stones, yet it does not change course. The flow continues undisrupted.
Joy (And Beauty, and Ultrarunning)
The state of joy may be a step or two below the state of infinite love. In joy, as in flow, there still is thought, but in joy the mind is much quieter. There are few destructive thoughts, and if they arise they are either quiet, quickly overlooked, or are otherwise defeated, such as through total acceptance. The state of joy is happiness undefeatable, yet, perhaps unlike happiness, it has no apparent or external cause: much like infinite love, it arises without warning.
I tend to be doing something fairly simple when joy arises, such as eating or preparing dinner, yet still I am doing something. When in this state I readily recognize that all things- people especially- are a reflection of myself. For me this state usually lasts a few minutes—maybe anywhere from 2-10. So, it is significantly less sustainable than flow, yet drastically more so than infinite love.
Out of the three listed here, joy is the state I most likely enter while running an ultramarathon. Yet this is, as one could imagine, different from the state I’ve entered while eating dinner.
Without fail, every time I run 35 miles or farther (I haven’t quite hit the space between about 28 and 35 miles), I cry. Indeed, this has been, at times, due to pain. But more often, it is due to a sense of beholding beauty, which is often accompanied by love. It feels more accurate to call this a state of beauty than a state of joy.
The love experienced here does not induce timelessness or egoless-ness, yet it is still powerful. Usually some thought or series of thoughts hits whereby things, almost all of a sudden, seem so beautiful.
This sense of beauty usually lasts anywhere from about 30 seconds to five minutes at one time. Thoughts have included music- usually played by an orchestra or concert band (like you would see at a high school), and almost always without lyrics- and people I care about, most often women I am attracted to. Other times the beauty focuses on something external, such as the sun or the trees. It is in these instances of beauty that I tear up.
What is interesting about ultrarunning is that, often, when I run for five hours or longer (though I may not quite hit ultradistance in five hours), my mind tends to be much quieter than usual right from the get-go. When I depart for such runs I usually enter a flow state almost immediately, and I am quite relaxed. Sometimes I feel happy very shortly after taking off, too.
Overall, runs of this length engender a far different state of consciousness than shorter runs. On a 30 minute run my mind usually rambles the whole time. Even a 10-12 mile run (roughly 2 hours) may prove the same. Once I get up to 20 miles (about 4 hours) a far more enjoyable state of flow is much more likely, though the really good stuff, again, usually takes at least 35 miles.
Just as the state of beauty always arises during runs of 35 miles or longer (which I have done 5 of at this point), it is also on these runs that the mind relaxes immediately after starting, and some extent of happiness, contentment, or even joy is felt early on. It is interesting that I don’t actually have to run 35+ miles before entering this state. It’s as though my mind and body have prepared for this undertaking, and they know what to do right off the bat. I always plan runs this far at least a day in advance: maybe the state incubates overnight. It is as though, in these situations, time is non-linear: in the future I will have run 35 miles or more, and so in the present I am relaxed, joyful, and surrounded by beauty.
Sometimes, if I don’t experience such a state of calm and/or happiness right away, it will initiate later in the run. This seems to be the case more often with long runs shorter than marathon distance. It is when I run long, but not quite ultra-long (again, usually around 5 hours) that the state initiates later in the run.
Several months ago I went for a 5 hour run. Roughly 3 hours in I felt my body slow down all of a sudden, and at the same time so did my mind. It was as though someone had pulled a lever and brought the spinning cogs within to a slower pace. The first word that comes to mind to describe it is “chill.” I was just going along the roads, and everything was fine. There wasn’t much to worry about.
What else is interesting about ultrarunning is that pain seems to add to the beauty. As I said, sometimes I experience joy and tear-inducing beauty very early on in an ultramarathon—even in the first 1-5 miles. I do not wish to say that any experience of beauty is better or more valuable than others. But the beauty I really like comes after miles and miles of running—maybe 6 hours or so, maybe even half a day (so, at least a marathon). By this point, I’ve slowed down. I may be in want of food or water. I may have been unsure I was going the right way. I may be in pain. I might be 48 miles in with 2 to go, and I’m practically dragging my right leg along because my knee started hurting 10 miles ago and it won’t let up. But then, something hits—the end of the trail, the sound of a song, a thought of forgiveness, the memory of someone I love, the sight of frogs hopping across my path at the end of a dark and rainy day. It may be the middle of the night- say, 3 AM-, I’ve run over 50 miles, I started running 17 hours ago, it’s the dead of Winter, every step hurts, and I know I’m not going to make it to the end. But then I look up, and I see the stars. It has been cloudy all day, and now the sky is clear. For that moment, after a day long of pain and several more hours of pain to go, I finally can see. This world is not bad nor hostile. Truly, life is kind to me.
Especially looking back, it seems that everything that happens on an ultrarun is beautiful. I don’t even want to call it perfect: it just is what it is. I pick out a certain memory of the run and I think, “Man, I need to do that again soon!” It makes me smile just to write it. It might be a fun moment, like when I wished I had something salty to eat and there was a bag of potato sticks on the ground—perfectly dry, despite the rain. It might be a painful moment, like when a bee zoomed out of the bushes and stung me, or when I stopped to tie my shoe and intense pain shot through my heel. In essence, they all are joyful moments. I look back on all of them fondly, no matter how painful they were at the time.
To be able to do what I can do is an honor. I don’t run to live longer: I run because, in running, I live. It is there that I find life in the first place. From there, an appreciation for the rest of my life branches out.
I’m glad I do weird (well, relatively-uncommon) things that I get to share my experiences of. I should do more of them. :)
Anyway, now I’ll go on to the third and final state-- infinite love. Where infinite love differs from joy is that the recognition of oneness does not occur consciously—it is everything. I don’t see others as a reflection of myself: rather, I see all things as being myself equally. There is no sense of “I” at all; again, this is why it’s so unsustainable.
Usually I’m not doing anything when this state arises. I think there simply is not enough room in my nervous system, or perhaps mental RAM, for this to be possible. The state is so powerful that it is nearly-paralyzing. Usually, as I said, I am looking up at the sky or at another person. It’s much more potent if the other person is not talking, though if they are their words seem to be subordinate to a superior, all-present silence.
But when we look into each other’s eyes for a moment and smile, without speaking—there is an instant that is eternal. That instant is ineffable. Most often I experience this with people who I care deeply about. , if love is eternal then surely it underlies all things, and in time I shall see it, indiscriminately and regardless of circumstance, in all things.
Of course, it may very well be that I am too incompetent at this point to discern between these states accurately. Maybe I’ve never experienced infinite love at all—not even for an instant. Perhaps someday I will stumble upon a love far more expansive than that which I have touched upon as of yet. I’m excited to find out. :)
Intimate, Ever-Expanding Love
What I have written thus far raises the question of where is the place for romantic/sexual relationships. I think this is an excellent modality for unlearning the obstacles to love.
You find a person who you commit to loving in spite of all circumstances. There is something about this person that makes you feel you can bare your whole heart to her, even if only steadily. Together you throw off the conditioning, the fear, the delusions that have held you back from loving. Together you can share moments of intense love without fear of judgment.
When you know each other fully, and Truth stands unobscured, fear makes its way out: there is no longer a need for it. The deconditioning and soul-baring that occurs then branches out to the rest of your reality, and you may love fully everywhere you go. It is in our most intimate relationships that we tend to learn most rapidly how to love all that is. It feels good for a reason. :)
I do not mean to say that life cannot be lived well, even joyfully, without romantic relationships, because it certainly can. Love, remember, is not a feeling, and thus it is not limited to any one person or certain type of relationship: love is the stuff of life. You can learn to love all things and to be yourself fully (and thus embrace truth), I think, even in complete absence of romantic love.
I myself have not been totally without this aspect of life, but largely so. I have grown much outside of the reach of romantic love. Yet, I think it is an incredibly powerful medium for growth—one which, if genuinely desired, is dangerous to deny. What experience I have had has been immensely transformational.
This type of relationship, even if attraction is felt only on one side, is far more intense than a purely platonic one. For me, this is simply undeniable. “Intense” does not occur in the sense of some sort of mania or fatal attraction—it is intense in how deeply it reaches into me, and how much inner truth it forces up.
This type of relationship certainly is painful at times- more so, again, than platonic relationships- yet that pain arises only from facing up to and then casting away delusion. Pain gives way to relief and to growth, which gives way to joy.
It isn’t the physical attraction that drives us to connect with one another. That just appears to be the case on the surface. That is just a symptom, though it’s certainly an enjoyable one. Deep down, we are driven by the longing for truth. It is the desire to become who we truly are.
And we, as collective humanity, accomplish this together, by connecting in all manner of ways, whether it be war or friendship, conflict or togetherness, saving or destroying, lust or platitude, giving or receiving, taking or contributing, bringing into the world or taking out, discussion or interaction, combat or lovemaking, indifference or attention, hatred or love. On the path of love we shall encounter all of these things. In the end- if there be an endpoint- all are the same.
All is love. All we must do is muster the courage to see it.
Read Related Articles: