Love's Focus (is Freedom)

Love is never for forms.

It sounds strange, I know. But here’s the thing. Love is boundless. Love is unconditional. To say that you love a particular form is to place a constraint upon love—a limit. And would you really do that to love, if you knew what you were doing?

It is not mere nit-pickiness. Hyper-focusing love can take you over like a disease. When you imagine that in order to get a particular result, you must swallow whole this one thing, or this one person, you lose the essence of love.


Must… Focus… Urgh!

Perhaps there is confusion about what it is to focus as well. The traditional idea I had about focus is that it ought to be hard. Not necessarily difficult, but “hard” in regards to imagery. It’s like turning up the contrast on a TV screen. The pixels become less blurry, and they form a crisp, “hard” image.

This type of focus can indeed be difficult. When you stare at a single point for more than a few seconds, what happens? Do your eyes start to wander a little to the left, and then a little to the right, and then all over the place?

OK, maybe it’s not really that bad. But staring isn’t a very difficult task. How about when you’re reading a book? What happens when you place a very hard, narrow focus on the page, and try your darndest to be connected to those words?

My bet is that you read the words, alright, but you’re not really comprehending them. You’re not absorbing any meaning. If I asked you to tell me about what you just read, you would have no idea. I wouldn’t be surprised to find you stuck on a single paragraph for several minutes, reading it over and over.


Do By Not Doing (Focus by Not Focusing)

A more effective approach would be to soften your focus. Rather than harden and narrow your gaze and really try to project it out on to one particular spot in the world, chill out a little bit and allow the objects of your attention to come in.

When you try to block out the world and put all the eggs of your attention into one basket, those eggs will not end up in one basket. When you keep thinking about how I have to focus!, no such thing will be done. You may go through the motions, but you won’t actually accomplish anything.

Giving so much attention to the need to focus has similar effects to giving so much attention to time. When you think about your day as though on a timeline, where this activity will take this long, and that activity will take that long and end at that time, it seems as though there is never enough time. A sense of urgency will make you feel that you ought to move faster—and yet, it will seem that you can never move quite fast enough.

Even when you’re running late, or have only a few minutes left to finish a task, this perspective just worsens the situation. It seems that every movement takes so long, and has to be carried out over such a massive space.

I experience this while running. When I start thinking about how I ought to get home at this time so I can go to task x, and then maybe an hour and a half later I’ll get to start y, and then, if I make good time, I’ll even get around to z; BUT, it depends on what my mile splits are, and of course how many miles I have left—if I do this mile in 10 minutes, and the next one in 9, then maybe, just maybe, I’ll make it…

When my thoughts about time become that obnoxious, it seems that I can’t run any slower. A mile sounds like a marathon. It seems that the space which I have to move through is massive—behemoth, even. Few runs are more painful than those where time is the primary object.

On the contrary, when I give little attention to time, I experience things as happening very quickly. How did I already get to this point? I wonder. 10 miles might as well take 10 minutes. I don’t need it to feel that short. It’s not some torture-fest. But it often does go by quickly. I even feel lighter when I run this way. It’s almost as though my feet don’t touch the ground… Maybe I don’t even have legs. Obviously, I do. But it often feels like I don’t. I am OK with that. J

It is much the same with focus. When you try really hard to focus and you think it’s the most important thing in the world, you’ll be anything but focused. On the other hand, when you just let yourself relax into the task, and let irrelevant noise (i.e. distractions) be as it may, you’ll find yourself sliding into focus without even realizing it’s happening.

This doesn’t mean that you deliberately give attention to noise, or leave your door wide open and allow the whole world to come into your office as you work. But if noise is there, it’s there. Reading with the sound of the dryer running in the background, for example, probably isn’t going to knock you out of your Zen-like state.

When you allow your focus to be soft and wide, you’ll intuitively discriminate where you allocate your attention. In other words, your attention will flow to the task at hand naturally. You don’t deliberately block out distractions, but they fade into the background anyway.

A “soft” focus is focus with a stance of Openness. I have a goal here, it says, but I can achieve it while remaining fairly relaxed. Whatever may come during the process may come.

Noise is just that—noise. It bounces a few vibrations around your ears and puts on a little audio-parade for you. And then it goes away. It’s just some stuff in the air that you can’t see. It’s not really a big deal.

When you take a soft focus, you let the information on the page make its way into you. When you run, it’s as though the surrounding scene moves, but you stay in the same place. It’s as though the whole world is a treadmill, but 100x better than anything you’ll find at the gym.

How apt it is, that I don’t seem to move. When I release the need to accomplish anything in particular, and instead simply enjoy the experience of running, I’m no longer running to get to a particular place. Instead, I’m running for its own sake. It’s like dancing. No one cares if you dance from one side of the floor all the way to the other. It’s cool if you do, but it’s not the point. Just dance, foo’.

It’s interesting how letting reality be as it is makes it less of a distraction. Then, “reality as it is” becomes more subject to change. It seems to change in ways that favor the task at hand. You don’t need it to do that. But it does. And it’s fabulous.

We could go on about whether it’s you who changes or reality that does. You can read about Subjective Reality for more thoughts on that. The point is that dropping the need to focus makes focus that much easier.


What is Care?

Now, how does this relate back to, “Love is never for forms”?

When your love must be for some particular form, it becomes an obsession. It’s similar to hard focus. You think you need to really, really focus in on this one thing… and when you do that, you miss the intention for the form. You miss the forest for the trees.

Do I speak against being in love? Of course not. That would be like saying that you should leave your office door open while you work on the 27th edition of Internet Security 2.0. Yeah, the world can go be as it is. The world is fabulous. But that doesn’t mean I can’t choose where my attention on this world shall go.

There is an apparent paradox going on here. When you don’t demand that your love flows toward any particular person, you’re able to love a particular person more. You don’t approach him with neediness. You can actually think about something else other than the object of your affection during the day. Yet, your conversations are more enjoyable. The way your hair looks doesn’t matter as much as it used to—and yet, somehow, it looks nicer. I’d bet that your date-nights are steamier, too. Ooh la la.

At the same time as all of this, it doesn’t have to be that person. I’d sure like to see that person tomorrow, but if I don’t, it’s quite alright. Maybe someone else fabulous will come along. Or maybe I’ll spend the day by myself. I have a preference here, but if reality doesn’t lend itself to that preference today that’s fine by me.

A major issue in loving relationships (of any sort—not just romantic) is that the word “care” is thought to mean the same as grasping. Maybe I’ve been the only one under that notion for most of my life. But it always seemed to me that if I cared about someone, that meant certain things. It meant that I made a physical presence as often as possible. It meant being very emotionally involved with this person, and becoming unhappy when they were unhappy. Maybe it even meant buying gifts periodically—but, well, I’ve never been very good about that anyhow (don’t look to me when Christmas rolls around).

And what all this grasping got me was, well, nothing too fabulous. Nothing I’d stick up on the mantle or the refrigerator and be proud of. Essentially, just a lot of anxiety and self-doubt. And not-fun relationships.

Perhaps I have not quite figured out what care is yet. But my suspicion, at this point, is that all care is self-care. That means that every action I take reflects that I care about myself. I’m not going to act or speak in a way that is untrue to myself just to give another person the impression that I care about them. I don’t need to feel bad for someone to make them feel cared for. That’s just silly. I don’t particularly care for it when people feel badly for me, so what’s the use of returning the favor?

The emphasis on guilt and feeling badly in relationships has been, in my experience, too high. I certainly have wanted people to feel badly for me, in the past. I thought it was a mark of caring for someone. But that doesn’t seem like care at all. That’s more likely to perpetuate an undesirable situation—and who wants the undesirable? Not me. That’s for sure. ;P

Care, I’d like to think, is regarding someone with the same high respect that you would regard yourself. At its essence, care is the recognition of yourself in another. Not your self with the hair and the runny nose and the smelly armpits. That self matters, too, but I’m talking about the self who spans all of reality—the self whose essence is consciousness, and who recognizes that there is one consciousness that we all share (OK, subjective reality found its way back).

When you recall that you are not separate from others, you’re able to care those others. You regard them with high respect. You hold them accountable for using their own strength, and you keep in mind that there essentially is no “wrong” path, and no mistakes can be made.

To let others be as they are- to let the world be as it is- is love. Love is freedom. To love another is to free them from condition. When you love, you cannot love just one particular person, and nothing more. Love does not work this way. When you love, you are loving in general. You are recognizing the freedom of reality.

Why are you so chill when you’re in love? Because you’ve remembered that you do not need to place certain conditions on reality in order to be happy. You just are. Likewise, reality is awesome as it is.  


The Freedom of Focus

When you respect someone’s freedom, you are loving them. When you recognize that they are an extension of you, you are caring about them. Is there much of a difference, or do these two paths lead to the same place?

Perhaps these definitions of love and care are not graspable. Perhaps they do not express enough attachment, or giving, or filling the needs of another. But maybe those things are beside the point. Maybe when you let yourself take in the whole picture, without needing to focus on any particular point, you end up seeing exactly what you wanted to see anyway.

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