I love God. It’s a simple statement, but it contains immense nuance, richness, subtlety. And though it’s such a natural thing for me to feel, a secure and central pillar of my inner landscape, it’s a difficult thing for me to say – even in writing. I feel an immediate need to explain myself, to build a bridge between what I anticipate you will think I mean and what I really mean. While I don’t feel doubt, or confusion, or lack of clarity, as I write this now with the idea to share it, my body is full of fear.
Three words: I, Love, God. The I is a statement of ownership. I speak for myself, I claim these words as my own. I use my voice to share my inner experience. I stand for something that may not be universally accepted. Love is what I stand for – not just connection or respect or honoring, but love. The word itself has a vibration, conveys an experience. It feels vulnerable to say it, and that’s where some of the fear arises. All my collected, subconscious, karmic beliefs about when it’s safe to speak of love, and to whom.
And God is Whom I love. God is a word that has meant so many things to so many people, been dragged through the dirt and held aloft as justification for violence, greed, persecution. Much of my own fear about voicing my love for God comes from the word’s associations. I of course don’t want to be associated with the perpetrators of abuse in God’s Name. And historically, those who sought to reclaim and clear God’s Name were dealt with harshly. I carry these collective memories in my body.
As I explore the Rig Veda, the foundational text of the yogic tradition, I’m struck by the fact that these are hymns of praise, songs of adoration. They sing out love and gratitude to entities that are simultaneously forces of nature, spiritual archetypes, and beings with whom we can relate and communicate. Agni is fire, but also aspiration, will for change. And Agni is the priest of the sacrifice, he who purifies our offerings and delivers them to heaven. Saraswati is the great river, but also inspiration. And she pours down upon us from heaven, offering gifts and blessings.
It’s hard for our minds to grasp how these can simultaneously be true, and not in a ‘mythic’ sense. These are not ideas that relate to each other. Agni, Saraswati, Ila, Indra, Surya, Brihaspati, and the many other gods of the Rig Veda are actual archetypal beings that manifest as forces of nature. These three aspects of their essence (force of nature, spiritual archetype, and living being) are indivisible. They are bigger than us, and they are within us and around us, and they serve us, and they influence us. Our natural relationship to them is one of love and praise.
The appropriate and natural response of any part to its respective whole is love. Your cells love you. They can’t help it. Otherwise they would never perform the individual and unique and indispensable functions that serve the wholeness that is you and keep you alive. And just as you are more than the sum of your individual cells, we are more than the sum of our individual selves. There is a wholeness of which we are a part – we begin to see this in the Earth as we experience the consequences of our ecological unconsciousness. And there is a greater wholeness of which the Earth is a part, seen in the impossibly vast and diverse cosmos that we have begun to explore. The wholeness that contains and IS the Collective Self of all these wholenesses is God.
God is not some old man, far away, governing (or not) the universe. God is the collective, the divine harmonic of which each of us is a part. Many of us are afraid to bow before God because we don’t want to give away our power. This is absolutely understandable, given the scope of abuse that humanity has witnessed in the name of God. But the trap here is that without God, we have no power at all. When we look inside for “me,” what we most often find is the ego – separated, isolated, locked up in its self-built prison. And though this ego claims to have power and seeks the pretense of power wherever it can find it, this power is empty and false. It is the power to cut apart, dissect, destroy, which harms the collective, including the being that wields it. Even if we submit our individual selves to a collective ego, like a nation or a just and moral cause, we have not untied the knots, only widened them.
The ego, individual or collective, cannot love God, because the ego was made to love itself above all else. Loving God transcends the ego and connects us, unites us. When we love God, we love the wholeness that has no borders, no us/them dichotomy. We love so that, rather than doing love or sharing love, we become love. Our isolation is dissolved by a stream that flows through time and space, a stream that is the fabric of time and space, and so is not broken or distorted in its embodiment.
Even though the egoic mind cannot understand this, love for God is not something that we need to contrive or go looking for. It exists already in our hearts. It waits there with a patience that the ego could never comprehend, waiting to be discovered and embraced. If we can soften the mental models that we’ve accrued, begin to take down, stone by stone, the fortresses of fear that we’ve built around our hearts, if we can let the innate and radiant power of love to shine within us despite the ego’s objections, this love will assert itself, prove itself, and justify itself. It’s hard to describe the experience of relief that comes from reclaiming this aspect of self that has been denied and buried. And beyond relief, the heart’s love for God is its true source of power – the power to create a meaningful life that harmonizes with the life of the collective, that feeds the collective and is nourished by it.
My own journey toward experiencing my love for God has been winding. It has taken me into the heart of my fear, my projections, resentment, blame, and loneliness. It has traversed my own soul’s history, and revealed glimpses beyond the horizon of today. In exploring the space beyond fear, I’ve needed to step into the unknown, taking real, practical risks and trusting love to guide and sustain me. This exploration has brought me riches beyond my imaginings. And this journey continues as I try to speak my heart here in these words, on this page. I take another step into the unkown space beyond my fear, and pray to be upheld by the divine force of love.