1-Is spirituality the doorway to love?
Years ago, while I was blissfully living in my old, comfy atheism after a so-called Christian life that didn’t last very long, I felt atheism has given me extra emotional strength. Only, something odd was happening. I felt like I was dying on the inside. My heart was turning to stone. Nothing could move me from within anymore.
When my destiny pushed me one more time to discover something new, I found myself joining meditation classes; practising Dharma and Loving-kindness. This spiritual exercise was an extension of my atheist views and of the belief that I am capable of improving myself by myself. During this type of meditation, you are encouraged to meditate on loving certain people who you know and appreciate, then on others who you know but you don’t get on with. Gradually you are required to enlarge the circle of your love to include the wider society.
Although meditation, in general, has proven to be successful in solving some other personal issues such as stress and anxiety, the Loving-kindness meditation itself was purely lip service as far as I was concerned, as the thoughts of love could not sink any deeper than ‘the outer layer’ of the conscious mind itself.
In the following few years, I continued visiting Buddhist monasteries and attending spiritual schools and meditation workshops regularly. I could find most things I needed; such as peace, quiet, serenity, gentleness, awareness and alertness, but I was not able to learn unconditional love; the feeling I experienced when I was a Christian.
Buddhist nuns, monks and meditation tutors alike, are warriors who mastered the control of the self through a relentless training that helps to overcome the clash between Self and reality or between Self and that which is perceived to be negative. The most important aspect of this training is to learn detachment and acceptance. Monks and nuns are psychologically tough people who triumphed over reality through the practice of surrender to what is, which is fascinating in itself. I saw all of this ability written on their serious faces, glued on their rigidly straight backs and spoken through their reserved second natures. The only thing I couldn’t see in most of them was love. In this place, acceptance, not love, was the key to triumph. However, to train the mind to accept reality as it is may change our personality to create a mentally stronger version of us, but will it sustain our innate need for love? The answer was found years later while observing the high turnover of novices who were mainly youth in the quest for something bigger but much simpler than all the things that monasteries and meditation workshops had to offer. They were looking for the excitement of true love.