A crowning moment in my spiritual career consisted of several minutes of a breakthrough into an experience that I can only describe as absolute, unconditional love. I not only felt completely loved and embraced by God, I also felt so lifted that I could truly love this world and everyone in it, without reservation. My sole desire in those few minutes was to share with all the experience I was having.
It felt as if this high would never leave. But it did begin to fade, leaving me with a deep sense of abandonment. Why was it so difficult to remain in this state of absolute freedom and compassion? It was as natural and as easy as breathing. Yet I could not seem to climb back into that high place no matter how hard I tried.
In our spiritual studies, we often hear that we are to love our neighbor. From my momentary vantage point of unconditional love, I totally understand what this means. When you experience complete inner freedom, radiating love that encompasses all with no strings attached is a natural and effortless response. Trying to love because we are supposed to, however, is a very different matter.
When we try to love, we are coming from a manufactured aspect of our self-image. We think of love as a limited commodity that we have, and it’s a tremendous effort to give it to certain kinds of people and their behavior. The result is that we pretend to love because that’s what we’re supposed to do. This pretense is often accompanied with resentment. It’s a conditional love that expects something in return. If we love them, they’ll change. If we love them, we’ll change. If we love them enough, they’ll go away and leave us in peace.
Unconditional love does not look for such rewards, for it is itself the reward. It does not look for positive responses or reactions from others for these are not the requirements of spiritual freedom. The soul is absolutely free, but each of us has encased ourselves in a body-based self-image that must have things just so to remain at peace. When we try to love from this place, we are, in effect, attempting to use love as a way of protecting a weakness, a chink in the armor of the relatively fragile self-image. In reality, the soul has no weaknesses. Nothing and no one can threaten it because the soul is eternal and indestructible.
We have been convinced that our soul has incarnated in this body to learn lessons. While I once endorsed this belief, I have come to realize that this is an absolutely false premise. There is but one lesson to learn: You and I are not the self-image we are trying to advance and protect. We are the soul. Loving our neighbor is not a mandate that we are to practice and eventually learn. Loving our neighbor is a prophesy. It is the thing we do without effort or condition when we understand that we are not this body-based self-image that we are propping up. We are the soul, the spiritual bedrock that lies beneath the ever-shifting sands of the self-image.
Love is not a thing we do. It is what we are. This is why I have reached the understanding that love draws to us that which is for our highest good and dissolves that which is not. Our highest good is the experience of the soul. That which is not for our highest good is any belief that we are something less than the soul. Illuminating breakthroughs show us the difference. To think we have to earn the right, that we have to learn a slew of lessons before we can graduate into a direct experience of the soul is one of the primary false beliefs that love is now dissolving.
We’ve shifted our core identity from our soul to our body, but this does not mean we have to spend a lifetime (or many lifetimes) in a body to rectify this error. The belief that we are here to learn means that we are here because we have to be. The understanding that we are a soul that is complete and free now puts us in a mindset that allows love to do its perfect work. It is only from this place that we can truly love our neighbor as ourselves. We’re here by choice. We’re here because we want to be. Love draws to us the understanding of our completeness and dissolves the false notion that we have much work to do.
The self-image tries to love. The soul is love. When Jesus pointed out that laying down one’s life for another was the greatest example of love in action, I believe he was referring to the act of letting go of the self-image and all of its many problems, and letting the light of the soul shine forth. We are not givers of the love we have. We are love itself.