M. Scott Peck’s definition of love in his book The Road Less Travelled is: “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” The will to extend one’s self is the will to go beyond what is comfortable and safe; it is the will to stretch one’s boundaries, to reach out. Doing it with the intention of causing no harm and of being loving kind transforms the intention into a spiritual practice. On discovering this through trial and error one sees that love is all about spiritual growth. Our spiritual self is a loving self and it is a self that wants to share this liberating discovery with others. When we work with this basis of love, we know we want to continue to learn and grow and we want those we respond to to do the same.
To extend one’s self beyond the comfortable, the known, is to work. It is also the willingness to take emotional risks that could result in pain. But if the aim is spiritual growth through the practice of genuine loving kindness, personal sacrifice is acceptable, even desirable, when the result is the deepening of patience, tolerance and compassion. Love is all about generosity of spirit. And as we practice love we experience the reality that to give is to receive. Love is about generating good karma. Send it out and it will sooner or later come back to you.
Fortunately and unfortunately for us we are very clever animals. If we can devise and invent ways of either reducing work or getting out of it entirely, many of us will choose that. We have developed over the years a way to cater to our laziness. That way is the way of instant gratification, which is just another way of saying addiction. Advertising is all about selling instant gratification, instant “fixes”. If we get some kind of temporary reward for buying into the hype, we continue to buy the product. When we feel pain, we turn to the fix, until we feel pain again, which leads right back to the fix. We put off indefinitely dealing with the root causes of our pain. We push the work of loving ourselves further and further away. And as long as we push that away, we have no understanding of how to actually love another human being. Love is no longer the point. The point is to feed the addiction.
Relationships that are about addiction are fraught with problems. More about trying to lie and manipulate one’s way out of the pain of facing the problems, than about extending one’s self “for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” We run at top speed away from the intimacy of being nurturing and in doing that we can’t even conceive of what the nature of spiritual growth even is. Truly, I’m not sure we even care at that point. We blind ourselves daily with our denial of the truth. We allow ourselves to get sucked deeper into the vicious cycle of addiction.
Awareness and self honesty are the means to break through the massive denial inside oneself. Awareness and self honesty are the key ingredients for returning to a sense of intimacy with yourself.
The question remains, when you are so blinded by your addiction, how exactly can you become aware? And when you surround yourself with other using addicts, how can you find someone who can reflect the truth back to you? If you are lucky, lousy circumstances or traumatic events can temporarily make you wake up to the fact that you are actually insane. And once you really and truly realize this, you know you need to find some kind of bridge back to sanity. For many, many people that bridge is found in fostering a belief in some greater, loving, spiritual power that can give you insight into your condition and how to heal it.
And so we come full circle back to the necessity of work. Back to where the problem first emerged -- trying to avoid the spiritual work of learning to love yourself and then extending that understanding of love out to others. Really, either way you are working, working to incessantly feed the addiction or working to love and to heal through the process of loving. Love is work, but it is so worth it. Addiction is a waste of time, but more than that it is soul murder. A young friend of mine who has the courage to admit to her addiction and the courage to be in recovery once said, “I either pray or I die.” When it comes to addiction, that’s the bottom line. Live or die. The choice should be obvious, but it’s not when you are sealed inside insanity and living in an insane world.
A Recovery Blog
This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.