One of the easiest ways to access more spirituality in your life is through love. Yet, sadly, so few people have made a study of love, or developed the ability in themselves to love more, love better. With just a few insights we can access so much more pleasure on a daily basis. Since we’re hard-wired for love, if we don’t know how to tap into that reservoir, we will always feel and be spiritually imbalanced. The soul is a place of unbounded unconditional love. Here are some thoughts on the subject to sink your teeth into.
It’s a higher plateau than Crème Brulee
We all have our list of favorite physical pleasures. For some it’s a Jacuzzi, for others pizza and beer, sex, or lying on the beach, etc. The physical world had one overriding aspect that causes it to take up an inordinate amount of our time and attention, it’s easy pleasure. For about $3.00 you can have a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and be enjoying life. The minor effort of lifting the spoon to the mouth is all it takes.
But a second aspect that people don’t focus on is that physicality is not as real, important, or pleasurable as love. It’s not even in the same category. It’s not in the same galaxy, because love is connected to your soul. No matter how much or how great the pleasure in the physical world, it doesn’t compare with the pleasure of love. Although I enjoy a nice thick rib-steak, marinated and broiled on the bar-be-que, that pleasure doesn’t compare with the love I have for my children. There’s no amount of steaks in the world I’d trade for any of my children (even on their worst behavior).
Words have power
You can love your children by focusing on what’s beautiful and wonderful in them. This increases the pleasure of being connected to them. That’s what love is, the pleasure of being connected to a being with qualities you appreciate. You can’t, therefore, “love” beer. If you loved beer, you’d put it on the shelf to be with it, you wouldn’t consume and thereby destroy it. So the word “love” really doesn’t fit for inanimate things. You can say you “enjoy” beer, or sushi, or jogging, but when you say you “love” these things you are distorting your inner perceptions. It’s very beneficial to be careful how we use words. They can help strengthen our values, opinions, and convictions. Love is one of the most misused words in our vocabulary. No wonder we’re having problems. It’s a core value yet we’ve distorted it.
Be like God
One of the reasons why love should be one of our priority values is that it is an imitation of God’s attributes. When we love, we are able to get out of our natural self-focus. Love isn’t meant to be kept inside, its’ meant to be expressed. It is expressed by doing things for the people around you; buying a small gift, helping someone fix their car, or offering a ride to someone who needs. It’s also being sensitive to where people are emotionally. Are they happy? sad? frustrated, hurt? Just noticing another person’s pain is an act of love. When we do any of these types of things we are becoming one with God. We are focusing on others, directing our attention outward rather than inward. This is what God does. He is infinite and needs nothing. Therefore, He only focuses on our needs, not His. Imitating God is the highest spiritual experience we can have.
The three pillars
Love is not, however, the only way to imitate God. There are many ways. In fact, even though love is one of the central themes of the Torah, there are actually three main channels of spirituality: love, discipline, and wisdom. Each one represents an entire world of understanding and enlightenment, which we don’t have room for at the moment. Simply speaking, though, each one keeps the other in check. Love without wisdom may not be love. Love without discipline may be destructive. Infatuation is love without wisdom; it leads usually to unhealthy relationships or emotional pain. Love without discipline is giving a little boy as much chocolate bars as he wants until he makes himself sick. God created three foundations of the world that keep it afloat. They are symbolized by the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham is love, Isaac is discipline, and Jacob is wisdom. (The sefirot are also built on this tripod.) If one of these three foundations is not developed, there will be spiritual discord. You can’t just study Torah and not do acts of love.
When you develop all three foundations you are spiritually “whole”, and the love is more easily directed to God, which is the greatest source of this emotional pleasure. Love of God has the potential not only to be our greatest pleasure, but it can be a constant source of pleasure. We were all created with the potential to be in a constant state of love with the Almighty. Those who can access this state are joyous all the time.
Your soul wants this pleasure. You want this pleasure. If you want to take one small step in this direction, make a list of five people you know, and list the qualities or potential that you admire in them. You’ll find you feel more positive about them after you do this.
And it will feel good.