I have a child, a little girl of 8 years old, and I love her to bits. Although she's separate from me and she has her own life and is a different person, and that's important, I also connect with her as one. So her joys are my joys, her suffering is my suffering, her dreams are my dreams... I love her. And that's what it's like for everyone that I feel that love with. So me for, love is how one must feel, and where it comes out - particularly with my work as a philosopher - is around a big sense of oneness one can have with life itself. You can come into a state where fundamentally you recognize that we are all one, we are all one with this moment and with the mystery of life itself.
When you find yourself at one with All, you find yourself in love with All. Suddenly the teachings, that you'll find at the heart of every spiritual tradition from the beginning of time, around oneness and love, start to make sense.
What the message is, is that if we can see who we really are, we can come into a state in which we are one with everything, and we find ourselves in love with everything. And then that expresses itself through our individual personalities in the way we live, because we live with love. Which means we feel connected with life, we feel embodied, we feel a love of what happens, but we also feel we want to be of service and ameliorate the suffering of life. Because love is much more than just a good feeling. Love is also suffering with others.
In my own experience, this has made me want to step out and work with people who are dying, and to try and find areas where people are suffering and you can reach out and touch. So for me, love is oneness. "Oneness" on its own can sound dry - but it's not because when it's embodied, when it's a real realization, it comes with a feeling, and it's that feeling that makes it worthwhile. I call it Big Love. That's the word I use, because I love the word love so much. Big Love unites us with everyone and everything. And that completely changes the way that you live your life.
How can we go about getting that feeling? Maybe some practices or some techniques?
Well, there's lots of things you can do to wake up to oneness and Big Love. One that is coming in through Love itself, is a technique that I use with people when we have our seminars, which is:
I mentioned my little girl, I could also mention my boy or my wife or my friends - people that when I focus on them, and I think about times that my love of them has been very obvious, I can focus in on those particular thoughts. And then the feelings start to arise from that and I can begin to recognize that feeling of love, that is so sweet and so powerful. I would go into Hell for this person because of that! That's how much I love them.
If you look at a person, here's a human being, they are full of joy and suffering just like me, they've got a journey just like me, and they are essentially the same mysterious being, their essence is also our one shared essence. If I connect through that, I can start allowing that sense of love to arrive. Now, it's a different sort of love because it's not personal, I don't know them as a person, it's a kind of impersonal compassion, but it's love nevertheless, and it's powerful and very beautiful.
I don't have to approve of them and what they've done or any of that, I just need to connect through everything which is in-between us, in love. And then you can love your enemies, as is said in the Christian tradition. Which is an incredible thing to say, a beautiful thing to say, "Love others as yourself," even to your enemies, because we're all one Self. That's the Oneness. So you can see through it now.
Actually each step is like a relief. Anything which you're pushing away, anything that you can't love - the barrier breaks down. And let me make it clear here, I don't mean like - liking and disliking is a different thing altogether - but love, in the sense that I mean the word, which is that which embraces everything just as it is. It's just unconditionally embracing things, because they are, or because a person is.
The Greek philosopher Socrates said it way, way back. He said you come through personal love, through individual instances of love, until you expand and expand, and eventually you come to Love itself. And I think that is one way of describing the spiritual journey of awakening.
Is that something you can do every day?
You can do it any time you like! I'm a great believer in integrating these things into your real life. So it's not something you necessarily have to make a practice of, although you can and I have done that, but it's something that if it's part of you, when you need it there it is. And the more you do it the easier it gets. But the key to all of this is that you're constantly moving beyond your separate identity to this deeper Self.
I had my first awakening experience when I was 12 years old, and I'm now nearly fifty. During that time, my understanding of spirituality and awakening has changed completely - but the one thing that has stayed the same is that I know it's all about Love. That to me is the center.
If the love isn't there, it's not right. When love's there it will be. It's as simple as that. It's the most important thing and it's the thing that everyone can get. Old and young... yeah, it's love. There's a lovely line in John Lennon's song Mind Games, "Love is the answer and you know that for sure." It's so audacious to say to people, "you know it for sure," but there's something in me that says, yes we do know that for sure. Actually it's the one thing we know. If we are connected to ourselves, then the one thing we know for sure is that this journey is about love. So how we can move into that, is such an important question.
"Love is the answer," is an old message, it's been there since the beginning of time - people have been saying it, "Love is the answer, love is the answer," and it is, but also though, love is the problem, in a sense. It's important to get that too because so many of the terrible things we do to each other, in our everyday lives and around the world on a global scale, we do because of love. We love our family and want to defend our family and so we're willing to hurt somebody else's. We love our tribe so we're willing to hurt somebody else's. We love our religion so we're willing to hurt somebody else's.
A love which binds us to separateness can actually limit love. There's something about love that must keep expanding and have no limits, because when it becomes caught in separateness it can actually become it's opposite and it starts to be destructive. There's so many examples but one which pops into my mind right now is the gentleman who was in a wheelchair, Amas in Palestine. He was loved by the people of Palestine and the Israelis bombed him and killed him. He was loved because he set up schools, he cared for the homeless, he cared for the disadvantaged, he loved his people and gave his life selflessly to serve his people. But he also killed Israeli babies and was able to do that because of how much he loved his people.
That's the contradiction we get stuck in with love: when we limit it there are problems. The love of self, when limited, is selfishness. It all comes down to the question, is our love limited, or is our sense of who we are so expansive and so open that we can love everything and everyone, even with our enemies? Then, Love is the answer.
So I'd say, Big Love is the answer because it frees us from a limiting, self-orientated attachment that could actually stand in the way of what Love truly is.