The Near Enemy of Love

Bindu Wiles posted this video of Roshi Joan Halifax a few weeks ago.

I’ve watched it several times, and though short, it is packed with wisdom.  There is more wisdom than I can recognize,  given my limited understanding of Zen Buddhism.

What struck me on my first viewing was:

“The near enemy of love is conditional love. …. ”

Roshi Joan says the far enemy, hate, is easy to feel, easy to recognize. But the near enemy, conditional love,  is much more subtle.

I hadn’t thought of conditional love as an enemy of love. I had thought of it as a type of love.  But it makes sense. “I love you because…”; “I love you when….”; “I love you for….” .  And more obviously, “I love you if….”. These all have conditions embedded in them. In some respects, the love is earned by the doing.

If the “because”, “when” and “for” are eliminated, what is left?

If I love you because you are kind, then do I stop loving you when you are not kind?

If I love you because you bring out the best in me, do I stop loving you when it feels like you bring out the worst?

If I love you when you are faithful, do I stop loving you when you are not faithful?

I’ve been learning about judgement in relationships. I recognize that when I think someone should be doing something differently, I am in judgement. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about loading the dishwasher or  breaking a commitment. When I think someone should be making different choices, I am in judgement.  I want things to be other than what they are. I project my needs, my ideas, my stuff onto that person and/or that situation.

When I am in judgement, I close in, shut down, constrict. It does not feel like love.

When I can suspend judgement, I experience spaciousness, openness, lightness.  This feels like love.

And how consider this…….. What are my conditions for loving myself? What can judgements about others show me about judgements of myself?  How do I extend unconditional love towards myself?

This is a complex business. I don’t know the “how” of it, but Rumi wrote:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, 

there is a field.  

I will meet you there.  

I’d love to hear your thoughts to explore this together.


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