~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Choose Love

March 24, 2020
Here's a proposition to offer you on this beautiful new day: In any given moment, we have a choice about how we respond to the world around us. We can live out of love or we can act out of fear. We can anchor our response to the happenings around us in tenderness and optimism, or we can live in a more hollow and grasping place of negativity and anger.

If our intention is to add a healing helping of love to the world, the answer is obvious: We need to ally ourselves with the forces that hold all of us up rather than smack us down. We need to keep close to kindness and tenderness and patience and care. We need to climb out of our small-mindedness and into a sense of greater community with the world around us. We need to stay rooted in our deepest loves, and we need to act in love on behalf of everyone around us.

This sounds so obvious and straightforward when written in a tidy paragraph like the one I've just offered. And yet, as we all already know, this can sometimes feel like the hardest job in the world. When we’re overwhelmed or off-balance, our grasping habits move front and center. When we're surrounded by negativity, we can so easily be pulled down into our own grumbly space. When we feel buffeted by life's fiercer winds, we can lose touch with our innate wisdom and friendliness. We can almost feel the doors and windows of our hearts slamming shut.

Acting out of lovingkindness, then, must become a choice we make moment-by-moment, as we move through our days. It can be a practice, an attitude and ultimately a way of being in the world. It can be a beautiful way to keep our eyes trained on healing ourselves and the world, and it can teach us where our lives are flowing and where we are stuck.

Here's a simple strategy that may help us move in that direction: When you face a decision, when you're struggling with how to respond, when you're trying to figure out what to do next, whisper these two words: Choose love.

And then act accordingly, responding in whatever way you feel adds to the world's bounty of love and care. This will be easy, of course, when we're feeling happy and abundant and open. And it will take a little practice when the road feels a little more bumpy.

Even when it's difficult, though, it is still worth it. Choosing the low road, after all, hurts not just others but also ourselves. Maligning another doesn’t help anyone and it doesn’t feel good to us. Trying to keep track of who we like and who we don’t saps our time and vitality. Remembering which grudge we are holding against whom takes energy that could be more productively spent in raising us all up and keeping the planet spinning in a healthy way. Holding tight to stories about how and why we have been wronged only reinforces our sense of despair and deepens our sense of separation from one another.

"I have decided to stick with love," Martin Luther King, Jr., once wrote. "Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I’ve posted these wise words to my bathroom mirror so I have a frequent reminder of the choice we make to incline our minds toward love or hate. If King’s words speak to you, then you might do the same.

Allying ourselves with love doesn't mean we need to abandon our principles or roll over in the face of injustice, of course. Instead, it challenges us to live our truths from a place of empathy rather than anger, in a way that heals rather than deepens the divisiveness and rancor already so entrenched in the world. Isn't this a beautiful call to action? Let us live in love and on behalf of all, without dividing the world into "us" and "them," without creating enemies or demonizing others.

Today and every day, why not open wide our hearts and our arms, and ally ourselves with everyone and everything, choosing the side of light? How can we possibly go wrong with more love?

As you explore this lovely and simply instruction, watch closely to what happens. Do the words "choose love" jolt you out of a rut and into a more enlightened way of being in the world? Do they convince you to abandon those harsh words in favor of a sweeter retort? And how do you feel when you are able to follow through in this way?

And when you just can’t muster up the most loving response and ill-will rears its angry head instead (which happens to us all from time to time), why is that? And what happens? And what can we do in our lives to make it more likely that we can err on the side of love in the future?

As we move forward in the days ahead, let's choose love, in happiness and in sorrow, in joy and in despair. Let's invite our words and actions to be beacons of love and understanding, lighting the way for ourselves and for others. Let's lay down the burdens of hate and ill-will. Let's open our arms and welcome in the whole wide world. And then let's move forward together, with tenderness and care, on behalf of all beings, everywhere.

This essay was originally offered as part of Claudia's online 
immersion Dwelling in the Heart: A Month of Lovingkindness