For the past seven years the word love has featured prominently in my vocabulary. I loved saying love, love this, love that, love,love,love, love. I said it as if the word was going out of fashion. As if, if I forgot to say the word love, love would somehow pass me by. As if I was not there, waiting.
I speak here of love in a spiritual sense and not in the romantic love between two people even though that is also part of love.
So recently as I have been meditating on love and what it means to me. I began tracing the origins of my obsession for lack of a better word with love and thinking back now I remember where it all began. If my memory serves me right I think I was about five years old when I began to actively search for this illusive thing.
Of course at that age I didn’t have the words to articulate what it was that I was searching for. I had never seen it. I had never heard it, nor heard anyone talking about it. I started my search by going to church on my own. I first went the Roman Catholic Church next to my primary school in Phefeni, Orlando West, then to the ZCC because some of my relatives went there, then to several born again Christian Churches around my neighbourhood, because some of my relatives went there too. At one time I went on one of my searches while carrying my younger sister on my back, headed to a church nearby our home at the time. We both didn’t like it. Yet I continued the search. Hoping that I’d one day find what I was looking for. I prayed. Day and night, read the bible. In the process I became a born again christian. I continued to pray fervently for everyone my heart beat for; my parents, my siblings, for the people next door who spent their evening drinking and dancing to loud pop music. I prayed for the sick, for strangers. I prayed for my bullies at school. The teachers who hit me too hard. I prayed for a love for needlework. I prayed. I was one of those annoying children, who preached the gospel at any and every opportunity she got. I read all the christian books my parents bought. I so wanted the anointing to be on me, like Benny Hinn. When I prayed I pleaded with God. Please anoint me. I want to be your servant. Perhaps more than anything in life, I wanted to serve God. To worship him, to be chosen, loved by him everyday all day. I became Jedidiah, God’s loved one.
My obsession with all things spiritual was not as result of any parental urging. It was out of my own will, my own desire. When I started high school I was introduced to Buddhism, I remember reading the story of the Buddha and his enlightenment. I remember thinking to myself that that’s it, that’s what I wanted: Enlightenment. Even though reading about other religions was forbidden for me as a born again christian, there was something about the story of the Buddhas’ enlightenment which resonated with me; mostly because it was less brutal and violent compared to Jesus’ Crucifixion. The equivalent of being enlightened in christianity was being baptized in the holy spirit and speaking in tongues. Despite my committment to christianity and Jesus Christ I still felt that something was missing.
Then I learnt about Islam in Senegal. I learnt about the ancestors. Every path seemed laden with rituals. Things you must do, have to do, dress this way, avoid this, avoid that. Don’t do this don’t do that. Don’t go there. Sit like this. Walk like that. Dress like this. The more I looked the more I found myself questioning my very existence. I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do. Each time I reached a point of exhaustion, I would try to kill myself. Because I didn’t understand how I was expected to live without knowing who I was and what I was here to do, I was worn out, the rules where too many to follow. Most of the time I felt as if I was walking on a high tight rope, and I fell from it more often than I care to count. All this, while pursuing the material things that one must pursue in life, career, travel, money, friends, romantic love, partying anything which I thought could make me feel better even happy for a moment. After trying to kill myself for the third time. I decided to stop searching.
Then one ordinary day I woke up and fell right in love. That’s the best way I can describe the experience. Perhaps to say I fell in love would be an exaggeration. I walked into love. I stood in love, I stood tall, alone and firmly in love. I knew then, at that moment that while everything was the same, I had changed. I felt love. I experienced love. I was love and love was me. I was one with the world. This was the most exhilarating experience of my life. In all honestly I never could have anticipated how great it was to be in love. Everything was beautiful. As I got on with my day, I felt as it I was in a cloud, on cloud 9. I could not explain it and there was no need to. It was strange for me especially because I had done nothing, zero, to earn it. I just woke up from my bed and felt different. As if I was a new being. Everything was brighter and more beautiful, even though the circumstances of my life were exactly the same as yesterday.( this was not a drug or alcohol induced experience)
You see, before this moment in my life, I thought the way to love or to enlightenment, spiritual awakening call it what you will, was through my own hard work. Fasting, praying five times a day, praying all day, watching my words, always turning the other cheek, doing good for other people, putting other people first. I thought like everything in life, one had to earn it, struggle for it, most importantly I thought I had to suffer for it. Yet here I was in complete love and understanding and I did nothing. I woke up and love was there to meet me. It was in and around me. I was so happy I stared to talk about love to any and everyone I met because that was the only word that made sense. That was the only word that resonated. It wasn’t God, or Jesus Christ, or Allah, or any deity, it was just pure love. Of course the first thing everyone asked me was what kind of love? Spiritual love? Universal love, God? Jesus Christ? what or who are you in love with, it must have a name, it must be something we can pin-point. What did you do, there must be a pattern to follow.
I had arrived at a place of unconditional love – I saw love reflected back at me in everything and everyone and it was amazing. That day and the days after were magnificently blissful. My perspective had changed. This had nothing to do with anyone, anything or any event. It was a knowing and a feeling of utter complete unconditional love in a way that I have never experienced or felt before in my life.
Since then I have been trying to get back to that place of knowing completely that despite all the things that are wrong with the world, despite every horrid thing that could happen all is well in love. The moment I stopped working so damn hard to find love, to find peace, the moment I stopped expecting it from you, from her, from him. The moment I stopped waiting for the conditions to change, for my character to improve. The moment I stopped struggling to obtain inner peace, peace and love like no other found me. It was in many ways like being in heaven while on earth. Everytime I strayed, the best way to return to love was to simply surrender.
That day I learnt something very important. Love does not require worship. As radical as this might sound to those who are religious or spiritual. It is my experience that love does not require temples, churches, mosques, synagogues. It does not require one to perform death-defying acts, body contortions or anything of that nature. Love does not require hype, performance, rituals or supplications or dogma. It does not require you to go to church on Sunday even. We, the people are the ones that need those things. Because we need to be in control.
But all of these things, the praying, the fasting, the doing, the going to church on Sunday, the studying of holy books, the partying all of it, led me to a place where I know without a shadow of doubt that only through letting go of the need to control people and things, it is only then that you can truly experience what real loves feels like. It is only then that you can have the confidence to be still, to be at peace even as the world around you is in chaos. Only love is strong enough, big enough to absorb all the bad, all the ugly and turn them into something so magnificent, its unbelievable. Love is not showbiz. It does not require magic, or a spell, no ritual killings, no blood or money. Love requires no thing. It doesn’t even require you to be perfect. You don’t be perfect. You can’t be even if you try.
It only requires you to let go, of the need to control life, people, things.
It is my experience that only once you truly surrender, it is only then that love can come in and reveal itself to you. When you have truly surrendered. You will know.
Until then, keep doing what feels best for you.