There is only one thing more deadly than Ebola, HIV, and any other disease combined.
With 60 million people displaced throughout the world because of terrorism and strife, the shootings in Charleston, and other people killed from violence, hatred is the greatest pathogen to the human and world bodies.
So the solution is…love? Yes. But we must consider first what hatred is. And what we do or not do with it.
Hatred is a form of separation that develops within the self from cultural expectations and belief systems. It is a learned behavior…unless you are someone that is missing a vital connection between the limbic system and frontal cortex, a pathology seen only in serial killers. Hatred is born when we see ourselves as separate and different, when our self perception and the image we project to the world does not match what others are saying, when the need to defend ourselves is so strong that we disconnect from those we love the most. And this disconnection can be very subtle through eating, withdrawing, distraction, or aggressive confrontation to point out the “other” person’s issues. Hatred is there when we see others as different, when we don’t see other beings as having suffering with the same desire for happiness and health.
Hatred starts at home in our brain, ripples down to the heart, and then ripples out toward the people around us, in subtle and not so subtle ways. A native elder once said to me, “the greatest illness of the “enlightened” white man is making the heart the servant of the head. When we live from the head, we disconnect from our most precious resources: the heart of our own being, the hearts of others, the heart of the world.”
Empathy and altruistic behavior may have a designated spot in the limbic brain, but it is developed and enhanced through the sensation of the heart. In reality, the 4 qualities of love, loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity come from the bottom up, through the felt sense of the heart through the touch of a mother, the feeling of love between a care giver and a child, the feeling of safety of being held in community, the movement of the body against the earth outside in nature.
As we become adults, the brain develops and beliefs become formed in the brain, connections are made that become top down, from the brain to the heart. This is an important development, this ability to use the mind to study, to learn and integrate. But in this westernized cultures, sensation and the heart are made second and not practical. The heart of love is made the servant to the mind, setting into play the need for false refuge in material goods, and soap opera ideals of relationship and things that satisfy the mind and not the heart. And in satisfying the mind, we end up creating more suffering, needing more things and more experiences to satisfy us.
What I am saying here is this: there is no difference between the hatred we have here in the west and the torture and displacement we see in others around the world. We react with money and charity when we see a group suffer, yet we forget the most important thing, those people that are suffering and in crisis are not “them”. They are us.
So what do we need to start to heal this crisis of hatred in our DNA, in the cells of the world? 3 things: 1. to be and 2. to change the structure of the brain 3. to take the action of service in the world.
1. To be:
It is not enough to think positively and to push away thoughts that may be harmful. When we practice love in its deepest form, very often the opposite feeling of hatred, rage and anger will arise. These difficult feelings may be expressed or felt by the person doing the loving or the person experiencing you loving them. It does not mean anyone is wrong, but there is a type of learning that must occur if hatred and difficult emotions are to be transformed. There needs to be the recognition that these emotions exist and that does not make you less of a human being. This is a common trap for yoga teachers who feel they must project being positive yet can have terrible suffering with body image and self judgement. I have listened to many teachers tell me, “i have no room in my heart for hate..for anger.” And then go do a 45 day sadhana on cultivating positive emotions so as not to feel a certain way. In effect, they are creating more polarity, more conflict, and a type of self violence. At a certain point, we must learn to work with these difficult emotions, not unlike the kayaker on a class 4 rapid that can learn to work with roiling and boiling water. These emotions are water, energy that can be ridden and enjoyed, even changed to the passion of connection and intimacy with another rather than the focus on “it should not be there in the first place.” Saying the water of emotion should not be there is a little like telling the weather systems of nature and the earth to calm down and to bottle them up.
2. Change your physiology
To heal this crisis of hatred, fostering a spiritual practice of loving kindness or metta is essential. The practice of metta has 5 phases: towards the self, toward a friend, toward someone neutral, and toward an enemy or someone you have difficulty with. The 3 main points in this meditation to make it effective are the following. 1. cultivating the feeling of happiness and well being at the heart, a sense of joy at the heart and extending love from this place. The sensation of love and wellbeing is very important to make the physiological changes happen. For some this is difficult, and I will sometimes teach others to imagine God or a higher source, filling them with light and happiness and to be wished well from this Higher Source. Over time, the higher source practice becomes switched to being able to say, “May I be happy” from inside. 2. At the 5th stage, bringing the people focused on in meditation together and practicing the extension of love equally to everyone. We have “preferences” and titrate our love according to who we think “deserves” love, when in fact, all beings deserve love. For particularly difficult people, it is better at times to start with someone where the conflict is not so great. 3. And lastly, to make the physiological changes necessary, taking at least 20 minutes a day daily over an 8 week period is necessary.
3. Taking our love into the world
Taking our love into the world is not just about social justice and volunteering. It can be as simple as tending to our children, in whatever role of nurturing that may be, as parent, aunt/uncle, teacher and neighbor. It can be as simple as tending to the food we eat, the care of our environment internally as well as the nature around us. In taking our love into the world, we must remember to honor our children through giving them nature and the gift of being outdoors, interaction with elders and people throughout the lifespan, and the appreciation of good healthy food and clean air.
We can stop, slow down, and take the time to listen not only to the person in front of you but to the messages of your heart. The teacher Ammachi says, “80% of the world’s illness can be cured by love”. As a healer, of this I have no doubt. Very often, one session of deep listening can heal decades of suffering. People have an idea of what listening should look like at times, how the talker or listener should act, and then accuse the other of not listening to their words, when in fact this is the head talking not the heart. To listen from the heart takes risk as some will react with accusation, hatred, aversion and bitterness, but it is a start. When we cultivate the feeling of loving kindness toward ourselves and others, when we carry this and return to it day after day, we can learn to start to listen and help others to heal. We must learn to lead by listening at the heart, and gently encouraging others to follow.
In that light, may we all be healed from the seeds of suffering, of hatred that permeates the air around us and be the change the world needs to see. May all beings feel love, may all beings be happy, may all beings be well. Namaste.