In the context of heart-centered spirituality, love isn’t a romantic feeling but a state of responsibility calling upon you.
As I understand spirituality, spirituality isn’t a feeling or an emotion—it’s an action. One isn’t spiritual, one practices spirituality. To practice spirituality is to engage in exercises that reveal the interconnection of each life and all life with a greater nondual Aliveness people call by many names: God, Christ, Spirit, Mother, Tao, Allah, YHVH, etc.
A heart-centered spirituality kindles a deep and transformative love for every life by revealing each life as an expression of infinite Aliveness. Love in this context isn’t a romantic feeling but a state of responsibility calling you to protect and serve life (Genesis 2:15) by being a blessing to each life (Genesis 12:3). You kindle this love through listening.
The quality of listening to which I refer is open-ended and non-judgmental. You listen to the moment the way you might listen to a symphony: allowing the music to permeate your being and transform it. You aren’t listening for something you are listening to something; to life itself.
The Bible speaks of the connection between listening and love in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Listen, O Israel: YHVH is our God, YHVH is one. Love YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” The ineffable Name YHVH is best rendered as Aliveness. Having as a god anything less than Aliveness itself is idolatry: the worship of one thing as if it were the master of all things.
[Also read: “Four Biblical Verses for Our Time.”]
Read as a commandment: “You must love,” this passage makes no sense. You cannot command love. That is why we speak of falling in love. Falling is something that happens to us, something that surrenders us to something greater than ourselves: in this case, Aliveness. If we cannot command love, how shall we understand this passage from Deuteronomy? I suggest you read it as an “if/then” statement: “If you listen to the One happening as the many then you will love the many as the happening of the One.”
This brings us to the spiritual practice of listening.
The chatter of the mind is as natural to the mind as the barking of a dog is natural to the dog. Just let it be and listen.
Sit comfortably and still and just listen. Listen to the sounds outside your skull: the wind, the traffic, the rustling leaves, the talking of neighbors, the barking of dogs, the sounds of your own body. Listen to the sounds within your skull: your thoughts, your feelings. Don’t preference one sound above the others; don’t imagine that inner sounds are more or less important than outer sounds. Just listen to the symphony of life happening in, with, and around you.
Some meditation practices ask you to quiet the mind, but not this practice. The chatter of the mind is as natural to the mind as the barking of a dog is natural to the dog. Just let it be and listen. Don’t label what you hear or judge it or use it as a catalyst for your own musings. Just listen. In time something unusual may happen and you will hear what the Bible calls kol demama daka, the fragile voice of silence (I Kings 19:12).
This thin, fragile vibration is the hum of Aliveness in the never-ending act of creation (Genesis 1:2). When you hear this, simply listen to it. As you listen your heart opens and love happens; love for self, love for others, love for life, love for the One manifesting as all reality. And as this love deepens or ripens, your capacity to be a blessing deepens and ripens as well.
A community rooted in this work of listening and loving is needed in all times and is desperately needed in our own.
More from Rabbi Rami on spirituality and non-judgment, from the print issue of Spirituality & Health.
Reader question: Competing religious truth claims confuse me. Who really decides if a religious claim is true or not?
Rabbi Rami answers: You do. If you agree with the claim, you say it’s true; if you don’t
agree with it, you say it’s false. Once you admit you are the arbiter of
religious truth and falsehood, and that you believe what you believe
simply because you’ve been conditioned to believe it, you will start
questioning all your beliefs, liberate yourself from the straitjacket of
intellectual and religious conformity, and slip into the gentle and
terrifying grace of living with not-knowing. This is what I hope for
both of us.