This year, we spent Christmas in snowy Montana. A friend in Myrtle Beach surprised me and texted me a Baba quote he’d picked for me at the Center: “Your love should be so deep it makes you forget yourself and the world.”
Hmmm, I thought. I’m pretty much stuck at the opposite end of the spectrum. Very engaged with the world and aware of myself. I tend to tackle the day as a series of things to be understood, fixed, completed. It keeps me occupied and lets my head race a mile a minute in one hundred directions, recording each success and failure. I forget to remember Baba, or to stop and let the heart lead for a pace or two.
And so, problem-solver that I am, I wondered: why is that? What makes it so easy to let the mind tug us around when the heart just wants to sit still. And I thought: maybe it’s just risky. The allure of accomplishment is strong. The promises of a heart-led life are ambiguous, the world doesn’t champion that path, and next door to the heart’s joy is suffering, which seems to linger in the space between each beat. Many of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read or seen were created by people who suffered deeply. What is it really like to live life on Love’s cliffs?
Right now my husband is in Calcutta, leading ten high-school students on an immersion trip, where they are working with Mother Teresa’s nuns, serving the poorest of the poor, as she was called to do her whole life long. He tells stories of people who embody that strikingly common but still surprising quality of tremendous generosity despite having very little themselves, people who have every reason to be angry at God or the world. He seems filled with love just talking about it. And I’m reminded of the letters from Mother Teresa that came to light after her death, and how desolate and lonely she sometimes was. In one she wrote: “The place of God in my soul is blank—There is no God in me.” Mother Teresa, the Saint, who so many admired as a symbol of God’s love, who gave so much. She spoke of a great sense of loss, and feared that God might not exist.
Not all love comes with darkness of course. There is the pure love I feel when I look in my children’s eyes, the spontaneous love of laughter with friends, the love we are sometimes filled with as if from a random benevolent wand. But the act of love — the surrender — it is a beautiful wrenching thing. It can be full of doubt and loss. And of joy and generosity. Maybe that’s what it means to forget yourself and the world — to walk through all of that, the darkest and the lightest, until there is nothing left but God.