(Excerpted from Apprentice of the Heart by Guy Finley)
Seated in the center of the heart, as surely as the essence of a tiny seed holds the promise of a towering tree, lives within us the Presence of a Power that can dispel any gathering darkness and change what is unkind into conscious compassion. What is this great Presence and Power lying latent within us? It is Love.
No matter who we are, all of us have known some kind of love in our lives. Love has as many forms on this earth as there are human hearts to reflect and reveal her countless expressions. There is the love we may feel for objects and places, the love we know through relationships with those closest to us, and there is the love of excellence, of natural beauty, and of all things shining bright with unfulfilled promise.
But as stirring, fine, and noble as these loves may be, they tell but a small part of a much greater story hidden from plain sight, yet evident to those with “eyes to see”; for just as radiant energy from the sun, which is not the sun itself, reaches down into creation to animate all of its myriad forms, so is it true that behind and above the everyday loves we have known there dwells an abiding Love of a far greater magnitude; an unseen and supernal Love whose emanations make all other loves possible.
It is this higher, Divine Love that teaches us about love in all its forms, initiating us into the mysteries of our own heart by gently wiping away the borders that stand between our love and our beloved, so that two become as one. Beethoven, Rembrandt, Curie, and Einstein — these and other great souls didn’t so much master their respective arts, as much as a great love for their art served to master them. Love educates whoever will embrace her. So it can be for us; to become masters of our own lives we need only learn how to let Love master us.
Each heartache, every disappointment, all crowning moments by which we win or lose the object of our desire — that at the time seem the very summit or valley of our lives — each such moment is but one small step along the path that Love has prepared for us to learn her Ways. And that all of us share in these kind of everyday experiences — whose touch deftly transforms our collective heart — proves the point: the Divine Love of which we speak is not meant only for elected sages and hallowed saints. If this were true, then we would have nothing within us to recognize the glow of that small ember in our hearts toward whose warmth and faint light we are drawn. So be assured that where there is an ember, there can also be a flame. And that by the light of such a fire burning in each of our hearts, if we so will it, our world can be as the Divine intended it to be: a realm of reality that has realized the promise and the fulfillment of Love itself.
Whenever we love anyone (or some natural moment, creature, or thing) we relate to this, our beloved, through something Unseen. In such moments there must be that which allows us to know our lover: an invisible power that somehow first penetrates the obstructing physical form and then permeates it; one that grants us sweet access to the secret regions of this heart we have now entered – even as we revel in the new depths of ourselves delivered there by this same Love.
So, in many ways yet to be discovered, Love is the secret Third Party in any relationship between two people who are in love. She is their common ground – serving to unite them in a “place” neither may know without the other. And Love acts as a catalyst: creating a whole new sense of oneness from what are the two distinct characters now within Her. Let’s express this same idea from a slightly different vantage point, something more familiar to all of us.
Just as we must enter a sheltering harbor right at sunset if we wish to be held rapt by the sea of golden light spreading itself out before us, so we must first enter Love Herself in order to begin to know love with another. And if all this sounds a bit mysterious, that’s because Love is a Grand Mystery! Love works endlessly in Her mysterious ways to conquer the willing heart, and how each and every one of us – realized or not – is an apprentice of the Heart . . . being prepared by Love for Love.
The classical and great historical Lovers of all ages attest to this essential stage of self-discovery with what often turned out to be nothing less than the sacrifice of their own lives. And anyone who has known such a consuming love knows something of the paradoxical relationship it requires of its lovers. Within it, personal fulfillment comes in finding ways to further lose yourself – in giving yourself over to that one whose life you’ve found to be the wellspring of your own heart. It is here that apprenticeship of the heart begins.
Gradually, in well-defined stages, Love prepares the heart it wants, and the heart it takes is taught Love.
The heart subdued by Love surrenders itself and becomes storehouse, pump-house, and storage line. It stands between perfect fullness and complete emptiness, filling and being filled by what has made it. Such hearts touch and are touched by the unimaginable miracle of Love. Hearts such as these have no need for hope of tomorrow because each has become the willing subject and domain of Forever.
When we first fall in love with someone we hang on to every word he or she speaks. We don’t miss a thing. We notice how they say what is said, the way they move and to what they are drawn; we note all the little things that please them, or that don’t. Nothing escapes our attention. What is this great desire of ours that so drives us to want to delight the one we love? What the eye can’t see, the heart alone perceives:
According to our wish and willingness to give our love to another, there returns
to us – in greater measure than given – the love we have given. It is, quite
simply, the secret of the ages: Love rewards the lover.
Isn’t it true? The more we love someone, the more love we come upon in our own being; and the more we experience these elevated states in ourselves, the higher we long to go! But as we all know, visiting such heavens has proven itself perilous; for even while we hope that love will lift us up and into the highest regions of our heart, we also fear the invariable “fall” when love departs and drops us back into a world left twice as dark for her withdrawal.
So keen to us are these recurring cycles of love won and lost, and their sense of loss so unwanted, that when love does come calling again our desire to possess that which we love has become all the greater. In some instances this longing can be overwhelming, and past painful experience prods us on to find some way to “own” this new love of ours. But, even if this feat were possible, we already have good reason to suspect that merely possessing what we love is impossibly incomplete. For what else have we been gradually learning through our relationships of the heart other than this one fact: we are held ever apart from what we love by the very fact that we would clutch it to our breast.
In our gradual discovery of what love would have us learn, we are gently directed to consider another kind of relationship with love; now we no longer yearn to be its possessor, but rather to be possessed by it. And so emerges, like a newborn infant within us, our first true notion of the idea of a Divine Love. Our earlier inclination to abandon ourselves to Love now becomes our need, for in the light of Love’s revelations we can see, for the first time, how our own hungering identity – once viewed as being essential to our experience of love – is secretly Love’s only impediment.
Never the End
Come, and let me breathe you.
Let me draw you in and push you out,
Until you long to be drawn in once more.
Let me remind you of the Life I am
And of the Life that you may be.
Let my silent sighing move your soul to breathe me deep.
And if you’ll remember my breath is yours,
You’ll never forget your life is my air.
Come, let me breathe you myself and so
Gently will we be our breath breathing.
– Guy Finley