At a recent Eckankar seminar, I attended a workshop called “Opening Your Heart to God’s Love.” I thought I chose this topic because God’s love has always been a confusing concept for me intellectually and my mind wanted to understand more.
As an Eckist, I believe God IS Love, Divine Love, defying description in human terms. I also believe that God is neither masculine nor feminine, but rather an energy that is always present. Even though I believe God cannot be explained in human terms, my mind continually grapples with putting God into explainable sound bites.
However, in reality, my heart chose that workshop as I was following an “inner nudge” to go. Something in me needed healing, though I didn’t know it at the time.
One of the presenters spoke about his personal journey learning about opening his heart to God’s love. He shared about an experience in contemplation where he asked on the inner, “How can I open my heart more to God’s love?” Immediately he heard, “Love yourself.”
He replied, “Yeah, yeah, what else?” dismissing the inner guidance as unimportant. Bingo! That was why I was there! I understood exactly what he was saying because for years, I too, had avoided the entire issue of loving myself.
A shortened version of the first two Commandments is, “Love God, and Love thy neighbor as thyself.” My mind and heart understood the first two parts. I understood loving God as loving all life, as God is in all of life. I understood loving my neighbor as giving God’s love to all people. However, whenever loving myself came up, both my mind and heart shut down, dismissing it as unimportant.
Giving love to life and others seemed easier and nobler to do than receiving love. While giving love, I could be in control. Receiving love, well, that implies at least a measure of letting go of control. Deep down my heart desired to love myself, even ached for it, but my fearful mind always stepped in and closed the door. At one point I had even written down the fears my mind had fabricated to avoid opening my heart to God’s love and loving myself, hoping for some insights. However, if no action is ever taken, “insight is the booby prize.”
One morning after the seminar, I woke up early. I knew what I had to do, I’d actually known for a long time. I started writing a letter to myself, forgiving myself for every real or imagined wrongdoing I had ever done. The writing was freeform, not censored in any way. I wrote for two hours, 15 pages of sentences, each one starting with, “I forgive myself for……”
What came out on those pages was surprising, illuminating and sad. I had no idea how many things I felt guilty about, things that made no logical sense to feel bad about, but it didn’t matter, I just let it flow out onto the paper.
God, the Holy Spirit, the Light and Sound, Divine Love, does not judge or shame, IT just IS Love. God didn’t need to forgive me, I needed to forgive me. Once I did, the dark corners of my heart were illuminated and healed by Divine Love. The release I felt afterward was indescribable, kind of like God’s love.
• Wendy Hamilton is a Clergy member of Eckankar, the Religion of the Light and Sound of God.