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6:19 pm

An Epistemology of Love: The Heart of Retreat

By Katelin Gallagher

I met God today.

What I mean by that is I had the profound joy of meeting and listening to a lecture by physicist and contemplative scholar, Arthur Zajonc. His words spoke to my soul and his deeply embodied presence moved me to holy tears. There is something in him that has let go of pretense, of deceptive separation, of clinging on to that which cannot be indefinitely clung to.

I had anticipated that the contemplative-academic seminar that I am attending to be… you know… dharma “lite,” so to speak. Instead, I experienced in him what was to me, the voice of God(dess).

Arthur has a brilliant mind and ability to lecture. He has been a professor for decades and has published his discussions with the Dalai Lama on the topics of physics and cosmology - one on a long list of career accolades. He also has Parkinson’s, a progressive disease that slowly steals one’s faculties. He spoke of non-attachment and letting go, as a principle of living and practicing. It is difficult to put into words what it is to hear/feel this teaching from someone who must embody it with every breath.

I was humbled to say the least. For a moment, I got a hit of what a this kind of release of grasping…. Grasping to self, to achievement, to love, to life…. might possibly feel like. My heart was overwhelmed with the truth and wisdom of this teaching.

Much of the discussion was on the nature of contemplative inquiry. He spoke of meditation, of relativity and Buddhist emptiness, but also of grace and love. In a paper discussing an epistemology of love, Arthur borrows from philosopher and activist Simone Weil: “Simone Weil writes of the ubiquitous power of gravity, which is everywhere and orders all things – except grace. Grace alone defies gravity’s grasp, but it requires special conditions in order to appear. Weil says, “Grace fills empty spaces but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it.

” Simone Weil evokes the powerful importance of silence, emptiness, openness, the Void. Meditation helps us enter the space of silence and to foster the openness into which grace can appear.”

1- Grace fills empty spaces but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it.

2- Meditation helps us enter the space of silence and to foster the openness into which grace can appear.

What is grace? I’m not sure; I can say what it is for me. It feels like the universe/cosmos is my most tender and personal lover, showing me the truth of life, revealing an intimacy with all things in perfect time. Grace is the conductor of manifest reality, rising up to meet me more precisely than I could ever imagine. Grace is that benevolent force that mirrors to me the boundlessness that is my heart, that which leaves me in a heap of holy tears. Grace is a breeze dancing thru an open window that touches my skin and reminds me to be present to my experience. This presence causes a softening of my skin, a relaxing of my metaphysical heart, and a noticing -- a seeing or way of relating -- that was just prior, absent.

Earlier in the paper, Arthur makes the case that through meditation and attentional stability, we might come to know an object of our meditation so intimately that an experience of love could arise, and that this love arising is truth itself:

“Such contemplative inquiry not only yields insight (veritas) but also transforms the knower through his or her intimate (one could say loving) participation in the subject of one’s contemplative attention.”

One of my teachers, Kira Ryder, patiently and regularly reminds me that yoga is always available. Connection is always available. Love is always available if I take the time and care to experience, to be present with, to see the object of my attention. To let that seeing transform into understanding, and understanding into a knowing that confirms the truth of love.

Perhaps then… meditation is the method by which love can be known. Grace is the force that makes it so and Letting go, letting go, letting go is the space in which it all arises. This is the heart of retreat.

I might suggest that what naturally happens next is an opportunity to experience this embodiment intimately, and know it as an emanation of love itself. An opportunity to study our momentary life circumstances, and know them as possibilities for love itself. An opportunity to feel our friends, lovers, parents and strangers, and to know them as vehicles for love itself. God(dess) is in me (you), in one another and imbues all things. Not as an idea or theory, but as a truth that can be directly experienced. Now, of course, I wouldn’t suggest that someone should be or ought to be experiencing love in all things, with all of his or her will and might. Nor would I suggest that all that is - is just peachy. Heavens, no. To suggest that is to miss the nuance of the point entirely. I’m talking about a more subtle undercurrent that is only detected in the hush of an available mind. As the wise ones have suggested, before grace we have to first make space. Then everything- all of it- all the love that one can fathom arises in the most natural and coziest and personal of ways: uncontrived, unfettered, and undeniable.

While this leg of my trip is nearly through, I don’t worry so much about leaving God. Because surely She is available again and again, in each day in the faces of both friends and foes, in the Divine order of life’s unfolding, and in the earnest inquiry into my Heart.

Kate will be offering a space-making, heart-centered, non-residential meditation retreat August 28, 29, & 30th at Live Well studio. There will be practice for the souls of brand new and experienced meditators alike. Please connect with her directly (katelin.gallagher@gmail.com) if you’re new to meditation. $175 if registered by 8/12; $200 thereafter; Sign up here.

Reference: Love and Knowledge: Recovering the Heart of Learning through Contemplation by Arthur Zajonc