Being the Presence of Love
Chapter 16 from the book, The Way of Grace: The Transforming Power of Ego Relaxation
By Miranda Macpherson
There is a way of breathing that’s a shame and a suffocation,
and there’s another way of expiring a love breath,
that lets you open infinitely.
— Rumi (The Illuminated Rumi by Coleman Barks & Michael Green)
The deeper your practice of ego relaxation, the more you feel the living presence coming alive inside of you. Like a fountain that circulates its nectar, yet spills over to hydrate the surrounding ground, the qualities of your true nature naturally want to be embodied and extended. Quite literally, your body, mind, heart, hands, voice, relationships, all of your life’s experiences, and even your instinctual drives, exist ultimately to transmit Grace. How can your human vessel be put to the best possible use down here on earth?
The answer, as you already know, has something to do with love.
We all want love and need love, at every stage of life. Yet in our culture, we bandy the word “love” about, Hallmark-style, but in a way that often lacks gravity. We might say: “love ya” with a casual wave goodbye, or “I love you” when what we really mean is “can you please give me some reassurance that you love me too”? This is better than holding our heart back, but love’s presence is so much deeper than a transaction to make us feel secure. It is deeper than a positive emotion. Love is who we are minus any defenses. It is our heart at rest as pure Being.
Before you can BE the presence of love, you first have to receive it. Inevitably, this means relaxing your search for love. Cease demanding that it come through your preferred channels. (If you would like more help with this, please explore my audio book “Meditations on Boundless Love”). Only when you relax your demands for love, can you begin to feel love’s presence already here with every breath, in every sound, in all that your eyes light upon. The more you live into the practice of Ego Relaxation we have been exploring together, the more you recognize that Love is always here, even when you have just received a cancer diagnosis.
A Divine Transmission:
Love’s presence is not something that can be explained or taught. I can only share how I know it, and invite you to reflect on your experience. When I sit with someone who sincerely wishes to surrender, love is a divine transmission that pours like an ocean of nourishing golden nectar. Its presence pervades my body, exuding a warm unconditional welcome; a healing glow of allowing. Eyes of the heart open to perceive the precious beauty of the living, breathing mystery sitting before me. Love’s presence even changes my vision. Hard edges of form disappear, stripping everything back to its pure essence. I am completely present, transparent in the timeless now, just being no-thing and no-one, yet utterly fulfilled.
If words are needed, they come without effort. If some gesture or action is needed, that happens. Things flow, with a richness and meaning. Being love’s presence is natural when sitting with a student, at the bedside of a sick husband, when a friend has received some devastating news. In these moments Love is all that matters. However, it can be so easy to forget amidst the busy-ness of an ordinary day. Living love’s presence is ongoing moment-to-moment practice.
It is a few days before Christmas and I am driving my usual route to get to Whole Foods. Waiting at the stop-light, I notice a homeless woman. Most times I go to my local grocery store, there is a homeless person at this traffic light. Somehow, even though I am busy, running late for an appointment, I take a closer look, taking her more fully in. I read her sign, explaining that she has lost her job, her home, is living in her car. I feel sorry that her life is so tough, that so many people’s lives are so tough. I reach into my wallet and pull out $20. I hear the voices of others inside, saying “she will probably just drink this away,” “don’t be a fool – better to give to a formal charity”, even “this is just your white middle-class guilt.” I ignore their advice.
It is cold, and while I will never know whether this moment of natural generosity translated into a hot meal or a bottle of whiskey that night, what I do know is that as I opened the window of my car to give her that cash, our eyes met in an exchange that had nothing to do with money. It was the spontaneous embodiment of a prayer: “May the tides turn in a kinder direction for this woman, and for us all. Amen.” Pervading this interaction was the transmission of love’s presence. It saw fit to deliver an important message within those 20 seconds before the light turned green: that we all matter, that we all have value, that every single one of us is loved. To hang in there even when things look like such a hopeless mess. So what if that message has to be delivered by a stranger at the stoplight.
Reflect on your experience, and perhaps you see that life unfurls in cycles, sometimes joyful and sometimes very painful. In proportions that often do not feel fair. We will all have to bear things that feel unbearable, whether from sickness, old age, bereavement, or watching our family member wrestle with the demon of addiction. Strangely, it is often these extreme moments that we become receptive for pure realms beyond our making or understanding to pour through. Heaven comes to earth if we are willing to drop out of the commentating mind and just BE HERE, keeping our heart as open as possible, flowing with what is most natural.
Grace Brings What is Needed:
Every one of us is capable of being a grace delivery device, in and amidst the ordinary moments of a regular day. It does not matter whether you have a degree, how old you are, what you think you know spiritually. One of the most powerful transmissions of grace I have ever seen poured through the tiny frail body of a ninety-year-old great-grandmother. Her time worn hands moved to tenderly cup the face of another in an impossible moment of loss. The living presence radiated pure, simple, perfectly attuned words. They poured not just from her mouth. Rather, like a powerful beam of light penetrating through her entire vessel, directly into the marrow of another, saying, “You are not alone. Love is here. You will get through this.”
It is stunning how the mystery of Grace always brings forth precisely what is needed. Often this is different than what we think we need, or what we think another needs. If you stay present as love, without an agenda, the specifics come forward naturally. Love’s presence does not even need words. Often, love is most eloquent in the silence we share, through a kind gaze, a warm smile, a humanizing goodness that lets another go first in the traffic. Ego Relaxation shows us how to get out of the way so the fountain can flow deeper into this world.
Make Presence Your Priority:
Being the presence of love hinges on your capacity to be more fully present. That means the commentating mind is dropped into the lotus of the heart, grounded in the immediacy of the body, here and now. Staying intimate with your direct experience, relishing the rise and fall of each breath, the sensation of your feet on the ground, helps you live ego relaxation while making your children’s lunch, speaking to a colleague on skype, or driving to your various errands.
Even when you are dedicated to embodying grace, it is easy to become preoccupied with your concerns and creative projects. A subtle narcissism can creep in, making you oblivious to the invitations within the seemingly minor interactions of any day. Perhaps the greatest challenge to being the presence of love in our present culture is bowing down to the false god of technology. Automatically obeying the demanding ping of every text, email and facebook notification will scatter your energy in multiple directions. This is a disaster if you sincerely wish to embody a more graceful way of being, as it will keep you living on the surface of yourself.
Although our present culture worships speed over elegance of action, neuro-science has verified what we intuitively know, that multi-tasking is significantly dis-integrative to the brain. Your budding realization, not to mention your health, social and relational wellbeing, requires that you have some uninterrupted time to just be. Furthermore, your presence cannot deepen without cultivating one pointed concentration. I highly recommend turning all unnecessary notifications on your electronic devices off. Besides, who really wants to receive a facebook post reporting on what you ate for dinner? Let us use IT wisely in ways support the embodiment of grace rather than hamper it.
Love Amidst the Grit:
Being the presence of love is not all sweetness and light. Inevitably in our loving of one another, we arrive at junctures that can be very challenging to navigate gracefully. What does it mean to be the presence of love in the face of relational conflict?
Love Itself does not force, but yet it IS the most powerful force. It wants to melt your armor, melt anything about you that is fixed, frozen or fake, so it can unfold deeper into this world. Often we do not even know cobwebs of closure still exist in us until someone we live with shines a light on them. If you have been in a committed relationship for over ten years, you will know how challenging it can be when you find yourself tripping over that same old argument you have been having with your beloved since the start. One night, when my husband and I were bumping up against a stubborn wall, I prayed a very practical, honest prayer: “HELP”!...a nd help us be receptive to the help!”
The details of how our prayers are answered, heard, or even matter is a bigger conversation for another book. That night, the response to my sincere request for help was not like a loud-speaker in my ear saying “listen up” – here is the answer. After giving it up and hanging out in that not knowing space, at some point I began to feel the loving presence coming online inside, as if a blocked fountain was just starting to gurgle again. A game changing insight arrived, revealing how “Love always includes and integrates only what is true in all diverging perspectives.”
Over time, I began to see that this is the evolutionary pulse at work in mother-nature. She gracefully allows death of forms that are no longer useful, but at the same time does not reject or waste anything. Everything is integrated into a higher expression that is more useful in the now. The winter ice pack melts to become waterfalls. Plants harmonize around one another, adapting to survive specific climates. I was asked to make space for the truth in my husband’s perspective, but not the ego defense in it. Include the truth in my perspective, but not the ego defense in it. We are only ever asked to surrender to a deeper truth, never to any ego distortion. This completely resolves any battle of wills because it evolves us beyond the attachments and positions of “I” and “my”. This is how Love triumphs, and everyone wins. Thank you. Amen.
Embracing the grit that inevitably arrives as part of our human relating, you see this is how love’s presence evolves us, always providing the opportunity to learn something, let go of something. Allow space for more love to extend itself. This awakens you to the fact that our relationships with one another, even with their imperfections, are such a gift. If you knew you were seeing your dear friend or beloved spouse for the very last time in this world, wouldn’t the most real thing you could possibly say be, “thank you for everything. I love you”?
True Expression of Love:
Growing deeper roots in our boundless nature results in feeling more love towards all beings. One of the sure signs some awakening has happening, is that a spontaneous kindness pours forth, that makes you less self-centered, naturally more generous, and not just with a few special people, but with everyone. While your mind feels deliciously empty of that crackling old radio station of the past, your heart takes on a fullness, expressing many of the most important qualities of our humanity: compassion, empathy, joy, strength, courage. You start to feel the palpable presence of love as your deepest heart.
Given that our world is often so lacking in real love, you will likely feel the nudge to not hold back from expressing it. Aldouz Huxley, in his final summation, was asked: “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.” While you are at it, see if you can be a little more appreciative.
This might express in your day as acknowledging your brother or sister for the tireless work they are doing on behalf of your ageing parents. Say a sincere thank you to your husband, your mother, your friend for bearing with you through the latest trial, or simply for cooking a delicious dinner. Being a little more patient with your children as you encourage them to do their homework. Being a little more forgiving with yourself when you stumble in ignorance, again.
When love’s presence is moving freely, that hollow sense of deprivation is no more. You become naturally generous, because you are aware of abiding within and part of the abundant source. Just as the water moves through the central axis of the fountain’s vessel and evenly extends outwards before it loops back up again, so when love’s presence circulates through your body, heart and mind, it dissolves self-centered concerns. It also dissolves the sense of who is “giver” and who is “receiver”, eradicating any sense of sacrifice. Rather, we feel the flow of grace, circulating through our human vessel.
Loving Presence in Body-Heart-Mind:
As we have seen, Grace has always been what animates you and wants to extend through you. Its primary signature is love, and all that you consider to be “yours”, your body, your heart, your mind, really are its vessel. When you are sufficiently relaxed out of the dense ego features of fear, control, judgment and defense, and in a more receptive state of trust, humility, patience and joy, grace begins to flow.
It becomes more substantial when you have opened to the transforming power that helps to dissolve the stronghold of your familiar ego identity with its suffering and grievances. Grace becomes stabilized as you cultivate equanimity, listen for right action, and include all parts of your humanity.
In time, with sincere devotion to your practice of ego relaxation, all four dimensions of grace begin to synthesize. You feel a fuller, freer, flow moving through your three primary centers.
Your body takes on a grounded immediacy. You feel more substantial, as if truly inhabiting this vehicle in the present, even though you likely feel way “bigger” than your physical form. Presence itself always has that sense of fullness, is-ness, making your actions more direct, clean, and potent. Just as a plant is nourished by its roots in the soil of the earth, its leaves towards the activating light of the sun, you feel what the Vedic philosophy calls “Prana” flowing through your body. You feel alive, more open and energized. You might have felt a hint of this in the meditation “circulating the nectars” from our last chapter.
Love’s presence is by definition heart-full. The more you discover that nothing bad will happen if you stay present and feel everything, the more your heart can open. Compassion, empathy, joy, kindness, courage can flow. When a hurt closes the door of your heart, forgiveness helps it heal. In the process, calling you into a whole other depth of heart where everything is resolved and absolved. On first glance this might look rather wet, sentimental. Interestingly, love’s presence also purifies the heart of attachment to our story. Thus, the fountain flows through the heart with love and objectivity, supporting not just personal expressions of love, but universal love.
Love’s presence has a deeply settling effect on our entire being, and this includes the mind. Often the mind will not calm, because we have been living too long in a state of agitation. Love’s presence first soothes and then settles a jumpy mind, so that we droop out of the patterned, ego mind that is always referencing the past. Then, loves’ presence is powerfully peaceful. It might feel as if your head is a vast open window to the sky, pervaded with a soft loving light, and shimmering awareness. We see and know, yet not through historically based filters. This refines and expands your perception, and as this deepens it gives way to unified vision.
Perhaps it makes more sense to you now, why the instructions for every inquiry practice in this book have encouraged you to let the questions into your somatic experience, your felt experience as well as your awareness. Including all three centers of your vessel as we practice, supports a balanced, integrated awakening. You might even start to feel as if your deep belly, your heart and head are three specific spouts of the fountain, that begin to overflow in synchronicity, circulating the nectar of love’s presence exponentially.
Magnetizing the Miraculous:
One of the questions I am asked the most, usually towards the end of a retreat when everyone is feeling their inner cup running over, is how they can help someone who seems desperately stuck or sick. I am sure there is someone in your immediate circle of family, friends or loved ones who is in a bad way, whether through addiction, deep depression, an eating disorder or worse. These specific forms of suffering always require specialist treatment. Yet is there anything spiritually that you, as a family member or caring friend do to help? Yes there is.
Being the presence of love can take the form of holding the vision of another’s highest nature, and refusing to see them only as their problem. This is a much better use of your energy than worrying about them or judging them for walking down a dark path. You might recall in our chapter on trust, that trust is really the placement of your psychic attention. Right now, try this experiment. Consider that person who you wish you could help (you could also include a country, or a specific group of people). Firstly, notice how it feels in your body, heart and mind, to place your trust in the forces of their ego? Now, notice how it feels in body, heart and mind to place your trust in the forces of their true nature to emerge through this and thrive?
I am sure you notice an immediate difference. One leads you to feel hopeless, and might result in you withdrawing from being present as love with that person. The latter will make you into a powerfully healing presence in their life, even if there is nothing specific that you do or say. Your love and faith in their capacity will transmit in some way that is helpful. Imagine how it would feel if the roles were reversed. Would it feel more helpful to be around someone regarding you as your problem, or someone who is holding the vision that you are more than this, will find your way and might even come to thrive because of this passage?
When you place your trust not in another’s ego, but in their higher nature, you are spiritually calling it forward. With that woman at the stoplight, love’s unspoken transmission was also communicating, “it does not have to be this way”. Sometimes we all need another to hold a possibility for us that we struggle to claim for ourselves. It is this joining, not at the level of personality, but essence-to-essence, the door for the miraculous can open. I have witnessed so many extraordinary leaps in consciousness, it has taught me never to give up on anyone. To always hold the possibility for another’s transformation, even when it looks hopeless. Through Grace, it never is.
Being the Presence of Love: an Inquiry
Ramana Maharshi beautifully said, “when your real, effortless, joyful nature is realized, it will not be inconsistent with the ordinary activities of life.” As we have seen, being the presence of love is not something your ego can imitate by trying to be a good samaratin. Grace flows naturally and exponentially when you are settled in Being, feeling love’s presence as your natural fragrance. Then the living presence naturally flows through your vessel, circulating and expanding the blessings that are meant for everyone.
This inquiry supports you to move through your day as a living fountain. At first, I recommend sharing this inquiry question with a friend, or else meditating into it as you have already been doing. Then, write out the two questions, and put it as a sticky note on your computer, the dashboard of your car, your fridge, wherever you like. This is to gently remind you to stay close to the living presence that knows exactly how to be love in and amidst the flow of your everyday life.
“What’s it like, in body-heart and mind, when Presence is your priority?”
Get detailed and familiar with how it feels, how it is, in all three of your centers. How it is when you are truly at home and aligned…Stay with this for at least ten minutes. Then explore,
“What does it mean, right now, to BE love?”
Let the question ripple through you, and support the natural embodiment of who you truly are in each here and now. Being the presence of love is dynamic and ever unfolding, ever fresh and precisely attuned to each situation. It does not have to be grand. Best if it is small and more consistent. The way you are present and engaging with the checkout clerk at your supermarket, enjoying the exchange. Sometimes being love means listening more substantially, not just to words but to the unspoken. If you stay close to these questions, the most potent, beautiful, complete embodiment will find its way through you.
If you are sufficiently present, you recognize there is a deep sweetness to life itself. The simple moments where love is being radiated and circulated have the most meaning. At the end of life, and at the beginning of life, when the veils between the realms are thinnest, we often see clearly what existence is really all for — LOVE. You are an embodiment of the deepest Grace. Love is its signature.
Miranda Macpherson is a contemporary spiritual teacher, counselor, and author of The Way of Grace: The Transforming Power of Ego Relaxation. Miranda, who also authored the spiritual guidebook Boundless Love, has been teaching internationally since 1995. She is known for her depth of presence, clarity, and refined capacity to guide people into direct experience of the sacred.
Miranda’s work is dedicated to helping people become more graceful human beings through a transmission and practice she calls Ego Relaxation. This is a femine approach to welcoming the totality of our experience as a gateway into our deepest nature. Her work embraces self-inquiry, spiritual psychology, devotion, and meditation practice. Through a blend of silent transmission and articulate teaching, she leads ongoing programs oriented to guiding people into direct spiritual experience while providing a practical map for actualizing our realization into daily life.
Drawing from the ancient lineages of Advaita and mystical Christianity, as well as from more recent wisdom teachings such as A Course In Miracles, Miranda leads from the ground of unconditional love and compassion for our humanity, emphasizing receptivity, discrimination, and surrender.
She is founder of One Spirit Interfaith Foundation in London, where she trained and ordained over 600 ministers. Today, Miranda leads the “Living Grace” sangha in northern California and holds retreats in the United States and internationally. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Bob Duchmann, a teacher of the Diamond Approach (A.H. Almaas’ Ridhwan School).
Click here to visit Miranda’s website.