Prema: Space Love
What if someone told you that the reason a good relationship ended was because you loved the other person and they loved you?
A teacher once told me something profound about a long and loving relationship that had ended. She stated it ended because of love. I thought this sounded absurd! I was born on Saint Valentine’s Day, the day of love. I love love. No one will tell me not to love! She stated, “No, I mean love with a lower-case l. If they love you or you love them, eventually they will hate you. Love (lower case l) creates hate. virtue (lower case v) create vice. taking (lower case t) creates poverty. good (lower case g) creates evil, belief (lower case b) creates suspicion.”
Dual love is often an understandable primal by-product of struggle, survive, belong, or fight.
Like David Bowie sings in his song “Soul Love:” “All I have is my love of love, but love is not loving.” This love has no life force behind it, and so the seeds die. What is left is resentment and separation. Dual love is not sustainable. It feels empty. This kind of love, the world of 2, or “us versus them,” takes a lot of work and it is often socially programmed into us from birth. It is not a Soul organically recognizing and honoring another Soul.
20 years ago, when I began practicing yoga, I learned one of my favorite quotes from a self-described “Anarchist Yogi.” He was a bold, Self-Love-ruled yogi that actively chose no club, group, kin, side or yogic path. He pulled out of the construction of classes altogether, choosing the identity-less, non-fracturing, social deprogramming of non-dual Love. His name was Swami Nirmalananda. The quote was: “Love not anyone, for your picking and choosing bring nothing but misery. Instead, love God. Instead, be love itself.”
Prema is a Sanskrit word for Love, capital L. It is Love from, through, and of the Divine. It is the heart wisdom, fierce grace, compassionate and courageous backbone of a Love that is Universal rather than dualistic. All beings are worthy of and have access to this type of Love. Prema is the Love of holding space, free of choosing sides to avoid perpetuating blame and disassociating pain, for the sake of everyone’s dignity and equanimity. Choosing enemies can make one’s personal views feel legitimized, but what if that prevents others from accessing their right to grow in a way that most resonates with them?
The first type of real Love I experienced where I felt like I was totally accepted instead of alienated as an adopted child was from my grandmother. She saw “me” even if I did not. I realized I could be a mess or imperfect and it was a non-event to her. She did not work on highlighting where I was small, but instead on loving me so fiercely that it drove out the selfish parts of me that I was ashamed of. She never judged my struggles or told me how I was going to get out of them. She didn’t force me to answer to her but modeled to me how to answer to mySelf. She Loved me no matter what, but I see now that she didn’t really love “me.” She just Loved. She still does, although she has left her body and I can no longer see her.
My grandmother’s favorite quote from the Bible was from Matthew: “When you Love without limits, you are like God.” That is Prema. It is exalted, non-calculated, high-grade Love. It is Real Love. Love is still there when you struggle. Love is there when you forget. It will not go away even if you cannot see it. There is no ambition, motive, announcement, or expectation to it. It does not force you to love anyone or change anyone.
“When one loves, one does not calculate.” Saint Therese of Lisieux
Another translation of Prema is “a Love Supreme.” This is the title of the iconic John Coltrane album, an album inspired by yoga. The Supreme Love of Prema defies the ego-limited tendency of specific beings or social groups getting and deserving more or less love than others according to what our ego or an ego group has chosen as right, wrong, justified or righteous. Supreme means that everyone is in the hierarchy, a word originally meaning “angel order,” and that all beings are a part of this order. No one is diminished, no matter how inclined we are to judge them, tell them how they need to improve, or prove them wrong. A Supreme Love inspires us to save everything we Love instead of fight against everything that we hate.
Prema is not always easy to access. The revelation of where we fall short can be uncomfortable. When accessing Love is difficult, we can still consciously Love from afar instead of falling out of love altogether. What holds space are boundaries. Love gets mocked as lofty and avoidant if there is no discernment. Some relationships are not safe, respectful, mutually beneficial, or life affirming at least, unsafe or violent at most. I haven’t always wanted to invite everyone or every group over to my home and “love” them. That could be time-consuming, dishonest, complicated, and neglectful to my responsibilities. Following our Wisdom Heart’s intuitive trajectory is invaluable.
Prema, however, does not atrophy our discernment or displace our rights. love can be depleting. Love (capital L) is Life-giving. The rest we can call “space Love.” I remember my teacher Ram Dass reflecting on this quandary: “Actively love spaciously.”
Divine Love (Prema) is Space Love. This type of love will not diminish anyone. Everyone is accepted. No one is taking. No one is obligated. No one is depleted. No one is demanding or enforcing. It does not need attention nor rightness. It is a state of Being. The Bhakti teachings tell us that although this type of Love may not always be an obvious stance, it is a very real and inclusive, rather than illusive, way to navigate the world. The Bhakti Sutras state it is unshakable, formidable, clear, and non-dualistic. It is independent and not held hostage to your current mood, current need, or current ideology.
Space Love is the ability to access a pure relationship with the possibility that in a pure relationship, we drop all agendas and let others be without imposing upon them who we think they are supposed to be.
“The nature of the mind is that it becomes that which it intensely thinks about.” Swami Sivananda
A simple meditation I learned in the Neem Karoli Baba lineage is the repetition of the words “I am loving awareness.” This is a pretty far out meditation, because once you start repeating it you realize you are saying all kinds of things. I am. I am loving. Love awareness. I am aware. I am loving awareness. I am Prema!
For the month of February, work on cultivating Space Love, which is available to us all no matter where we are or what our conditions might currently be. Prema, in the yogic and Bhakti philosophies, promises to demagnetize us from further chaos or war, to elevate our inner and outer atmospheres, and to create miraculous shifts on this planet. Hold space for invisible magic and keep believing in it. No one even has to know you are doing it. It is possible to Love others from afar and to humbly continue to believe in it.
Luke: “I don’t believe it!” Master Yoda: “It is why you fail.”
On that mat this month, pry your wisdom heart wide open in long-held, supported, restorative backbends in Shavasana and focus on the Anahata Chakra’s stunning tolerance. Repeat inwardly “I am Loving awareness” anytime destructive duality sabotages your ability to Love. Become see-through in your asanas instead of comparing or competing. Love spaciously in your interactions. Apply constructive compassion instead of comparison to others’ positions. Spawn defenselessness instead of defensiveness in dialogue. Take off social masks. Commune and marvel at the Divine as though it were more than a concept. Pick out stars in the sky instead of faults. Demand less of others the change you wish to see of them in the world. Fulfill the prayers of others by suspending how you think they should be answered. Find humble, exquisite, non-exotic solace in forgiveness.
This month, dig into the places you want so badly to judge and work on Loving that very thing from far away. Allow the space for that Love to one day become very authentic by instead working on the places within yourself that you hold yourself back from loving well. Accept responsibility for your own transformation and your needs to experience your emotions. Lovingly give yourself this right to do so. Hold the strength of non-dual Love for the process anyone else needs to go through. Let Prema strike and move you so deeply with unbearable compassion it looks you in the eyes eternally with understanding, showing you where you can let go and grow. Suspend your “ideas” of what Love is and create a space to Love well until that well pours out of your heart. See if you can get to a vulnerable place where you have no choice but do all that you can to save Love.
“I have decided to stick with Love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Written by Michelle Baker
Chants to fortify the heart:
To Hanuman and Ram
Om Mani Padme Hum
Chants to drop the veils of the heart and social programming:
Om Name Shivaya
Saha Na Vavatu
Maha Amritunjaya (Triumbhakam)
Pranic Healing Tools: Twin Hearts Meditation by Master Choa Kok Sui (Itunes)
Higher Self Meditation; Yoga Nidra CD by Swan Michelle (Itunes)
All David Bowie
Ram Dass on Conscious Relationships
Books for Inspiration:
Be Love Now and Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass
Exquisite Love; Reflections on the Bhakti Sutras be William Mahoney
Judgement Detox by Gabriele Bernstein
Course of Miracles transcribed by Helen Schucman
Power vs Force Dr. Hawkins
Shyam Das Narada’s Bhaki Sutras
Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits
Photo/design credit & permission: John Herbert aka Mr Love