On Monday nights at Spirit Rock (an insight meditation center just north of San Francisco), people gather for a group meditation and a talk by a rotating cast of dharma teachers. Their talks, along with many others, are available for free at Dharma Seed - a true treasure chest of inspiration and Buddhist teachings.
Last night, it was Rick Hanson who taught. This is his talk: Love Freely. It had a number of lovely moments (including the story of the Gorilla Buddha), but it was his opening story that I want to share:
When I was in my early 20′s, probably about 22, 23, I lived with some other people in a house inVenice Beach down in southern California where I grew up. And we rented out the front room of this house to a woman who lived next door who was a Rolfer, Rolfer being a kind of very deep tissue body work, structural integration. And this was back in the mid 70s and then Rolfing was a kind of no pain, no gain sort of orientation. And we’d be sitting in the living room we’d be hearing people screaming literally, “Stop, please stop, I can’t…” Now Rolfing has evolved and I’ve had millions of sessions and variations of other types of deep tissue body work and I’m a major fan of it and I’m not trying to scare anybody away, but at the time I was pretty frightened.
So I was getting ready to go through the series and the fifth session has to do with opening up the abdomen, the abdominal area. And at this point I’d had enough experience in the potential human movement and emotional release work that I thought ‘Oh my God, all my stuff, my sadness, my anger, my pain, my fear, my misery, uuuuhhg, is all gonna get released by this deep tissue work and – great – what a good idea.” So that was my orientation going into this session: kind of freaking out.
Well she starts to work on me and, if you’ve ever done this kind of work, it’s deep, it’s intense. It approaches pain sometimes. Sometimes it goes over that line. So she’s working on me deeply and then Mira, who’s a very down to earth, kind of basic, not a very fairy kind of person – she moves to the other side of the table and she’s just standing there. And at the same time I start kind of feeling something really interesting is happening. So she’s standing there basking there at the foot of the table and I start feeling flowing through me, releasing, tremendous amounts of – not pain, not sadness, not grief, not shame, or worthlessness – but vast amounts of LOVE flowing freely out of me. And Mira literally felt for her it was a very unusual experience as if there was a light, a warmth and energy just kind of coming of of me.
And I realized, in part, that what had happened over the years, in the war with my mother, that the one weapon I had was to withhold love. So what was suppressed in me, primarily, was not so much anger, shame, or sadness, although i definitely had some of that, but the big bulk of it was withheld love. And Mira opened the dam, as it were, and there was a dam-burst of love that came flowing freely out of me.
And since then I’ve reflected many times on how, in many ways, one of the greatest forms of suffering is thwarted contribution, thwarted flow of love. And I’ve also reflected on the teachings of many sources that love is our nature, love is very woven into our nature, and its not a matter of muscularly cranking up love, but more, unleashing it, unpacking it, disentangling the restraints upon it.”