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To love life, and in particular, to love other human beings, is one of the central ideals of every spiritual tradition. It is also one of life’s greatest challenges. It requires the ability for true contact. And contact requires us to be authentic and deeply in touch with ourselves.
Every aspect of ourselves is capable of contact. We can contact another human being with our touch, gaze, and voice — and even with the subtle vibrations of our emotions, physical sensations, and awareness. We all crave this contact instinctively, for everything that it reaches becomes awake, alive.
The question addressed in this book is how we can deepen this capacity for contact, how we can become more adept at love. By love, I do not just mean love between intimate partners, but the warm, dynamic response of our heart to the world around us. The spiritual traditions teach that love is a basic component of the spiritual dimension. In the dualistic religions of the West, God is love. In the nondual traditions of the East, love is inherent in the spiritual essence that we can realize as our own being. Love is part of our own essential nature, somehow hidden or enfolded within us. Our desire and our efforts to love uncover our mysterious wound of separation from this authentic core of life. For this reason, our relationships can become spiritual pathways; they can help us realize the spiritual essence of ourselves.
For many people, the word “spiritual” suggests an intangible, inaccessible, and perhaps improbable realm of existence. As spirituality is understood in this book, however, the spiritual refers to our true and basic nature, beneath the fantasies, artifices, and constraints that distort our usual experience. It is our most subtle and most clear attunement to ourselves and the world around us. When we enter the spiritual path, we are becoming real.
Although it cannot be detected by the ordinary range of our senses, the subtle essence of our being does become tangible as we attune to it. It becomes an actual experience, a quality of being that is felt in our whole body and that can then be discerned in all of life. As we realize this essence of ourselves, our senses themselves become more subtle and begin to reveal the radiance, fluidity, and a spacious stillness that suffuses the material world. The most radical transformation that occurs with this subtle attunement is that instead of experiencing ourselves as separate from our environment, we find that our own being is continuous with everything around us. This book describes how the realization of this unified, spiritual dimension of life transforms all of our relationships.