LOVE… This is truly one of the great emotions in life, isn’t it? The word LOVE is used in numerous ways to capture that special connection that ties us all together as human beings, and to everything we have an affinity for. In our purest state, I believe we love everyone and everything in this world. The dictionary defines “love” in the following ways.
- A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.
- A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair; the emotion of sex and romance.
- An intense emotional attachment, as for a pet or treasured object.
- A person who is the object of deep or intense affection or attraction; beloved. Often used as a term of endearment.
- An expression of one’s affection: Send him my love.
- A strong predilection or enthusiasm: a love of language.
- The object of such an enthusiasm: The outdoors is her greatest love.
Sometimes love seems so natural, as we love our families, friends, pets, children and favorites in life. We love out of appreciation and gratitude. We love moments, people and memories that put smiles on our faces. We love feeling good. We love to love.
Yet, sometimes we forget to love, as we get caught up in distraction, stress, fear and suffering. Sometimes we fool ourselves in believing that the emotion of “love” is somehow not appropriate. I don’t believe that love is ever inappropriate. There are times I’ve stayed present to love when others have been “critical”, “cold”, “controlling”, “broken their word”, “forgotten a birthday” or “shut down in fear”. Loving through those moments have been some of the sweetest of my life.
“When they attack you
and you notice that you love them
with all your heart,
your Work is done.”
— Byron Katie
The place I see that we forget to love the most is toward – ourselves. Have you ever found yourself saying any of the following?
Unfortunately, this is what many of us do to ourselves all day long. We nag, judge and push, while simultaneously resisting ourselves. The judge, the know-it-all, the martyr, and the slave driver all have voices. You can either let those voices dominant your internal world, or you can learn to LOVE yourself – no matter what.
“Love thy neighbor, as thyself.
And, make sure you do love yourself.”
We can start by loving others unconditionally, or loving ourselves unconditionally. Love breeds love. The practice of “LOVING” is a lifetime pursuit…both in loving yourself, and loving others. The ultimate is simply love for all. And, as reflected in the movie, life continues to present opportunities to love on deeper and deeper levels. Fortunately, the more one LOVES, the sweeter, more fulfilling and effortless life becomes. However, learning to LOVE deeply in all circumstances, to all people, to all things and to yourself takes practice and commitment.
It’s painful NOT to love.
Anytime we experience stress, frustration, resentment, fear, anger or aggression of any kind, it’s painful because love feels like it’s missing. Are we LOVING others in these moments? More importantly, are we LOVING ourselves? While we often believe the love is lacking from “others” outside ourselves, in actuality, it’s always an inside job. We’re the only ones that cut ourselves off from experiencing love. This is why it seems that “Jesus” was able to endure his path. These moments become opportunities to deepen our experience of love for ourselves and toward others.
While it’s unlikely that any of us will have to endure the brutality that was portrayed in “The Passion of the Christ”, we each have our own experiences of being betrayed, criticized, mistreated and harmed by others. Most of us experience more pain through emotional attacks than actual physical harm. It’s loving others in these times, while simultaneously loving ourselves that is the key to the ultimate freedom and fulfillment.
As reflected in the movie, one concept that seems to accelerate “loving” is viewing the “attacker” as innocent, thus treating them with compassion and forgiveness. Fear impedes love, and fear is a part of our humanity until we learn to transcend it.
To love others and ourselves unconditionally requires us to let go of certain conditioned beliefs around “loving”, such as when it is appropriate and not. This can be painful. You may also experience others judging you for loving someone who doesn’t seem to “deserve it”, because they haven’t found love in that situation for themselves. That’s okay. Love anyway. I’ve found that loving unconditionally is the ultimate, and a worthy endeavor. When you find yourself loving a “screaming child”, loving your “attacker”, or loving the person who “cut you off in traffic”…you’ll likely notice a feeling so sweet, you’ll want more and more of it. And, you’ll find that more and more love pours into your life.
The Loving Practice. There is an opportunity to deepen the love for yourself in “difficult moments”, “ordinary moments” and “moments of celebration”. The same principles can be applied to deepening your love for others.
Loving Yourself in Difficult Moments – The most difficult times to love are when you’re in emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration, overwhelm, apathy or stress. Love yourself in these moments. Just notice. You may say something like, “Sweetheart, I see that you’re feeling really stressed or frustrated. It’s okay. I love you, and I’m here for you.” It’s not about CHANGING the emotional state, it’s about BEING WITH YOURSELF in that moment, accepting and loving you – AS YOU ARE. Loving yourself in your sadness. Loving yourself in your pain. Loving yourself in your laziness. Loving yourself as you’re attached to a stressful thought. Loving yourself in fear. Loving yourself when you’re not inspired. Loving yourself in your irritation or overwhelm. Loving yourself in your anger and rage. Love yourself in your embarrassment. Loving yourself in your “emotional messiness”, in chaos and vulnerability. Whatever emotional state you hate experiencing most, or RESIST the MOST, is the state you need to LOVE YOURSELF in the MOST. Notice what happens when you love yourself without forcing yourself to be different.
And, how does it feel to love another person when they are sad, stressed, lazy, overwhelmed, angry, critical or shut down? As we love ourselves more unconditionally, it becomes easier and easier to love others.
Soulful Challenge: Loving YOURSELF – Love yourself ALL THROUGHOUT the day and week. No matter what you’re doing. Watch your inner dialogue. Look particularly for any moment where you feel anxious, stressed, depressed, overwhelmed, disconnected, upset, or ANYTHING that feels like resistance or reaction in any way. Love yourself in those moments. Gift yourself with acts of kindness, be responsive to your needs and wants, expand your awareness, accept another part of your humanity, and forgive yourself. Challenge yourself to stay present to this exercise. Be your own best friend and supporter throughout the week. Practice makes perfect.