One of the defining themes of my adult life has been this something that I refer to as Love. When the universe forced me into personal crisis a few years ago, it slowly became apparent that a key issue was love. Ever since then, my life has become, in one form or another, a meditation on love:
What is love?
How do I love myself?
Why does my heart feel broken?
Will I ever feel loved?
How do I love and be loved?
Does love exist?
Is it just an idea, or is it something real?
So far, I have learned much through this meditation; I have learned much on this journey. This article is designed to help you explore the contours of love in your life, so that you can enjoy the gift that is everyone’s birthright, the gift that the universe wants to give you.
In my experience, learning to love yourself is an essential step on this path of love. It is the first step because if you hate yourself, you can’t go anywhere. But how do we love ourselves? When I was first told to love myself, I had no idea what that meant, nor how to go about it. Love myself? You might as well have been speaking a foreign language. Loving yourself does not mean that you indulge every desire, whim, or impulse. Nor does it mean that you become infatuated with yourself, per se.
Loving yourself means that you take good care of yourself. It means you get rid of all those false voices that say you are defective, incompetent, unattractive, unlovable—whatever it may be. You begin to see more clearly negative voices of conditioning, and you discover that they are nothing other than conditioning. You slowly learn to break free from them, affirming your inherent self-worth, not because you have done anything or are any particularly way. You are inherently loveable simply because you exist. It is your birthright; it is the gift of being a human being. You accept yourself as you are, and allow yourself to grow and change in the direction of greater peace and harmony.
Self-hatred creates destruction and discontent. As you learn to love yourself, you break free from these negative tendencies and learn to treat yourself with the dignity and respect that is due to every human being.
As you learn to love yourself, as your own heart heals, the natural impulse is for love to flow outward. Your relationships begin to change. You begin to share love with other people. You begin to discover that love does most certainly exist. Yet this love is not a commodity. It is not something that can be earned through merit. Love just shows up. It shows up sometimes on this path of life. You might experience it with your best friend or your lover, maybe a child, or even a parent. As you explore it, you will discover that the love is there first. The love just shows up, and then you find out why it is there.
If you have ever had a particularly close love relationship, maybe with a dear friend, you will see how this is the case. Chances are you felt an attraction, a pull, a love toward that particular person. As you get to know them more and more, you discover that the love is there for a reason. Maybe it is there to teach you something, to help you grow, to help you change. Now the fact is that love is always there, has always been there and will always be there. It is simply easier to experience in relation to other people with whom you have a heart connection.
The biggest challenge with love for most people is the desire to cling, the desire to keep this something that we call love. Yet continual change is the nature of everything. So you must learn to relax on this path of love. You must learn to relax and allow love to come and go, to ebb and flow as it may. In this way, love can lead you to greater and greater freedom. You enjoy being with your friends, your family, your lover, but you also know how to be alone. When you are together, there is love. When you are alone, there is also love. You let everyone be free to do as they may. You are free to be as you are; to do as you do. They are free to be as they are; to do as they do. When you come together, it is a beautiful sharing. When you are apart, it is also lovely. You learn to float with the tide of love, coming and going, enjoying and relaxing.
You slowly learn to love the love. You learn to follow the love. If love leads you into yourself for a while, go there. If love leads you to particular people for some time, go there. If it then leads you elsewhere, just follow the love. For ultimately, you are love itself, only most of us do not know it. As you learn to follow love, you discover that it always guides you, teaches you, and informs you.
In speaking of love in relationships, one of my beloved spiritual teachers, Sri Nisargaddatta Maharaj said the following:
“You are neither the husband nor the wife. You are the love between the two.”
Allow your life to be a journey, an exploration. Inquire into this something called love; this force that permeates everything. Explore it within yourself; explore it outside of yourself. Follow it where it leads you, and you are guaranteed to learn something that you don’t already know. You are guaranteed to learn something about life, about love, about yourself, and about everyone else.
May love fill your heart always.