I remember in my early 20’s I was on a retreat with a friend who was into yoga and meditation at the time. The teacher, obviously a well-respected guru, kept talking about love, that we are love, love is the only answer, find the love, feel the love… and I was completely lost. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I looked around me and no-one else seemed confused. I tried desperately to feel the love he was pointing to, but the more I tried, the more desperate I felt. So I smiled and tried to look spiritual. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel love, but it wasn’t something I could easily access. It was like I had to start digging a huge hole to discover a treasure but I didn’t have a shovel. I conjured up ideas about romantic love, cute doggies, hallmark cards (if you remember them), hearts and chocolates and sunsets and beaches, but somehow it all felt false. I knew what it was like to be infatuated… but love? Gimme a break…
Clearly, I had some heart-opening to do. But I do think the word ‘love’ is highly misunderstood and puts a tremendous pressure on people and relationships to feel this thing. I’ve learned a little since then. It is a verb and also a noun. It is not something we find outside of ourselves. It is always felt within. It is the same universal feeling but it is different for everyone.
How is love: it is at the source of you, felt in the heart, not an idea or thought in the head
What is love: It is what is left when all the conditioned thoughts, beliefs, fears and worries have left. It is what remains.
Why is love: It is the most powerful, invisible force in the universe. It moves countries, people, parents, to act in an incredibly selfless way for a higher good.
Where is love: always felt within, found within, uncovered within
When is love: In the present moment. Love is always in the now. Here and now.
We cannot find love by going to look for it. It is already here. But we can create the conditions for it. Most often those conditions involve connection.
How? Think of the qualities you associate with love. Perhaps warmth, kindness, relaxed, freedom, smiles, presence, acceptance, open-heartedness, giving unconditionally?
Think of someone who has loved you. What did that feel like? What was it like to be in their presence?
Or, think of someone you love unconditionally. What does that feel like when you think of them?
Did you notice I did not mention quotes, ideas, sunsets or roses? Love is a quality that is always here but we notice it in moments. It cannot really be described, but it is at the heart of everything when fear, stress, attachments such as wanting and aversion fall away. We can create the qualities and conditions for love where ever we are because love is in us. It is a state that does not demand or expect. It simply is.
Cultivate the conditions of love for yourself. You cannot feel for someone else what you cannot feel in yourself first. Don’t worry, Don’t search. Simply invite and enjoy.
Love in action. Think of those times that are completely connected, without resistance, like sitting in a big vat of chocolate. For me, I recall the following moments: walking my dog up to meet my youngest son from the bus and seeing his small body rise at the top of the hill; when I sit in complete receptivity with a client, magic happens; watching the sunrise in absolute quiet (oops, I did say sunrise, but it’s not the sunrise itself, it’s me in the moment of it); moments in couples counselling or in my own relationship when one partner suddenly realizes, with empathy, the experience of another, with no roses or chocolates in sight. Laughter with friends or another person, all guards are down. Often love can be accompanied by an overwhelming rising of tears as we tend to hold emotions in our lungs, or an incredible feeling of being at home in your body. You might experience something different and I would love to hear it too.
Love does not mean you stay in conditions or relationships that don’t work.
It doesn’t mean you are wrong if you feel angry, resentful or jealous.
It means you move towards creating the conditions that can help you be loving towards yourself, and then you will know what to do from there.
There is one condition that does need to be there to cultivate love: presence. You need to be here in order to feel it. Love can’t find you in the past or the future. It can only find you here.
A simple practice is just to cultivate the condition of presence. You can practice this anytime you need a calm centre. Bring your hand to your heart if possible.
Breathe deeply : “I am here in my breath”
Feel any part of your body: “I am here in my body”
I am here.
Do this often, returning again and again to you, your heart and your presence, without judgement. Love will slowly reveal itself as you let go of resistance to it.
Put simply, love is a state of non-resistance. My 20 year old self can put down her shovel, stop digging, and sit in that hole 🙂
Love is indeed the answer, but not one you search for.
Stay tuned for the next installment and…