Love and Loving

I just purchased a new voice recorder so I can capture some of the ‘downloads’ I receive throughout my day, my week, my life. I haven’t received it yet … but thought I’d sit down and write in a free flow manner what has been coming (or being downloaded) for me to pass along to some of my friends and readers.

So many people are searching for love these days, and wish for each of you that you find just that blessing. I have been married for over 45 years, and while it hasn’t always been easy or fun, it has taught me a great deal about love. No matter where you look, television, movies, books and billboards advertise the image of love. Growing up I watched the Donna Reed Show, the Nelsons and Leave It To Beaver. I thought those images I saw on television were the real deal … depicting how marriages and families worked and supported each other. When I watched movies like Beach Party or Dr. Zhivago I had the impression love was something to be found in another. Today isn’t any different.

We still see advertisements depicting love to be something that happens between two compatible young and pretty (or handsome) people. Some talk about the chemistry that ignites between them when they first see each other, or the sudden familiarity … as though they had ‘known each other’ or were mates from long, long ago. As the two come to know each other a little better the relationship begins to change and the chemistry that ignited suddenly doesn’t seem to have the same intensity as it did once before.

I’ve heard people talk about what they want in a partner … listing off various qualities they would hope to find in a person. Many speak of intellect, wanting to travel, and whether to have a family or not. But everyone talks about the other’s appearance … a few explaining it doesn’t really matter, while others demurely admit to its importance.

So what is love? Love is a quality of your heart. Isn’t it interesting that in all of the world there are so many places you can go to increase your mental capacity, your physical capabilities, and to enhance your physical appearance, but no where can you find a place where you can learn to develop your heart … your center for love and loving. Instead we sit back and wait for that certain someone (who will be able to check off some of the criteria on our list) to come along and bring to us the love we have been waiting for. We think that to love requires more than just ourselves. We think to be loving requires more than just ourselves.

Most people are under the impression that to be loved you must be lovable to the one who is expressing their love towards you. This idea leads you also to believe that if for some reason the other person has a change of mind or should meet someone else, they will no longer love you, making you question your ability to be lovable. If that person should decide to go away, your foundation for love is destroyed leaving you with what appears to be nothing. In this type of situation, to love puts you in a state of dependency, taking away your independence to love and be loving. Without your independence you begin to lose your sense of security, leading to fear, anxiety and eventually suspicion.

Love is a quality we all have. From an emotional standpoint, it is the very purpose of your heart. Love has nothing to do with finding that right person (who fits the list of criteria) and deciding whether they are lovable or not. If you step back and take a close objective look at yourself … wouldn’t you find some unlovable faults of your own? Yet, you are lovable! Right?! And what happens when you ‘find that perfect someone’ who loves you … do you worry they will recognize those faults within you and maybe change their mind? This is the vicious circle we get into when we don’t know what love really is.

If love is a quality we all have, then to perfect that quality we need to practice it. Just like the musical virtuoso, the magician, artist, mechanic, cook, or teacher … to become better at what you do, you practice. So begin practicing first on yourself. Begin by letting go of the idea that you need to find someone to give you love. Let go of that idea and replace it with the idea of you giving love. Look beyond the imperfections … and see the perfection. Give of yourself wholeheartedly … not half-heartedly where you give just so you can receive, or with fear that you might be rejected and nothing will come of it anyway.

Disliking people is so very, very easy. Finding fault with others is also very, very easy. Practice giving love to all those around you. If you want to be loved, you are looking for others to support you. If you want to love, you are looking at and moving towards your own spiritual growth. It is easy to love others if you love yourself first … and completely. Love your little imperfections and find the perfection in them … for they are a part of what makes you unique.

Loving yourself and knowing yourself is not the same thing. Ayya Khema once wrote that love is the warmth of the heart, the connectedness, protection, caring, concern and embrace that comes from acceptance and understanding for yourself. Once you have practiced that on yourself, you will begin to have a sense of ease about who you are, why you are, and how you are. Then you are ready to practice on others … recognizing they are just as unlovable at times as you are, with unhealthy thoughts like you.

We all have opportunities to practice love and loving each day in our lives. An old country western song says ‘love isn’t something that just happens; its something that we do’. Be wholehearted about your practice … with yourself and when ready, with others.

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