On the journey of unleashing my good heart fully and becoming a better person, I have read all sorts of self help books. One thing I found all these books have in common is how much they see self-love as a key component to any growth and self development.
Love is a topic that is talked about so casually, but I wonder whether we really have made the effort to think about what it means to us? Might be different to what it means to other people? What is your personal definition of love?
From love being an emotion, attachment, empathy or to the need to being understood, I have heard a range of explanations. All will be correct for the person I have asked.
In his book Karma Yoga, Swami Vivekananda said, "our first duty is not to hate ourselves, because to advance we must have faith in ourselves first and then in God. He who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God." Might be a first step towards loving ourselves fully and purely: having faith in ourselves.
On the journey of understanding love, and the connection of love to the need of being understood - I'm still trying to understand - I have realized one thing: Just as important as it is to receive love, it is important to give love; just as important as it is to give love, it is to receive love.
Based on my own thoughts and experiences, receiving love requires just as much effort, as giving love. Receiving love requires the thinking, that the received love is deserved. In my past, people have tried to show me love, and thinking I wasn't worthwhile, it lead to heartbreak on both ends. Why? Because I never believed the love I received to be genuine. This is not only applicable in between lovers, this is also applicable between sisters, brothers or other family members. It is so easy to turn a genuine act of love into something like "they are just saying that to fix the past mistakes they did". I had somehow underestimated the work it takes to reevaluate the significant effort needed to fully receive love.
The challenge I kept seeing, is to let go of having to "owe" someone, once any form of love is received. I take reference here to all five love languages: affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and gifts. In all variations of gifting love to me, having an open heart and mind to receive that love, and be grateful for it as a genuine act of love, requires just as much effort.
Being grateful for love received has a completely different vibe to it, than feeling guilty or even doubting the love received.
I can only recommend to work on opening your heart and gracefully receiving all the world is gifting you through its various moments and sources.
Living far away from any loved ones, I have taken concrete efforts into investing in my relationships, with my sisters, parents, cousins, aunts and close friendships.
First step of course is trying to understand the preferred love language on the receiving end of the love you are trying to give. With that in mind, you can make hearts light up, like you have never seen before. It's literally like magic.
Swami Vivekananda writes: "The word love is very difficult to understand; love never comes until there is freedom. There is no true love possible in the slave. If you buy a slave and tie him down in chains and make him work for you, he will work like a drudge, but there will be no love in him. So when we ourselves work for the things in the world as slaves, there can be no love in us, and our work is not true work. This is true of work done for relatives and friends, and is true of work done for our own selves.
Every act of love bring happiness; there is no act of love which does not bring peace and blessedness as its reaction. Real existence, real knowledge, and real love are eternally connected with one another, the three in one, where one of them is, the others also must be; they are the three aspects of the One without a second - the Existence - Knowledge - Bliss."
Contemplating on Swami Vivekananda's words, I had read somewhere, that with the receival of love, comes the biggest fears. Once you fall in love with someone, you tend to develop a strong fear of losing that love. Based on this the word "philophobia" developed: the fear of love. Love can heal fear, and fear can make you act in ways that actually lead to losing that love. The intertwining of both love and fear with each other are for me proof of the existence of Non-Duality. Being conscious about Swami Vivekananda's words, I see a strong distinction in between pure love and attachment. This makes "giving love" not as easy as it sounds. Giving love does not necessarily require a concrete action or advise. Giving love can also just mean, lending your shoulder, listening, being there for someone else, without actively doing anything. Sometimes doing nothing or not judging, can be sufficient for another person, and can even be the strongest declaration of love to someone. Finding that balance, following your intuition on how best to express love to your loved ones (same as receiving love) requires deep contemplation on your end.
I can only recommend to work on opening your heart and gracefully giving love to all the world without any reason. Try to love someone, you don't understand; try to love someone, you don't necessarily like.
Love and Attachment:
Considering this is just such a common pattern: the confusion between love and attachment, I wanted to share Swami Vivekananda's thoughts on its connection: "Wherever there is attachment, the clinging to the things of the world, you must know that it is all physical attraction between sets of particles of matter - something that attracts two bodies nearer and nearer all the time and, if they cannot get near enough produces pain: but where there is real love it does not rest on physical attachment at all. Such lovers may be a thousand miles away from one another, but their love will be all the same; it does not die, and will never produce any painful reaction. […] When you have succeeded in loving your husband, your wife, your children, the whole world, the universe, in such a manner that there is no reaction of pain or jealousy, no selfish feeling, then you are in a fit state to be unattached. […] the real love makes us unattached."
I find his words so beautiful, there is nothing more I can add to explain it further. Let it sink in.
Recently I thought, what if the love - that connection between two human beings, could be experienced with all humans? Imagine a world, where with a little effort in receiving love from strangers to giving love to strangers, we could create a world filled with peace?
What if the purpose of loving another human being thoroughly and purely, is to teach you what is possible with all beings?
What if love is a gift and is meant to be seen as a glimpse of a feeling that we can experience with all beings.
Join me on this journey to change for the better, embrace the connection to our own good hearts, gift love from our good hearts and open-heartedly receive all love gracefully.
Let's unleash the goodness in our hearts!