The Blossoming of Love
Let your love flow outward through the universe,
To its height, its depth, its broad extent,
A limitless love, without hatred or enmity.
Then as you stand or walk,
Sit or lie down,
As long as you are awake,
Strive for this with a one-pointed mind;
Your life will bring heaven to earth.
~ The Sutta Nipata
This is one of the most painful things I can admit. I don’t know if I have ever known Love. Lust, yes. Attachment, Passion, yes. Compassion – perhaps. And the most hurtful thing I can say is – how many have?
What is Love? Who has ever known Love? Love is where the ego is not. Love is the opposite of self-centeredness; it is what lies underneath the little me. When the ego completely disappears, all that remains is love. And how many people have lost themselves, how many have had glimpses of this freedom? Only a handful of people – the mystics and the saints.
The false name of love
Love is perhaps one of the most corrupted words. It has been so defiled that nobody knows what it means any more. I love chocolate. I love this song. I love you. I love my son. I love my friends. I love you, my prince charming! Yet all these statements are far from what is real. Some of them a mothers love for her children, perhaps come tantalizingly close, but so often they are merely egoic games parading as sorry substitutes.
All these false loves are nothing more than clinging, attachment, duty, a weapon. Theyve been straitjacketed by rules and structures and conditions and games. And at the core, they are all about the self.
Love is the opposite. It has no clinging. It doesnt get attached. It gives and thinks nothing of getting. A romantic thinks of herself, a lover thinks of the other.
I think back to all the broken hearts Ive tried to console. What was so great about them anyway? I would ask. Hes the only one who told me I was special. He drove me everywhere He made me feel sexy. She gave me good sex. She cooked for me. She was prettier than all the others Ive had. There was nothing about the person who left them it all came back, ultimately, to them.
The feeling we call romantic love is nothing more than a biological, selfish urge no different from our hunger for food or air – given a set of rules to form the dating game. And that is what romance is about simply fulfilling each others egos. You make me feel special, I make you feel loved.
And when that happens, love becomes a duty, a knife held at their throat. “I love you!” you say to the other, and that really means – Son, you have to make me proud with your grades, Father, you have to provide for me, Mother, you have to forgive me for crashing your car, Mary, now you have to sleep with me, John, now you cannot sleep with her, for you belong to me.
Duty comes with conditions. Love is unconditional. Duty obliges the other, Love obliges you. As Osho said they have accepted your love but they could have turned it down!
The doing of love
Between true Love and false love would be cultivated love love that is a performance, practiced, and trained. Perhaps a better name would be compassion, for the word has not been polluted as much.
This love is commendable and beautiful but it is still not Love. This love grows your consciousness, preparing your entire being as soil for the flower. And as the soil grows more fertile, the seed that is inside naturally begins to blossom.
Love is the opposite of the ego, the exaggerated sense of self. Where love is, the self cannot exist. The self is built on separation, fragmentation and exclusion, love is built on inclusion. The root of the ego is selfish – it sees you as alone in an alien world, and it wants to protect you. It twists Love into the false love, the weapon, the duty, the clinging. And yet this Love is ever present, a sun covered by the clouds of your ego, waiting to shine through when the winds are right.
Practice love, then. And let it slowly become Love. Give and share unconditionally and selflessly self-lessly. It gives you a taste for some, the first in years of not thinking selfishly. And for that brief moment the ego is not present. Smile, simply for the sake of brightening her day, not because you want something from her. Caress him, simply because you want to ease his pain, not out of duty. Let that act slowly remove the illusion of separation.
The being of Love
And when the self completely falls away, Love is all that remains. It is no longer cultivated; no longer something you have to remind yourself to do. When you practice love so deeply the lover disappears, the act of loving disappears, when the loved disappears, and when it all melts into one. Love becomes who you are.
And I feel like a fraud just for writing about it, for I don’t know if I have ever tasted it. All I would have had are glimpses. One such event sticks out in my mind because it came so suddenly and provided such sharp contrast it turned hell into a heaven in a flash.
It was during a nasty argument with an ex-girlfriend. I was striding angrily in the streets, trying to out-shout her on the phone. Both our petty little egos were running rampant Attack! Attack! Defend! Defend! You liar! You backstabber!
And I suddenly realised that none of it mattered. Within a moment, there was nothing to defend, nothing to attack. Everything just seemed so beautiful. I had no idea what happened and I have no description for it. All her verbal attacks continued pouring into my ear, but instead of the anger I felt before all I felt was love. All I wanted was to stop her pain. It felt different from cultivated compassion I didnt have to tell myself to be kind and loving. I simply didnt have a choice compassion was all I could do.
The argument soon changed because I didnt react. I just kept quiet and listened, and she calmed down. We hung up on good terms, and I went home to bed. When I awoke the feeling was gone, and all the things that didnt matter began making me angry again we soon degenerated into petty, meaningless argument once more.
Was that night the flowering of Love, or was it just a trick of the mind? I dont know. But it brought shame to my previous ideas of what love was. I had talked so much about giving without wanting anything in return; loving the other without any thought of the self but until that night, I have never lived it.
Love has to begin with you
How do we find Love, then? Start by loving ourselves. Does that sound shocking? This goes against everything we have been taught! From the moment I was old enough to listen, Ive been hearing love your country, love your planet, love your parents, your religion, your enemies, and your friends. And yet, how many of them ever say love yourself? I was in my twenties when I first heard it!
But it makes so much sense! How do we go out and give what we dont have? If you are filled with sadness and anxiety, how do you give out love? If you reach deep into your being and find only anger, what will be in your palms as you open your hands?
Love your neighbour as you love yourself, said the Bible. Strange, because everyone focuses on the first part only and forgets the second. You only love your neighbour to the extent you love yourself. Without Love in your being, your actions and actions have no root; theyre empty and superficial, like a plastic flower.
Love yourself and watch Today, tomorrow, always, said the Buddha. This time it is the opposite. Everyone focuses on the second part, and forgets the first. I have been immersed in Buddhist teachings for many months, and until recently all Ive heard about are the miracles of watching, of mindfulness. Watch your emotions and thoughts. Let them be, and they will lose their grip on you. Be the watcher, and let your life transform.
Watching, watching always the watching. Everyone seems to have forgotten the first part of the teaching. And thats why meditation is so hard to many beginners. Isnt meditation supposed to make me feel better? they cry.
When I decided I had enough of being depressed, I wanted to fight my way out of it. Off I went on my quest, consuming books upon books on spirituality, psychology, and meditation. Your thoughts cause your emotions, said the psychologists. Change your thoughts and watch your depression fade. And so I fought my thoughts, I countered them, I tried to change them, and I tried to silence them.
And already the blade of self-violence began cutting deeper. What is there to fight? Im depressed because I fight myself, I hate myself, I struggle against myself. Fighting the urge to fight myself. Doesnt that sound insane? Its like preparing for peace by going to war; preserving virginity by having sex.
In the end, I began watching my thoughts. And watching my depressed mind wasnt much better. My mind was going wild, cutting me with a dull blade, and now I had to sit back and watch it happen. And I kept at it for months, thinking that it would help. But it didnt. And all because the books missed the first part of the Buddhas teaching. If you dont love yourself, and you watch you watch as the dark dungeons of your psyche open and the contents spill out you might go insane!
So, love yourself. Does it sound simple? Of course I love myself! I hear you cry. Do you really? Loving yourself is a major achievement. There is so much poison to undo, and it takes than just affirmations, endlessly playing in your mind. The very people weve been told to love those are often the ones who have condemned us and judged us.
Please, stop condemning yourself – everyone else has done it for us. Again and again, far more than we need. Isnt it necessary, you might think? What about the murderers and the rapists if we dont judge them, what will happen to us? They need care more than they need judgement. The more you judge, the worse they become.
Where does self-condemnation come from? Our parents, our society, our peers, our colleagues, our bosses, religions, teachers, country. Since the day we were born, we were thrust into a world of shoulds and should-nots. Theyve told us what was lovable and what was not. They tried to mould us in their image, tried to get us to live out their fantasies. They told us to walk and talk one moment and sit down and shut up the next.
Sometimes they mean well. Sometimes they dont. But it doesnt matter we are being judged, again and again and again, and each time we dont fail we suffer condemnation.
Sometimes the people who took care of us were openly abusive. And in our child-like innocence we saw them as all-mighty, capable of doing no wrong. When we were abused, we thought we somehow deserved it. If they were Godlike, they could do no wrong and it must be something wrong with us, if we were treated like this.
And so we carry around a strong sense not good enough. The most common sign of this is the voice in our heads. The psychologist Eugene Sagan, in the fantastic volume Self Esteem, called this voice the pathological critic. For some people, it sounds like their own voice. For others, it is the voice of their parents, or another authority figure. Sometimes it comes in the form of feelings, thoughts, movies and images. This voice constantly judges and criticises and compares, and has been around for so long that many of us dont even know it exists. Psychologists believe that all of us carry around this critic for some a minor annoyance, for others a lifetime of tyranny. Thats rightall of us.
How many times have I replayed memories in my head of prior insults, or worried about my finances, about my future, about where I am in life? What were these really about? Were others really insulting me in my own head? Was I really concerned about the future? No. It was disguised self-condemnation.
The antidote? Radical, unconditional love. Loving yourself for everything. Suck the poison out, end the judgement, right now!
You might think what if I am a hurtful, hateful person? Does loving myself for these actions mean that I allow myself to go out and do more? How can you? You sow hate and pain because thats all you have inside you. When you transform that hate into love, what is going to happen? Whats going to overflow from your being, from your soul? Dont you want to find out?
And when you love so strongly, how can you ever be hurt? Love yourself as you are; love whatever is happening outside you; love the moment as it is. You love the time you spend with your lover, you love the moment that they leave you how can your heart ever break? You love the castle you dine in, you love the little cardboard box you sleep in how can you ever be upset? You love the trees and the rocks as you take a bus, you love the wind and the clouds as you drive your fancy car what can you ever lack?
The key to transformation
And the key to transformation is not to be something else. You can never be anything other than what you are, right now. Love is not a result of perfection; perfection is the result of love. Stop, just for a moment, your seeking and searching, for that sort of perfection is neurotic and impossible. Your real perfection is to relax into yourself into being yourself completely; accepting your flaws and humanity exactly as they are.
I remember an old girlfriend; every time we became intimate, she would cover a part of her ribs with her hand, refusing to let me see it. It took me weeks to find out she carried a deep scar there, but I never did ask what caused it. One day she allowed me to see it, but her face showed fear perhaps expecting judgement or rejection. I was young I did and said a lot of stupid things with her, but that day I managed to do something right. I spent a minute looking at the scar, not knowing how to react. Then, without thinking, I leaned over and kissed it. We remained silent for a few minutes, and she began crying. I asked her why, afraid I might have hurt her, but she said no-one had ever accepted her that way before. No one not even herself.
Go in front of a mirror, a full-length one if available. Strip naked. Do it after a shower, or when you wake up in the morning, before you paint your face, or put your power suit or your cool leather jacket on. Leave nothing uncovered. Look at yourself in the mirror, and dont avert your gaze. Dont grimace, or flinch, or judge any part of your body.
Wear a smile on your face, and one in your heart. Can you do it? Its so simple smile with your heart. Imagine your heart smiling. Then broaden it until you smile with your whole being. And just accept yourself. Look at every part of your body; direct your smile at each part the scars, the injuries, the illnesses, the features you find attractive, the features you hate, the fat, the skinniness, the cellulite.
Take all the time you need. Touch your pain, your flaws, and your scars the way you would touch a lover. Accept them so much, direct a loving energy towards them, think loving thoughts, and smile at them so much that you begin loving them. Loving yourself, not despite of these flaws, but because of them. Do it everyday, as much as you can. Undo the condemnation and the judgement that has been piled on you since birth.
Look into the mirror solidly; look at your body, perfect as it is. Why is it not perfect? It is only imperfect in your thoughts, the little voice in your head that runs the “shoulds” and “should nots”. Your thighs should be slimmer; your biceps should be bigger; you should not have cancer. What if you allowed yourself to think that it was perfect as it is?
Move from your body, and look deep into your heart, and look at the anxiety, the depression, the self-rejection, the hatred, the anger, the fear, the loneliness. Smile at them, embrace them, and love them. Relax into them. Create a loving emotion and feeling around them; say yes to them with your whole being.
Look carefully into your head; look at the obsessive thoughts, the memories, the movies, the sounds, the negative self-talk, the self-condemnation. And do the same. Analyse your thoughts each painful thought or memory can be traced back to a core self-hatred, for all hatred is self-hatred and all rejection is self-rejection.
What you cant love, accept. What you cant accept, forgive. And if you cant forgive them, forgive yourself for not being able to forgive. Dont force yourself into doing anything youll just tense up again. Relax into it. Isn’t that the message of the entire emotional mastery series? There – nearly ten articles and you don’t have to read them any more – it was just summed up for you.
Love yourself for everything. There is nothing to run away from, nothing to hide. The entire blog so far has been about radical acceptance and love. Love your emotions without having to act on them, and watch them turn into peace. Love your mind, and watch it work for you instead of against you. Love your body and watch it slowly begin to glow.
Carry the love around
And carry this around you for the rest of the day. Create a loving energy around and in yourself whenever you can. Think loving thoughts, talk to yourself well. Pause. Just pause. Stop, whenever you remember to, look at yourself, and accept. Have you fallen out of acceptance? Its such a deeply ingrained habit that we fall back into self-criticism so easily.
One day youll be able to look at your flaws and begin laughing. What flaws? you might ask. What flaws, indeed? There is no such thing.
That is real perfection. Not the perfection of the neurotics who hold impossible standards for themselves and others, but the perfection of the holy men. I have heard: Enlightenment is not about becoming divine or transcending humanity its about becoming fully human. Realising that you are perfect as you are – celebrating who you are and where you are.
Then soon youll be able to accept everything else as it is. This is meditation the relaxation into yourself, and from there, into the world. Accept the world as it is around you. If the divine is everywhere, then why reject him? What do you hear now? The birds chirping? Thats the divine coming to you. A dog barking, a car honking, the neighbours fighting? Dont reject it! Relax into it.
Sometimes, seekers on a spiritual or religious path have it the hardest of all. I should be compassionate. I should be blissful. I shouldnt be stressed. I should be kind. Even stranger, after reading this article: I should love myself more. A very subtle, cleverly disguised form of perfectionism and self-violence.
How do you know when youre making progress?
And how do you know that you have loved yourself? Can you be alone, without the need for distraction, music, entertainment? Can you simply sit and be alone; enjoying your own company the same way you would enjoy the company of a perfect lover?
Even if you have blocked out the external world, what then? Is that peace? No, for the world still arises inside you. And so people run and hide from themselves. Whenever they are alone, they read a book, get drunk, or call a friend. Before, it was TV addiction – spending hours a day in front of the tube. Now it’s the Internet, people are getting addicted to the email, to the instant messengers. Or they will go out with people they dislike, people who bore them, anything and anyone simply to avoid being in their own company.
When your glass overflows
And when does Love come? If self-love is cultivated love, when does it become Love?
When your being glows with ecstasy, when your eyes begin to dance, when every cell in your body glows with joy. When you have transformed yourself, when you can totally and truly love yourself for all your so-called failings and blemishes, when your love becomes so strong, so deep, and so overwhelming that you feel the urge to out and share it. When you cant resist sharing, when you give and give without telling yourself to indeed, when you cant stop yourself that is Love.
And you cant force it. Nor can you find it. When it comes, it comes naturally. Love and compassion no longer becomes something you cultivate, but becomes who you are.
Imagine a circle. That’s what Love is. A circle is not a circle if it is not perfect. A small dent, a small defect, and it’s no longer a circle. And that’s what practice love is for. With practice love, we begin drawing the line, slowly curving it until the two ends meet in a perfect shape and then Love blossoms.
Finally, the start of the promised love and compassion series! Hope you enjoyed it, because its going to be a big one!
Great thanks here to Osho for inspiring this series with his fantastic books. Controversial he might be, but he is still one of the finest teachers of Love I’ve ever come across.