The most effective medicine
Here on earth
Is love unconditional.
– Sri Chinmoy
To love and be loved is something we all wish to cultivate – either consciously or unconsciously. Yet, we can go through life without giving it the attention it deserves. Love can create heaven on earth, and its absence can create the opposite, as William Shakespeare writes. “Absence from those we love is self from self – a deadly banishment.” – 1
Sri Aurobindo writes:
“Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation.”
Intuitively, we feel this statement to be true, but at the same time true love can be elusive and difficult to experience. But, what we focus on we will ultimately experience. These are some suggestions for cultivating real love.
- Always remember the source. Don’t see other people as separate individuals, but think of the world as one family. Treat others as you would yourself. This is the secret of love.
- To love others, you have to be able to love yourself. This is not the egotistical self-love, but an awareness of your real self. It is also important to always be true to your inner self. Love does not mean changing who we are. We first have to accept ourselves as who we really are. If we have to change our principles and identity, this is a false basis of love. But, if we can accept and love ourselves, it will be much easier to love others.
- Think not what you can get from the relationship. Consider how you can serve and offer to other people. We need to give to other people in a way that also reflects our principles, and gives us joy. The secret is to feel joy from giving and helping others. Selfless love means we don’t have any expectations about how the other person will treat us.
“What is love? If love means possessing someone or something then that is not real love; that is not pure love. If love means giving and becoming one with everything, with humanity and divinity, then that is real love.”
– Sri Chinmoy 2
- You don’t have to like someone to love them. It is easy to find faults with other people. In human life, it is inevitable there will be clashes of temperament and personalities. But, even if we don’t like someone, we can still love them. Perhaps someone has the habit of being annoying – they are egotistical or vain. It is hard to like that kind of person. But, we can still offer love. To do this we have to see beyond their outward human personality, we have to imagine the qualities of the soul, which may be temporarily hidden behind their ego. If we find that difficult, we can simply offer good will. You can inwardly say ‘peace be with you’ or something similar. We won’t say it outwardly as it will be misunderstood. But, if we inwardly offer some good will, some positive thoughts, it prevents us thinking of their negative qualities. It reminds us we can still love, even if there are outer difficulties.
- How to Love difficult people? It is a mistake to feel that to love someone means we have to give them what they ask for. Real love means we will consider their real needs and not necessarily what they demand. If a young child wanted to take poison, the mother would never allow it. If someone places an emotional burden on us, we don’t have to encourage it. Love may require a degree of detachment, it may require point out to those who we love, there are better ways of being. It is good to have empathy and sympathy with other people, but that doesn’t mean we need to agree with their viewpoint. We can have sympathy with their position, and offer practical ways for them to choose the best course. But, we don’t have to feel responsible for their actions and choices.
“The success of love is in the loving – it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done.”
– Mother Teresa
- Put yourself in other people’s position. If you can see life from other people’s point of view, you can feel that given their situation, you might have come to the same view point or way of life. Even if you wouldn’t have done the same, it is still good to see life from their perspective.
- Observe don’t judge. Real love should never have a feeling of superiority or inferiority; we can observe the decisions and actions of other people, but it should be without a sense of judgement. Judgement ossifies and divides. It creates a sense of separation. Merely observe and suggest there are different ways to live, and perhaps these ways give more joy.
- Forgiveness. If we observe and don’t judge, we are practising forgiveness. Forgiveness, means we forget their weakness, we feel we have not been hurt. It is quite common to hold onto the thought of being hurt by another person. In our thoughts, we think how our life has been made harder because of the other person. Real forgiveness requires a sea change in thought. Let go of these thoughts which remember how we have been maligned and hurt. If we can reject these thought patterns, we can really forgive and make room for love.
“Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous, love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. Love does not come to an end.”
– Corinthians 13.4
- Remember, that the feeling of being wronged requires our participation. If we hold onto thoughts we have been hurt, that is what we will experience. With this we will not want to really love the other person because we focus on how they have hurt us
- However, if we practise forgiveness, we decide to no longer make an issue over past wrongs. We start our mind with a clear slate, we no longer harbour feelings of being hurt but move forward and live only in the present moment. This is perhaps easier to preach than practise, it can take real courage to forget past wrongs and let go; but we have to be aware we always have a choice what we hold onto. Don’t hold on to the wrong things if they make us unhappy and prevent us experiencing the joy of love.
- Treat other people as part of yourself. It is said in the Bible, we should love the neighbour as thyself. The real secret of this statement is that our neighbour is really part of ourselves. When we love other people we are loving the wider self, and not just the narrow self. If you can really feel the common source of humanity, you will realise that love does not involve sacrifice, because who is sacrificing to whom? When we love others, we merely love a different manifestation of ourselves.
- Heaven and Hell – Love is its own reward. Hate is its own penalty. If we love in a divine way, we can experience heaven on earth. If we are embittered with hate, we can also experience hell here on earth. The bridge between heaven and hell is as short as our decision whether to cultivate love.