Changing our Definition of Love – First of All Towards Ourselves

(This is the first part in a series on Love)

I find myself pondering, often, over the plight of us human beings who are so desperately searching for that “something” that will fill us up and make us feel, finally, whole and “at home”.

It is a problem that has been with us for millennia, as the various myths and religions tell us  throughout the world. The search for wholeness, for a feeling of being connected and safe, and the need to know that our lives and our struggles have purpose and meaning is one of the deepest within the human psyche. The interesting thing is that it is actually a sign that we have reached an important phase in our evolution: we are now aware7551740-sunrise-behind-tall-grasses (Martha-PC's conflicted copy 2013-04-14) that we are individuals, and that on some levels we are separate; we are “different” and differentiated from those around us, and our connection to the underlying source of life is something that is no longer an unquestioned given. We must consciously cultivate our awareness of the Self on this new level of being, and integrate our acknowledgement that we are a part of it along with our growing awareness of ourselves.

Over the last few decades there has been a huge development in our ability to take care of this need, at least on certain levels. The expansion of new approaches to spirituality, along with huge strides made in science and technology, have given us all kinds of information, techniques and tools that can help us gain greater understanding of who we are and what we are here to do. Today in the wealthy Western countries, where for many basic survival needs are for the most part met, we have at our disposal a myriad of different ways to develop ourselves and reach greater levels of understanding of why we function – or don’t function – in certain ways, and how we can push ever forward into higher levels of expression on every plane – mental, emotional, physical and existential/spiritual. The technological revolution we are in the midst of has made so much information available that anything we need to know is quite literally at our fingertips, and we can connect with others all over the world, quickly and relatively effortlessly. What an exciting time!

However, as we all know, all this information and “how-to” does not automatically solve the deeper issues that affect each one of us and that in reality drive our consciousness and our lives – the things of the heart and soul. We can try to fix and piece together our feelings of discomfort and disconnectedness, our pain and our confusion, but often we only touch on the very surface of things, finding solutions that are not lasting. It seems to be quite telling that in the country I am from and again live in, the USA, despite our enormous wealth and access to these ideas and technologies, people struggle greatly with feeling good about themselves and their lives.

When we talk of “a change of heart” in some ways this is literally what we must strive for. Often our wounds and fears are deposited deep within us, and their origins stem from our earliest days in existence. The rejections and painful situations we experienced then can leave an imprint that today we know is actually biochemical, creating a sort of “set-point” that we tend to go back to, in a completely unconscious manner, no matter how well things are going in our lives.

Perhaps the great task and opportunity now arising for those of us who have attained a level of basic survival that consents us to address these deeper issues, is to learn a whole new definition of love.

Hands with heartsTo be able to create a new definition of love and wellbeing in our lives, we must become ready and willing to go back and look at some of the old wounds we are still carrying with us, and free up the energy that is frozen there. If we don’t, the old patterns can easily surge up when we are least expecting it, dragging us back into our old habits of thinking, feeling and acting, even when we don’t want to. Although we might not be one bit happy about it, the tendency will always be to go back to our “set point” that was determined in our early lives, often as far back as when we were still in the womb.

The only thing that can help us shift those old patterns and set-points and create new lives for ourselves and others, is awareness accompanied with forgiveness and love. When we gain a loving awareness of our patterns and how they came to be, we can begin to forgive those who helped create them, and move on to a deeper level of freedom in ourselves and in our lives.

But what is love? The love we are talking about here is not the romantic love or the sexual attraction that we tend to associate with this word (although those are expressions of the attractive power of love, too, and are doorways to being able to build love in an intimate relationship). Love is, in essence, an energy – it underlies everything in life, holding it all together, and nudging us onward, towards ever fuller expression. Rather than being a mere feeling, love is action. Love  supports and enhances the expression of life, in oneself and in others. As Erich Fromm first put forth in his classic “The Art of Loving”, love is an Art; it is an ability that we must learn, just as we learn to paint, or to play the piano, or even understand mathematics. It takes lots of practice, and we all make mistakes along the way; mistakes that, as we learn by correcting them, help us become masters in the Art of Loving.

If we have not received much “true” love in our families of origin, however, it can be very difficult to know exactly what it is, and how to love and care for ourselves, or receive it or give it in our adult relationships. Love is often confused withEmanating-Love Suzanne Toro excessive dependency, possessiveness and control over others; it is often colored by one’s own unmet childhood needs for attention and nurturing, along with the human tendency to confuse the kind of pleasure derived from dominating and gaining power over another with the pleasure of true connectedness.

Even though today the more evolved idea of a type of love that can include giving another the freedom to truly express and develop who they are is widely acknowledged as being an ideal to strive towards (so-called “unconditional love”), many of us fall far short of being able to express it – first of all towards ourselves!

So what is the solution?

The first step is to realize that we probably don’t know what “true” love is, and become willing to learn a new definition of it. The first love relationship we must examine as adults is the one with ourselves, because if we do not love ourselves, we cannot take good care of ourselves and have a life that is fulfilling, nor can we truly love anyone else with a love that nurtures and supports growth.

For example, when we are struggling with things in our lives, whether it be in our relationships, with our health, finances, work – everything and anything – we can often hear a voice below all the confusion, nudging us to get in touch with a certain person, or to begin doing a certain activity, and we intuitively know that this would be good for us, and would help us. This is the voice of love within us …. but it is up to us to take action to follow-up on it.

In fact, the first step in building a new definition of love always involves taking action of some sort. A gesture of love towards ourselves can be different for each of us, but some might be:

  • looking up resources on the internet;
  • taking the time to cook a healthy meal;
  • spending time outdoors doing activities we love to do;
  • reaching out to someone we know might have some ideas for us;
  • taking a nap;
  • facing up to an addiction and asking for help;
  • journaling or doing art;
  • contacting a professional and undertaking a journey of self-discovery and growth;
  • taking a walk (alone or with a friend);
  • taking a bath……

There are many ways we can say “I love you” to ourselves; what is important is that we begin to get some practice!

CustomIt is also important to keep in mind that one of our fundamental tasks in life is to learn to become connected in healthy ways, first of all in our inner relationship with our Higher Self (that some call God, or Spirit, or the Soul etc.), and then with others. We can practice connecting with ourselves by learning to connect to other human beings, and by helping each other grow and heal (although we must be careful so that this outer connection does not completely absorb us, and overshadow our inner one). Rather than remaining in our isolation and in the prideful self-reliance, which only perpetuate those old models of relationship that are the cause of much of the suffering and violence in the world, we can begin to open to new definitions of love, through practicing even the simplest of actions.

As we do so, we can discover a whole new life, and realize that we truly do have the power to change the world, beginning within our own hearts. As we begin to learn how to choose love for ourselves, by shifting sometimes even the tiniest thoughts and actions, we not only learn how to create love for our own lives, but we can become truly effective in how we share it with others.

Bottom line, we must step out of a passive stance with regards to love, and realize that we can become active Creators of love, from wherever we are at in this particular moment. Even the simplest of actions can create a quantum of love.

Becoming active Creators is the first step in putting a stop to being victims of our painful pasts and even of our painful present. By choosing love and beauty, even in the smallest ways, we become Artists of our lives, capable of transforming even the most painful experiences into sources of energy and growth for ourselves and others. red_rose_208230

My hope is that those of you who read me can be inspired to take action today, in even the smallest way, to show yourself you truly care about yourself, and that you are ready to stop waiting for love to come from ourside, and realize that the first step must come from inside, from your own decision to love yourself, and to begin to take some action to show it.

Whatever your gesture might be, no matter how big or small, if you do it with the intention to learn to love yourself, you will see that it is not only possible, but that the ripple effects will touch all those around you.

As Antonio Mercurio says in his Cosmoartistic Pact for Beauty,

“Today is a new day and I choose love and I choose beauty.

Love that is a fusion of truth, freedom and the love force.

Beauty that is a synthesis of opposites and a fusion of pain, wisdom and art”.

My hope is that you will be as inspired by these words as I have been throughout the years, and join me today in focusing on just even one little action we can take to bring greater love and beauty into our own lives, and therefore into the lives of those of others, and into life itself.

Thanks for sharing the journey!

(This is the first part in a series on Love)