Changing our Definition of Love – part II

Love of Self as the Finest Art

Good morning, everyone !

solar-eclipse_1794744cToday there will be a partial solar eclipse, visible throughout much of North America, beginning at around 5 p.m. Central Time. Check out the NASA video clip I have on my home page (at the right of the page); it has some great info and also some fun suggestions about how to view the eclipse and play with the crescent-shaped shadows it will be casting.

Why tie the eclipse to my topic of Redefining Love and Love as an Art, and particularly my intention to continue to explore Love of Self as an Art, today?

I guess I will start out with a question. Did you know there was going to be an eclipse today? Do you know what an eclipse is, why eclipses happen?

No, I am not trying to throw trick questions at you, or make you feel bad if you don’t know. The reason I ask if you know about the eclipse is because knowing about what happens in a wider range around us, even as “far out” as in how the earth and the moon interact with the sun as they move around in space, requires a certain kind of attention and awareness.

It is quite likely that you have heard about the eclipse happening on the news or through a friend, but the knowledge of this astronomical event is just on the periphery of your awareness: you know it’s going to happen, you find it vaguely interesting, but you don’t give it much thought.

I am not saying that you “should” …. what we put our attention on in our lives is completely up to us, we are “free” to choose what is important to us, and for some of us things like eclipses are simply not as important as our business meeting, picking the kids up from school, or perhaps even just getting dinner ready!

Our daily lives are full of all kinds of big and small things, and we simply don’t have time to pay attention to the broader picture around us.

When we are too busy to pay attention to an eclipse, though, that is one thing – our lives are probably not going to suffer from missing out on this type of natural beauty. It can come and go and we are not the worse for not having been able to pay attention to it.

This is most certainly not the case, however, with how we are feeling about ourselves and our lives. We can push away our discomfort and pain, we can pretend that everything is fine, we can run away from what is bothering us in a million ways …… but try as we might, we can’t get away from it, and our lives ARE deeply affected by our inability, or our refusal, to look more closely, and begin to cultivate a deeper love and awareness of ourselves and our lives.

The thing is, it can be very scary to stop and look. Just as the ancients were terrified by eclipses, because they did not know why the sun was suddenly obscured, we can be terrified by what we assume will be changes that are too hard to make, if we really pay attention to how we are feeling about our selves and our lives.

We may be hanging on to people, jobs, places, things, habits, addictions of all sorts – to substances, money, power, etc. etc. etc., that we sense are simply not good for us, but the idea of letting them go is outrageous, because even though they may be causing us pain, they are familiar.

As I mentioned in my last post, often we are simply repeating patterns and lifestyles that are not good for us and others not because we “want” to be living that way: we do so because they are the only things we know.

We may not yet have had an experience of “real” love, for example, because our mothers and fathers did not know how to love us, and so we find ourselves continuously chasing after a certain type of connection, without ever really being able to find it; until we change our whole definition of what love looks and feels like, by first of all changing our relationship with ourselves, we can run after “love”, and that illusive feeling of being connected and whole, for our entire lives, and always come up empty handed.

 Other times we hang on to habits, lifestyles, routines, ways of thinking and acting that were passed down to us from our families or are “popular” in our society, even when we have a vague sense that they are not good for us; we unthinkingly repeat them, convinced we have no other choice, even though we are not living in alignment with our deeper, more authentic selves, and this personal dis-connect is causing us ever greater discomfort, and dysfunction in every aspect of our lives, including our physical health.

What to do?

First off, the one big thing that I know has been very difficult for me to shift, and I see in my work with others that it is a huge problem for them, too, is to redefine not just Love, but Love of Self.

What is Love of Self? For many, when they hear these words they automatically assume it has to do with hedonism and egocentric indulgence. Many think that if they love themselves, they will melt in a pool of self-centered inertia, or eat so many chocolates that they won’t ever be able to walk again, or, worse yet, they will completely forget about those who depend on them – spouses, children, friends, parents, co-workers etc. – and leave them to die of hunger or other types of equally catastrophic and tragic fates.

Ok, I adore hyperbole, and so of course given the chance I am going to exaggerate, but I think you get my drift.

Many of us equate love of self with self-indulgence and selfishness, and therefore end up “sacrificing” our wellbeing for the apparent good of others, only to create enormous tension within ourselves and our relationships due to our deprivation and the intense inner pain that of course arises from such self-abuse.

Of course there are those who are so self-centered that the needs and desires of others don’t even cross their radar, but these, too, are people who, in reality, don’t love themselves: “true” love is an exchange, and therefore implies also a love for and an exchange with another human being, where their needs and desires have equal value as ours (and here lies the great paradox, and the foundation of the great journey, of love – the synthesis of opposites inherent in the I – Thou exchange). Whereas the first and most important form of love is the one we must cultivate deep within ourselves, between our I Person and our Personal, or Higher, Self, the goals of the Self are never isolationist, based on only the satisfaction of our immediate needs and wants.

The goals of the Self are always geared towards growth, towards the deepest satisfaction of our most fundamental needs as human beings – the most important of which is Love – and the fullest possible expression of our unique gifts and talents; when we can become aware of this, we can begin to understand how important, indeed, our love of self, and our decision to cultivate a relationship with the Self, really is.Emanating-Love Suzanne Toro

Opening to such an awareness requires paying a bit of attention to whatever might be nagging us, wanting our attention …. like when hearing the news that announces the eclipse, we can decide to either pay attention, and begin to take action to explore what Love of Ourselves might mean for us today, and how we can cultivate it, or to just brush it under the rug, for one more day.

The choice is up to us, but if we stop for just a moment, and really listen, we might discover a whole new dimension of life and of beauty – something as simple and as awe-inspiring as an eclipse, but this time within our own hearts, and in our own lives.

This requires our attention, yes, but when we become willing to expand our awareness and our love for ourselves and our lives; when we manage to step out of our old convictions and routines long enough so we can begin facing our fears of change and the unknown, we can open to a greater level of truth, beauty, love and freedom, and we just might discover a depth of love and a joy for living that we never knew was possible before.

Next installment in the series on the Art of Love: Love of Others