Most of us have been taught that love is a commodity. Something someone either has for us or not. Something that can either be given or taken away, won or lost.
Thus, we become dependent on an ‘other’ to make us feel happy and secure. But any dependency can be fraught with distress and danger, because it leaves us at the mercy of someone else for our sense of well-being. This is my definition of Conditional Love.
Unconditional Love is when we are in love as a state of Being—with who we Are, in our reverence for life, and in how we meet the world. This doesn’t mean we are perfect, or don’t have occasional disgruntlements, difficulties or disappointments. But we can choose to learn to address our challenges in another way, and become the source of our own well-being. Therein lies our freedom.
When we’re coming from that place of being source instead of victim, we’re not searching for love, or placing the responsibility on someone else to make us feel good about ourselves and life.
How do we start? By becoming aware of the inner critical voice, and simply, gently, correcting it. By replacing the critical voice with a voice of ‘inner love’, and through that, practicing being our own Beloved.
Many of us justify our self-abuse, while hoping someone else will treat us well! We are cruel to ourselves in our thinking, which intensifies our suffering and reinforces our belief that we are unlovable or unloved. Instead, imagine speaking to yourself the way you would a precious child or lover. Imagine giving yourself your own kindness. Be gentle and generous. Practice patience and compassion. A simple rule to follow is, ‘If you wouldn’t speak to someone you love this way, you don’t get to speak to yourself this way.’
Not so easy when the habitual pattern has been unkindness. But actually very simple.
So start now. Put your hand on your heart and, silently or out loud, kindly say your name. Then say, “I love you. I’m here for you. I want you to be happy and at peace. I want you to have a beautiful life. I care for you and will support you. I am sorry for the ways I’ve hurt you. I will do my best to be kinder, from now on. I am grateful to be you.”
This is a practice you can do, any time, anywhere, every day. No one knows what you’re thinking. So why not think kindness, love and support? That is what we all want and need, and what we hope love will bring us. Bring it to yourself. Be the source of your own comfort and peace.
And then beam it out. Be a beacon. We do not need to wait to fall in love. We can ‘be’ in love, and generate that energy. All that we give flows through us first. So give it, right now. To the busboy, the checker, the person in the car next to you, a passerby on the street. To the sky, the leaves, your reflection in the light in the store window. Why wait another moment?
And when you forget, when you slip and become self-critical again . . . as soon as you catch it, stop and apologize. Apologize to yourself for having hurt yourself, and forgive yourself, with compassion for your own humanness and the inevitable mistakes that come with the challenges of beginning to build a new skill. Then start again.
This is a practice. A spiritual practice. You are unlearning the old, and finally beginning to be what you’ve always wanted: Love. So be gentle with yourself. You are worth the effort of your own commitment.
Doing this one thing—this one immensely powerful thing—will begin to change every aspect of your life. It will create love for you, from the inside-out.
And that is something no one can ever take away.