"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men and women; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects."
Once in a while I meet a very luminous elderly client in the art studio who glows from the inside - whose eyes are clear and bright - who sits solidly in his or her own soul with a peaceful countenance. When I do, I am always immediately curious about how they have lived their life. I met such a man a couple of years ago on his 87th birthday. He told me when he turned 40 years old he decided to dedicate his life to loving.
When I asked him to describe his life philosophy, he sounded like a wise sage that was tapped into the Universal wisdom. He said: "We are only human and everyone has certain weakness in their character. Some people do not get the basic thought pattern of love and are not ready to live the truth of love in their lives. At any cost we should forgive others. This is the workings of the universe. We are meant to play our part in making love stronger in the world. Love is a quality few people will turn down when they are offered it. There is a thought pattern to loving and caring about others that puts us into the right frame of mind. We build inward strength by loving others."
Just at we were finishing our conversation he softly said. "It should be said that many have a hard time being loving all of the time because they feel so hurt. You have to learn love through the hurt." This felt profound to me and taught me that it is possible to approach our relationships without expectations or goals of any kind. There can be no need to be made safe or make the other safe. We can approach another metaphorically naked, honest, and without fear if we are willing to give love. It is only when we are seeking to "get" our needs met in some specific and demanding way that we feel hurt and disappointed by love. When we are not afraid of being hurt, and are no longer clothed in self-protection, we can love others unconditionally. Love becomes safe when we are ready to give to another without expectations or demands.
Loving Through Hurt
Most of us have hearts that open and close depending on how we are treated in the past, how we feel about ourselves, and how our life experiences are going at the moment. Loving on a continual basis takes a deep commitment to honestly and continually look within at what is blocking our fullest expression of love. Often our beliefs about love are still based in the past and are about how we experienced love as children. We all have an ingrained love toleration point. This "love set-point" closes down enormous areas of relating to the world.
We may not realize that as a mature adult, it is possible to stand open and loving even with others are attacking us. We can get to the point where we no longer have to avoid getting hurt because we have done our inner work and we know that we are not guilty or bad. We have forgiven ourselves and have cleansed out most of our own guilt and self-punishment for all the times when we did not bring our best integrity to our life circumstances. We metaphorically have gone back and imagined our highest and most loving self handling all of our difficult life situations. We have forgiven ourselves and others for acting from fear and need. We have claimed the gifts we could have brought to the past, and we live those soul gifts now in our present day life.
We have forgiven ourselves for all our mistaken choices and made inner amends. We know that we can take care of ourselves even when someone is attacking us emotionally. When we love and accept all parts of ourselves, we know we will not crumble with hurt. We can move towards people and take risks in extending more love than we may have considered before. Suddenly, a person we have been afraid to approach feels accessible and even beautiful in their human vulnerability and our whole world opens up to love. Whatever beliefs we have in our psyches that block our loving will come up to be looked at when we dedicate ourselves to move closer to Unconditional Love and towards more connected relationships.
Cleansing the Heart
My experience is that if I keep my heart open for an extended period of time, often a layer of hurt or heartbreak from the past will come up to be cleansed. We store old pain in our hearts and often when we make the move to get closer to someone, we have to stop and let the searing pain of past hurt and rejection burn off from the past. The parts of ourselves that do not believe in love form an entire constellation of defensive behaviors that run underneath of our conscious understanding. Most of us have many parts of our psyche that turn away, resist, and reject love.
Psychologists Hal and Sidra Stone put it this way, "It is important to learn about how sub-personalities operate within us. Without this understanding, we are in the powerless position of watching different sub-personalities drive our psychological car while we sit in the back seat or, worse yet, hide in the trunk." It becomes a matter of great importance to discover who these selves who avoid love are and how they operate within us. This journey towards love is the evolution of our withdrawal away from love. It is a journey into the parts of ourselves that we have rejected and buried along the way. It is helpful to notice when we withdraw away from people for fear of being hurt because these are the places that we still hurt ourselves inside. Once we learn how to love ourselves in our rejected and hated places - in the places where we have not felt love before - we can gather up our courage and re-engage in love and connection once again.
It many seem strange to think of our "car"/psyche being driven by different selves that feel hurt and unloved, each demanding its turn in our consciousness, yet this is exactly the truth we must deal with on the path back to unconditional love - of ourselves and other people. We have usually been so conditioned to withdraw away from the possibility of unconditional love by the time we reach adulthood, we have lost connection to our True Being. We no longer know who we are or what we feel because we are trying to keep our rejected parts of self out of our awareness. Ultimately the goal is to bring every disowned part of ourselves into alignment with love. This takes a kind of constant and daily intention to discover the many renegade and upset parts of ourselves that run counter to our deeper desire to love.
Learning to Love
So as we re-learn how to love, we need to approach Love in two ways. We have to be willing to dedicate our lives to love - and we must be willing to feel the pain and rejection of love lost, and love disappointed. We have to be willing to feel our own hurt and self-rejection, as well as our anger and bitterness towards other people as we open up to love. As our hearts release its deep storage of accumulated heartbreaks, it is important to remember that hurt always arises first to ready our hearts for deeper loving. Our hearts cleanse and open in layers. We can choose to lean into and move into each progressive layer of our hurt with courage and determination instead of avoiding it. As we "burn through" the layer of hurt over our heart can see what we were trying to "get" in our quest for love in the past. By feeling our own unmet needs, we can peel another layer of disappointment off of our heart. We can set about giving ourselves what other people could not give us in the past.
I offer you this meditation on Love from spiritual teacher Aster Barnwell:
Love the Ultimate Spiritual Practice
"I am often asked what daily spiritual practice I engage in. My answer to this question is that I practice LOVE. To attune oneself to Love is to attune oneself to God, to the energy that holds the Universe together. This is why Love is the ultimate technique; if we attune ourselves to love in this physical dimension, we become attuned to Love everywhere that Love is observed. That way we use Love as a "carrier wave" to expand our consciousness. We cease to feel separate, cease to feel insignificant, cease to feel disinherited and disenfranchised."