For most of us, the emotion we call love is usually best reserved for a few specific interactions. A moment between a father and his son, acknowledging the deep bonds they share. A guy and his lady looking into each other’s eyes, butterflies fluttering about in their stomachs. A group of men sitting around a fire, grateful for their friendship. All of these contribute to your sense of happiness and wellbeing.
What I’m referring to is love as a way of being. Not a romantic love, or a “new-agey” let’s-all-drink-the-cool-aid kind of love. I’m talking about the kind of love that is an underlying force in all of creation. It has references in spiritual literature around the world since the beginning of time. The “All you need is love” kind of love. It’s the kind of energy that if increased could surely lead to a better, kinder human race.
The reason I bring it up is because lately I’ve been focusing some of my meditation on opening up my heart some more. I’ve never had trouble with being a loving, compassionate kind of guy. However, I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, being in a state of love and compassion for myself, as well as those around me doesn’t seem to come as easy as it once did.
Let’s face it, life’s innocence begins to fade early on. Couple that with the many disappointments, and emotional pain we experience as we transition from youth to adult-hood, and it’s easy to get lost behind a hard-nosed attitude.
For example, as in my case, I see immediate family members struggling through life, making the same mistakes over and over again, and I find my compassion waning.
Or maybe you realize how scared and divided we all seem in this day and age. Most people walk down the street without so much as a friendly hello. As if nodding in acknowledgement would set off an unwanted interaction.
I could go on and on, but the point is that for many, it’s hard to walk around with an open heart.
#1 We have to guard ourselves.
We have to keep just enough fuel in that love tank to save for those in our inner circle. We have to save our best for our parent's, the little ones in our lives’, our wives’/girlfriends, our best buds.
Even then, family can sometimes be our biggest trigger and the reason we start to shut down.
It seems we simply cannot walk around in a state of open love and compassion for other humans, especially not — god forbid — when we disagree with their lifestyle choices or political affiliations. It’s not easy when the media is always trying to convince you of just how terrible “those people” are.
Despite the fact that as a human being and coach, I try to live my best life possible to be a good example for others, sometimes it becomes difficult to be in a state of love and compassion as consistently as I’d like to be.
It sure is easy to love when you’re sitting by the beach somewhere and life is all good, but try loving when you’re in the midst of that family crisis, or in a busy city with an endless sea of strange faces coming at you, and the traffic noise at heavy-metal-concert levels.
#2 We don’t exercise the “love” muscle enough.
All elements of the self, of being human require exercise. We usually think of exercise as being only for our physical muscles, maybe mental at best, but all human aspects are one and the same. The mind, the body, the emotions are parts of ourselves that need to be exercised. Being in a more open and receptive space requires exercise as well.
This all brings me back to meditating on loving compassion. An ancient Buddhist practice, but maybe more appropriately, a human practice because it seems all of the world’s major spiritual doctrines speak of love as a unifying force; the strongest force there is. And surely we have experienced this force in times of crisis and chaos, when enemies come together for a brief moment to acknowledge our humanness.
One example that comes to mind is 9/11 in NYC. The outpouring of love and compassion there was palpable. Or during the famous Christmas Truce in World War I when on Christmas day German soldiers came out of their trenches, unarmed, to shake hands with allied soldiers. There are reports of pig roasts, enemies singing Christmas carols in unison, and there where even reposts of makeshift soccer balls being kicked around. Talk about love for mankind. Can you imagine?!
So how do we get there? How do we start with LOVE?
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Try To See Others As If They Are You
We’re all made out of the same stuff. We all sweat and bleed. We all have dreams and aspirations. We all laugh and cry, and we all love and suffer deeply for many reasons.
We may be different in our skin color, culture or upbringing, or political beliefs, but being human trumps all of those differences. We can and should find our most basic common ground. Life just works better when we do.
In this article by Thich Nhat Hanh, he talks about how loving/kindness and compassion training is important to love properly. To be happy, to be joyful, and to give these qualities to others, requires training in understanding. An understanding of another’s reasons for being who they are, how they are, why they think and feel the way they do about themselves, and life.
Take On A Mediation Practice
There are major benefits to Meditation. It helps make you less reactive. If you practice meditation on being open and receptive, or loving and compassionate, you’ll notice the difference.
For myself, I’ve noticed that when I meditate, making a conscious effort to spend the day in a state of openness to experiencing (giving and receiving) more love and compassion, the result is noticeable.
I feel better about my interactions with people, even when those interactions are difficult. I also feel lighter as I go through my day, my patience increases and my threshold for stress is improved. Let’s just say that my wife definitely notices the difference. I highly recommend taking a daily meditation practice.
Be In Service To Others
It’s easy to get lost in our own day to day activities. When this goes on for too long we tend to forget that there are so many other people that could use an act of kindness. Reach out to those people from time to time and offer your services to them. Whether it’s a helping hand, a kind word, or a meal.
Every little bit we give to those less fortunate than ourselves will seem like a small miracle to some of those people in need. There is something about being in service that brings out the best of humanity.
What are your thoughts on this, can you relate? If so, how do you think being in a more open state of love and compassion can benefit you and those around you?
Let us know by commenting below.