What is Love, Anyway?
How often do you find your thoughts beginning with, “I wish…” or “If only this was different…”? On the other hand, how many mornings do you wake up with the thought, “I am happy with and grateful for everything that my life is today”? As the month of February is filled with images, commercials, and messages meant to evoke the sentiment of love and companionship, let’s take a deeper look at the meaning of love.
Love Your Life
“Love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.”
Love is an acceptance of “what is”. This means accepting what you may perceive as the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. Each of us shares one pursuit in this life: to be happy. Happiness can never be lasting if it is dependent on external things. And internally, what we control is our attitude, our response to all stimuli that come our way. Happiness is an attitude; it is a choice to love all that is, as it is. The universe is dynamic and continuously changing. Since you do not control the universal dance, your choice to be happy lies in your willingness to whole-heartedly accept the universe as it presents itself—that includes within this body and outside of it. When we’ve instead adopted the notion that happiness requires the universe to conform to our likings and personal preferences, we only find unhappiness. This attitude comes from a place of selfishness, the opposite of love. It brings with it dissatisfaction, loneliness, and disharmony. Dr. Ronald Dworkin, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, states, “Doctors are now medicating unhappiness. Too many people take drugs when they really need to be making changes in their lives”.1 He is speaking in reference to the skyrocketing numbers of prescriptions given for antidepressant medications, with 254 million prescriptions in the U.S. in 2010.2 While there can be a time and place for medications, there is also a need for concomitant instruction on methods that better equip us to understand and accept the complexities of life. When you are able to accept these complexities without aversion, then you will find yourself opened up to your capability to love.
Live Your Life
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me.”
When you find acceptance of life as it is, and of yourself as you are, the possibilities and opportunities of life come alive. Ayurveda is built on the idea that each of us is a unique being. This is true not only in our physical health, but also in our purpose on this earth. While we share one common purpose, to know our True Self, how this manifests for each of us is different. The learning opportunities that we are given vary, and our tools with which to learn are honed to different levels. Each of us searches for a means to give back, an opportunity to make a difference. This may be in the setting of your own growth, around family, with friends, at work, in an organization, with a particular population that needs a hand. Understanding your unique gift is a start. The key question to ask is, “Why am I doing this?” When we have not fully accepted ourselves with love, we look to fulfill personal ambitions and a sense of self-worth through the activities that we call our “purpose”. When you have accepted yourself, then the “why” becomes easy—this is what you are here to do. It doesn’t matter if others can do it better, if not everyone agrees with your path, or if you make some mistakes along the way. Passion takes on a new meaning, and obstacles that looked like mountains become pebbles. And your purpose becomes a tool in order to fulfill the common purpose, knowing your True Self.
“There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity. People who do not experience self-love have little or no capacity to love others.”
All too often, when we think of the word love, we think of how it applies to our interaction with others. Our capacity to love others comes only when we learn to first accept ourselves, and love ourselves. Then loving others, showing compassion to others becomes a part of what you are here to do.
Some Practical Tips
Learning to truly accept yourself and love yourself requires daily practice. This can happen in a number of settings, and here are some practical tips:
- A Personal Connection. Connecting with and nurturing yourself is incredibly important to creating a mindset that you are important and valuable. Following an Ayurvedic lifestyle can be a start, one that will bring increased awareness and nourishment.
- A Spiritual Connection. While you must do the work for yourself, it is key to have some guidance along your journey. This can come in the form of a personal teacher; books or scriptures; church or temple; or any other guide that keeps pushing you to a higher plane of existence.
- A Community Connection. Being around like-minded people always provides support and comfort. When you aren’t able to muster up the compassion for yourself, a loving group of friends can pick you up. And when you are ready to give yourself an out, friends with your best interest in mind will help get you back on track.
“There is always a certain peace in being what one is, in being that completely.”