A lot has been written about love. Many of us have experienced the joy, the ecstasy, and hopefully the deep steadiness that love brings to our life.
There are many of us who have also experienced the heartache of a life with the loss of love, or a grief over a childhood lacking in much needed love.
There are many opportunities to be love, share love and receive love in our lives. For me yoga plays a central role in living a life with love.
Love is much more than the romantic ideal of love that a day such as Valentine’s day celebrates. When it comes to relationships, the Hallmark version of love has left a lot of people bereft of an understanding of love beyond passion. When it comes to parenting, it is sometimes thought we can ‘spoil’ our children with too much love and warmth.
I was lucky to grow up with a lot of love. Not just the “I love and care for you” kind of love, but the type of love that allowed you to grow, to develop as a person, to find a voice. The type of love that allows you to speak your mind, and become your own person. A love that was given freely, with no hidden strings.
As a parent myself, I now know that loving like that is not always the easiest path. I have had my fair share of frowns and comments on my parenting when a child is utterly rude, disrespectful or somewhat out of control. But I still choose to love in a way that allows my child to be themselves. Of course, common decency, politeness and manners are taught. But the love is not conditional on behaviour. I will love them, no matter what. I know that shaming and judgement and implied criticism are likely ways I could control my children’s behaviour. But this, for me, would not be parenting from a space of love.
Whatever their choices might be, and however I might feel about those choices, the love I try to offer my children is one that means they won’t need me anymore. But I hope that they will want to call me, to see me when they are older because they can be themselves. For me love creates the space for another person to be true, to be real and to not have to pretend to be anything other than the perfection they already are.
When it comes to romantic love, we have all experienced the rollercoaster that it brings. For some of us, we play around with love, unwilling to ever move beyond the passion that new relationships involve. We keep ourselves hidden in from the other person, unwillingly to show our true self. But love requires a letting go and trust. In this space of trust we allow ourselves to be real, to be vulnerable.
We reveal the depths of our being to another in the trust that the foundations of the relationship can hold this sharing, and that we will be truly accepted just as we are.
For me, trust is one of the key ingredient to experiencing the depths of deep, abiding love. A love which can hold another in awareness and radical acceptance. This type of love moves beyond passion or lust and is open, blossoming, and continually deepening. It requires revelation, vulnerability and acceptance.
To experience and love someone in this way, we must embrace who we are. While we may not celebrate all aspects of our personality or behaviour, we are ourselves, and there is no one else we can be. The soon we give the love to ourselves that we wish from another, the better able we are to flourish in relationship.
Without knowing ourselves, there is a risk to love we experience will be one of artifice. A love in which the external markers of who we are what we are connecting over. What we wear, what we like to eat or drink and talk about. Things we like doing together. While all of these commonalities help relationships endure. But they are not necessary for the type of love I am talking about.
I like to see true love as one which gives of itself freely, and accepts the other completely. True love in this way requires us to continually go deeper, to get to know ourselves better, to allow ourselves to be raw, to be real.
For me love is not just a feeling, love is a commitment to truth and being in truth with another. Love is not something we profess, it is, as Brene Brown writes, something we practice . Love is a way of being, it is a practice at times marked by imperfection. It requires both giving, rising up, overcoming reactions, seeing the bigger picture, putting yourself in another’s shoes, and cultivating boundless compassion.
I would rather live with someone who practices love, than simply professes it.
True love is not perfect on the inside or outside. But it is beautiful, it is forgiving but not blind. True love requires courage to be yourself completely. In being yourself love can be cultivated from a foundation not of artifice, but of truth.
Love is always available to practice ..
With Love, and the beautiful words of Derek Walcott,
Love after Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.