I remember when my first spiritual teacher told me that love was the most important thing there was; that it could transcend and heal all things
I thought he was crazy, not the love I was familiar with. The love that I knew was learned from those perfect families on TV and any of that I received from my family came at too high a cost. So, if that was what I needed to heal I’d rather stay broken. Little did I know how wrong that I was!
My difficulty with love growing up was that I really didn’t know much about it. It was so rarely mirrored for me in my family so my perception of what it was, became skewed. I remember as a little boy waking up early in the morning and running into my parent’s room and jumping under the covers to snuggle with my father. I felt safe, special and wanted.
Even today, fifty years later I can still remember how he smelled. But as my family life changed drastically behind my mother’s alcoholism and its effects on my parent’s relationship and our family, those types of interactions with my father stopped. As a child with limited understanding, I thought that the fact that the nurturing ended was because I had done something wrong. This sparked the behaviors of seeking love and acceptance that were very detrimental to my well-being.
Addictive Behavior pioneer and lecturer, Earnie Larson describes these behavior changes so simply:
What we live with we learn, what we learn we practice, what we practice we become and what we become has consequences.
Love became something that I thought I had to earn. My life became a game of cause and effect. The game was that I had to determine who I needed to be for you to love me and become that person. That, who I really was, did not deserve love. How painful and tiring it was to realize that I spent most of my time tap dancing as fast as I could and jumping through hoops to get the love that was mine because I was a child of God.
It has been a difficult, long and sometimes painful journey back to love but it has been worth every minute of it. I have learned that the feelings of love can soothe you, bring you to tears, and warm your heart. But more importantly, that the actions of love can and will heal the world. It is the courage that comes from self-love that allows us to act. It is true that in order to heal, we will need healing acts from others, but, it must start with us. This will allow us to learn to act in a loving way towards others.
My father is one of the gentlest souls that I know. But growing up, he rarely acted from that place with me. He was overly critical; nothing was good enough for him. I understand today that he could only give me what he had received growing up. Having love in our heart is not the end, it is the beginning.
A feeling of love unexpressed in action is wasted.
Love can be expressed in so many ways: compassion, giving of your time, showing up, understanding, empathy, listening not just hearing (there is a difference), patience, gentleness, teaching, encouragement, tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness, a hug, support and speaking the truth.
I have spent a great deal of time over the years seeking spiritual enlightenment through prayer, meditation, contemplation, reading, personal growth and workshops to relearn an old lesson. Simplicity is the highest form of intelligence. Walking and living in love is the highest spiritual plane. Living in love allows us to make decisions based in love. Love based decisions take into account all those that are concerned with and affected by the decision. Not making decisions from a place of love is one of the reasons that even though the US is considered the richest nation in the world, we have children going to bed hungry and citizens that are homeless.
Living love is available to us all, and it is as simple as making a choice.