No, what I’m really talking about here is that warm fuzzy unconditional love that apparently we as humans should be able to feel toward each other and life in general if we’re to embrace the idea’s of consciousness and spirituality as a whole. We’ve all seen the quotes right.., love is all that is, love thy neighbour, god is love… etc. So is it any surprise then, that we make the assumption that spirituality and/or enlightenment is all about loving EVERYTHING.
And maybe it is.
And so that’s the goal we’ve been programmed to want. To become enlightened by way of feeling unconditional love toward all things.
As one famous spiritual teacher said –
“It is not a question of being in love with someone.., it is a question of being love!” OSHO
So we’re bombarded in the personal development arena and social media about BEING love; living in love.
And love with conditions is not really love is it? So true love is unconditional.
Love and unconditional love is the same thing.
And that poses a problem…
Is love an impossible dream:
When we tell someone we love them, or say we love life; we are expressing our truth in that moment to the extent that we have the ability to live up to it. And that’s perfect just as it is; I’m not questioning peoples intent. It’s worth noting the following though.
Unconditional love means if you take it literally, without conditions! No judgement at all! Total acceptance and validation of all things without expectation!
So in that sense unconditional love is seldom achieved. Most of us make judgements all day every day about thousands of things. And that’s fine; we need to to make sense of the busy world that surrounds us. And we have certain expectations that most would agree are reasonable to have. We need to judge what we give our attention to and what to act on and so much more. This is a world full of judgements, expectations and lesser or greater value given toward different things.
It’s therefore perfectly normal to have different types of love and spiritual expression. Take sisterly love and intimate love as two examples, which are types of love with certain conditions attached. BTW; these are meta states of love.., see Pleasure is not happiness.
So chill out! Unconditional love is a great goal but it’s a BIG goal. Don’t buy into it being the only worthwhile one! That would be buying into a spiritual myth. Very few people could honestly say they live that way all of the time.
Can we get there? Can we get to unconditional love? I think so. We can’t possibly imagine it to be possible without it also being possible to exist. Thought of physical reality comes before actualisation of physical reality right!? To not be able to achieve it or anything we could imagine, would violate the very idea of existence all existing now. How can non-existence suddenly change to exist? There’s nothing there to change! You can’t make something from nothing.
So I’m not so much referring to intimate love when I suggest that love can be a step too far; though I think you may see how it does relate.
Easy tiger.., one step at a time:
Teach a baby to run before it can crawl…
Master the concepts of physics before you can multiply…
Sell your business for millions before you have a customer base or profits…
All the above are just silly right!? At least, in this physical reality, they are.
So we all understand the idea of getting good in a more basic area before moving on to a more complex one.
So why do so many teachers and examples of a spiritual lifestyle (and what that means is different for different people) focus so incessantly on loving and being love? Now I appreciate that listening and learning from such people can have a type of osmosis effect where the idea’s start to become part of your own way of thinking.
What if focusing on that end goal is a step too far for most people though? Should we not learn from other area’s, that the way forward is to chunk the end goal down to easier steps?
If our ultimate goal is to feel love all of the time then what happens when we don’t?
Is that ultimate failure?
That’s the danger of unconditional love being the only way to enlightenment.
It’s not; it’s only one step. And not necessarily the first one.
There are ideals in life; idea’s of what the perfect life would look, sound and feel like. There’s ideal states of mind, ideal health, ideal relating and ideal financial situations to name a few.
Striving for ideals is fine; discounting all other things in favour of those ideals is not!
You have to do the best with what you have right now before you will be ready for more.
Thinking that unless you are living a life of unconditional love, you are not spiritual; is simply not a useful belief to have. And most teachers of spiritual practices would agree!
And let’s be honest with each other here; we were born on to a physical world with bodies and emotion and ‘learning on the move’ and all that stuff right, so let’s embrace it and not make non-physical reality the whole focus of life or even spirituality!
Often.., the most spiritual thing you can do, is get physically active!
“We can’t really talk about being.., we can only talk about being in the world.” Martin Heidegger.
Enlightenment, love, and icecream:
All the same thing right? Ha ha. Maybe.
If unconditional love is the goal, and enlightenment is the result, then nothing is wrong or bad. So as long as you eat that icecream guilt free with complete joy and appreciation, then you are in a state in that moment of unconditional love are you not!?
So I hereby announce the acceptance of the icecream method of enlightenment! Lol
What are the components of love then? And here’s why we want to know that.
Take ANY one of the aspects of what would be considered part of being the embodiment of unconditional love and embrace it FULLY; and the rest will follow!
Fully being the key here. You need to focus on getting really good at just one; and by doing so the others will be present as an almost side effect. The result of this over time will be that one part becomes many parts, becomes the whole.
The irony in this life journey, will be the realisation by you, that you were the whole all along. In fact that will be the defining moment; that you already are what you seek.
What might those parts be? Acceptance, appreciation, looking for the good in people and events, generosity, listening with the goal to understand and connect? There can be many.
So take acceptance as an example; if you take accepting all people and things as equal and valuable to it’s extreme, then are you not by definition loving them all as well?
What if you took (active) listening to its full extreme; would you not be fully invested in understanding and valuing all people’s views and therefore, connect in such a deep way as to KNOW your connection to ALL life and experience?
What would such a profound level of connection to people and life feel like? Would it feel like en-lighten-ment? Seeing the light and lightness in all things? Including yourself?
Choose one quality and master it:
So I hope you get it; that spiritual progress is as much about focusing on something small and mastering it as it is about the end goal of unconditional love or ‘enlightenment’.
But here’s the question; would you know you were enlightened even when you are?
What would it look like to you? What would you feel? What would you say and hear others say around you when you’re enlightened?
How could you possibly attain it if you don’t know what ‘it’ is?
Answer the question for yourself; imagine someone asks you “what is enlightenment?” Or better yet “How would you know if you met someone who was living an enlightened life?”
Answer that question for yourself and notice the idea’s/qualities that you come up with. I’ve mentioned a few already that might fit for you like (the extreme embodiment of…) acceptance and appreciation for example.
It’s not your job to make the world be different.., it IS your job to be different in the world!
Pick one quality and then let’s do something with it…
The forming a new habit through time process:
So this is a process of mental rehearsal in past, present and future. I highly recommend you read (Visualisation and the Law of attraction), it will change the way you think about visualising.
You are building a new set of experiences mentally here that mimic the way already formed habits stay habits.
The first step is to access the state of your chosen quality identified above and maintain it during the following mental exercise. For this example lets use appreciation. If you find it easy to get that feeling in your body and mind then go ahead, otherwise read (Anchoring yourself to happiness), create your anchor and come back here.
Get in a relaxed position (meditate for a few minutes if you like) and with your eyes closed, imagine going back to a time where you did NOT feel appreciation for something or someone but would have liked to. As you arrive at that time in your mind maintain (or fire your anchor) the feeling of appreciation while you mentally replay the event but this time see, hear and feel it, as you would have liked it to have gone, had you been in this appreciative state. This is your creation; make it as you would have preferred it to go no matter how it did. It doesn’t matter if that means different things happening or you responding to the same things differently. This becomes a reference experience in the brain that makes it easier to respond that way again in the future. The old experience is still there.., you just now have more choice. And the mind will usually choose the more positive choice unless it perceives a negative choice to be actually less painful (more on that at another time). Now pick another time in the past and do the same thing. Do this 3 times (or more) for different times in the past.
Now do it 3 times for the present (which is really just the close past or future), and then 3 times for the future. So 9 or more in total examples of behaving in a new appreciative way that span a number of years is the ideal.
Change sometimes needs practice:
Use what you learn from the Visualisation article mentioned above and you will dramatically improve the chance of it sticking.
And remember, if you do a process and get SOME results but they don’t last; this is not a failure.., this is a call to do it again just like you’ve done all your life to create current habits until it’s part of your neurology.
As with all processes, have fun with it. If at any time you feel frustrated, stop and do something else and come back to it when you feel better. The goal of working on yourself is NOT to beat yourself up!
You can get a friend to do that with a large pillow if you’re in to that sort of thing OK!?