Developing the ability to love
There is a way to develop a capacity to love abundantly, unconditionally and unreservedly. Loving in this way expands your consciousness, changes your life and changes the lives of the people around you. Active love goes beyond the experience of being drawn to love someone or some thing. It can be felt as an energetic expanding warmth flowing from you. Love at this level is not demanding or exhausting. In fact, active love fills the one who loves actively with a greater capacity to love.
When I discovered that the capacity to love could be developed, I found that the people I practiced my love on began to change in ways that I could not have imagined. They did not change in the way that I had previously wanted them to change; but they blossomed into feeling free to be more themselves (which, I found I loved even more). Each person that I practiced this active loving on changed me too. I felt as if the act of loving gave me deep understanding, and I expanded into someone more able to love.
How I came to this was that for much of my life I was unable to experience a genuine sense of love. I could experience compassion and care, even forgiveness. But I was always conscious of a yearning to love, and for love. I wanted to give it unreservedly and receive it unconditionally. I realise now that in place of being able to love, or feel that I was loved, I tried to do what I felt was ‘good’. So, for many years trying to be a ‘good person’ and a ‘loving person’ was enough.
However, to love unconditionally is not to be good but to set someone free from suffering. ‘Giving Freedom’ is a term I have found describes what we do when we love in this way.
‘Giving freedom’ or ‘removing obstacles’ is the key to unconditional positive regard, active loving or Active Practical Love. It includes forgiveness and compassion, and is a force to heal unconditionally. Taking responsibility and having a wish to try to love in this way gives you the openness to begin to practice small exercises of self-control. For example, one of the first exercises I recommend is to make an effort not to criticise one person. Just one person or perhaps a small group of people like your family. As you begin to have some successes the next stage of the exercise will be not to feel the criticism; and so on, until you have reached the place in your practice where your thoughts about that person or group are thoughts of pure interest.
I see criticism imaginatively as ‘iron bands’ biting into the flesh of the other to remind them of some imperfection. Restricted by ‘iron bands’ a person has no freedom to choose how to act, because they react to an inflexible imperative. In other words, the one who is criticised is bound to act according to all their old ‘iron bands’, unless they have found a way to release them.
It is the denial of unconditional love that imprisons. Let us imagine what underlies each interaction between human beings, be it a thought, feeling or action. Imagine them going about their lives doing ordinary things, ignoring or abusing each other while from heart to heart each one calls;
Love me for who I truly am.
The truth of who I am is clouded by your distorted images of me.
I am bound in chains of distorted images.
Love me unconditionally that I may be free to discover who I truly am.
People trying to be good hold a deeply buried and inextinguishable hope that someone may love them for the genuine in them. But they may have not discovered yet what that is. This deeply buried hope also underlies destructive human behaviour. For example, when you meet indifference in someone, or cruelty and hate, it may be difficult to imagine that a longing to be recognised and loved unreservedly caused such unloving behaviour. All unloving behaviours including any sort of aggression, violence or abuse are caused by the absence of love. One could also say these behaviours are demonstrations of an active absence of love.
In essence to withhold active love is to actively prevent someone from freely developing their own capacity to love. This thought has led me to understand the responsibility I have to actively practice love, to give freedom, to heal unconditionally. My ability to practice love actively will help to free others from the ‘iron bands’ placed on them by all the loveless acts that placed them there. The more I know about the ‘iron bands’ that restrict me the more I find my compassion to remove them in others. From the first experience of actively giving love in this way you find that the perspective of love begins to change in your soul from ‘I need love’ to ‘I am a living source of love’.
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