Love is really all it takes to heal

It is such a common aphorism that ‘Love conquers all’ yet I don’t know if many really understand what that means. So many stories, books and films, portray this concept in some form or another. Moreover, you see similar phrases and thoughts  printed on t-shirts, bags, and even coffee mugs. It’s everywhere written in plain sight, yet the deep truth of it is forgotten.

When we feel bad, when we are hurt or stressed, we try to take the pain away through taking pills, going on diets, shopping, drinking, cutting ourselves off from things… or we go to the doctor, go to see a shrink who let us talk or talks to us or basically tells us to shut up by feeding us pills or give us diets or exercises to do. These things might help in taking the pain away and in some cases they truly are what is needed. But more often than not, while it might make a symptom go away it does not touch the underlying cause and it does not heal and by heal I mean it does not make us whole.

Love means many different things to different people but I believe many people pass by what it really means. Some imagine it to be all bells and whistles, romanticism, or associate it with certain conditions, like “a person only loves me if they do X, or if they say X or ….”. Moreover many believe love to be exclusive. This belief is born from the exclusive nature of the mother-child bond we (hopefully) grow up with and the messaging we get surrounding finding “the one” to marry/live with.

Love with the capital L or unconditional love is none of that. It is what drives us to help another, to create, to do what is right for us and to go beyond ourselves for nothing in return. Love is the most fundamental force in the universe. Yet at the same time it seems so incredibly hard for people to give and receive.  I believe that is because many are hurt and when we hurt we erect large barriers around the heart that say “no go area”, impeding its flow.

To Love someone or to Love ourselves is to go beyond oneself to be there for another/ourselves with complete acceptation. Not doing anything special, just being wholly there with no judgements, no need to fix anything, just being there no matter what.  Being there with love. At that moment we can heal – be whole. The inner hurricane of suffering gently loosens as we no longer separate ourselves from ourselves or the other.

It is hard to know this without having experienced it. We might understand it intellectually but without having the experience of Love finding it is really difficult especially because of all the barriers we put around our hearts – our fears and beliefs, and our hurts which we savagely (and understandably) protect (think of the wounded dog who snarls at the person trying to help it). Alone Love is very hard but not impossible to find (it is after all our core). But once we are shown it, feel it, we can find it for ourselves, and learn to give and receive Love. This exchange of Love is vital. This is why we fundamentally need and want to connect with people and/or the divine (I use that term loosely – it is why spirituality is so important – it helps us connect) and why so many ills and dis-ease occur when that exchange is impeded. So you see Love does really conquer all.

Yet on the path to healing and wholeness, seeking Love on the outside will only send us down the wrong paths because we will get caught up in the conditional, in the different forms of love and we will get caught up with fear, rejection and loss. Moreover, in seeking Love, we actually miss the point that Love is already inherent. Look inside and you will see the truth of this.

Your task is not to seek for love but merely to find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi

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We are each an expression of life that needs to be expressed for us to thrive

Every single person wants to be heard, wants to be seen, wants to be met as who they are. Yet at the same time, nearly every single person is afraid to bare who they are. We all have experience of being shamed for expressing some part of our nature: maybe we were criticised or shouted at, maybe we were ostracised and rejected, maybe we were ignored or laughed at, maybe we were beaten down. However small or large the injuries we sustained, they haunt us. And as much as we want to be accepted for who we are, we want also to belong, to be loved. This instinct for connection is so strong that it often overpowers our desire to be ourselves. And so we dull our shine and we try to fit in. Overtime we start to forget who we really are as we become pale copies of ourselves, cutting off part of who we are. The very sad thing is that doing so actually helps us at first. We become accepted in the world. As we conform, we are seen as something known and therefore safe. And so we feel safe.

Yet inside, our spirit slowly dies. The light starts to die out, leaving a hollow look in one’s eyes. And in the core of our being a rage starts to form as a silent scream locked inside. That scream with no way to be brought out into the world by the neat picture we constructed of our selves, leaks into our lives as illness, as depression, as violent behaviour, as addictions, as messed up relationships….and slowly erodes our image, our lives and our world.

To heal our broken hearts we need to find our voice. We need to start to give sound to that scream inside. We need to tell our stories. We need to start to express how we feel and who we are. Often though, we have for so long ignored who we are that we have no comprehension, and therefore no words or means to express what we feel inside. Indeed language, words and symbols (or music, painting and dance – languages in their own right), are for our species a vital element for our understanding of life.

Without being able to comprehend what we feel inside, we may start to fear it. What we have no words for, no comprehension for we fear and what we fear usually reject. This truth is seen in the world around us. People often reject what does not make sense to them, what they cannot explain, what has no words that have meaning for them or they reject when do not understand the meaning being conveyed behind the chosen word. And so we might continue to reject ourselves.

To wholly accept who we are we will need to start to find a language for what we find Inside and to find our way to express our very core. Each person will need to find their own way of doing so because each person is a unique expression of life. And there is only one thing that life wants, it’s to express itself.

When we start to express and share our authentic selves, through our words and our actions, light returns into our eyes. When we dare to bare our soul, it sings. How others react to this varies and our task then lies in how we meet their reaction and in having the courage and compassion to respect ourselves and the other. We may be laughed at or rejected, we may be envied. But in holding firm in our expression, we will realise that we do not loose connection as we fear we might, we gain it. We gain connection to our very soul and in doing so we find those with whom we really do belong. It is through our expression of our life that we finally start to thrive.

Being our self is enough to change the world

In our culture we can be forgiven for thinking that we need something special to matter. Famous people are famous because they have created, discovered, done or had something that sets them apart from the rest. We are taught from young that we need to do ‘well’ in school. We are taught that we need to achieve. We need to change. We need to fit in. Not just be ourselves, not if we want to make a difference in life, a contribution to the world.

Yet being ourselves is in fact all that matters for existence. It’s when we are fully and unashamedly ourselves that the magic happens. When we start to be our authentic selves and follow our hearts, we light up. This light spreads and ripples to others. When we allow ourselves to express our sadness and hurts, others trust to do the same. When we look after ourselves, others feel empowered to do the same. Others inspire us in the same way by just their being – being a shoulder to cry on, being kind, being determined to do what they wanted in life, being unique and eccentric, just being themselves.

It takes courage through experience to realise that we don’t have to do anything or achieve anything special to make a positive difference in this world. We just need to be ourselves, fully and unashamedly. Indeed it takes (continual) courage and a leap of faith to see by living it that everything else that many people glorify is not what really matters nor makes great different to the world. However, being authentic to self is all that matters and makes a difference. This tiny non-act, just being, is the butterfly’s wing creating a storm of change the other side of the world.

This does not mean that action is not involved at all. In fact action and being are in this case synonymous or two sides of the same coin. When we are ourselves we act from that place of being true to ourselves. In this way indeed sometimes marvellous things (to our eyes) may be done (works of art, acts of courage, etc.). But those could only have happened by those being true to themselves. When we don’t act from that place, we can cause harm to ourselves and others.

What we can also realise through this perhaps is how connected we are really. Each life touches another however much we might feel isolated or unimportant, and through each loving touch we create a better place. The truth is just a smile to a stranger can make a difference to a life. And what is more important than a life?

The dance of approval shackles our hearts

Many of us crave approval and fear rejection. It is understandable. After all we are social creatures and being accepted into a group can mean survival. Domestic abuse or neglect and bullying threatens life and well-being. In every day life, relationships are fraught with misunderstandings and assumptions and through playing it safe, we believe we will keep our vulnerable hearts from breaking. Furthermore, when reached approval can make us feel buoyant while rejection can leave us devastated. And so we enter the dance of trying to please or appease others. But in this dance we lose ourselves and can potentially get tossed from one partner and to the other until the music stops and we find ourselves flat on the floor and stepped upon, bruised and our confidence eroded.

Indeed in the instant that we give in to pleasing another or fearing a rejection, we effectively hand over our power to the other person. We become a victim because we allow them to influence how we act and feel. We lose our freedom, our hearts shackled.

When we learn to steer away from this dangerous dance, when we start to feel the exhilaration of being authentic, we slowly unbind our hearts. But we are not immune to falling back to the seduction of pleasing, when praise abounds, and fearing when we come up against rejection. It is constantly around us and integrated into our society. Facebook and its “likes”, promotion culture, fan clubs, etc. all take us back to wanting/needing to be approved and fearing the opposite. And so we slip back into the dance.

Yet, there will always be someone who approves and someone who rejects, just like our own thoughts will sometimes be approving or rejecting of ourselves. When we learn that both praise and rejection can teach us something valuable, when we don’t attach to either, we can start to free ourselves.

To be truly free, we need to learn to own and accept ourselves entirely. We are all deserving at our core no matter what we or anyone else might think or say. We are always doing the best we can in each moment, even when we believe otherwise because we wouldn’t be doing it otherwise.

And the beauty is that when we take back our power through owning and accepting, then we can soar unfettered to new heights.

Behind our perspective lies the truth of who we are at that moment.

There is always more than one version to a situation. This is true both for a situation we find ourselves in and one upon which we look from the outside and interpret. Each version will have some truth to it. What is interesting is not so much which version is more “true” but which version we choose to focus on. For example, do we see a single person in an uncertain independent career as adventurous and full of opportunity or do we see it as sad and scary or a mixture of both or do we see it as something else entirely? Sometimes the version we focus on changes or alternates depending on our mood and on whether we garner different information/experience or someone else’s perspective.

meandmyselfUltimately the version we choose to focus on (at any one time) tells us something about ourselves: our beliefs, our fears and our desires. It gives us a clue to more of who we are at that moment rather than just who we think we are. This inner world is worth looking into more than for just being able to see the situation clearly. Understanding what motivates us, what holds us back, and why we see/do things in a certain way gives us choice.

We like to believe in free will, yet our will is subject to our unconscious, to our fears and to our desires. Without inquiry, we react and enact to the tune of our past. To truly have free will and choice in where we go and what we do, we need to understand where we are and where we are coming from. It requires great honesty to look into our depths and see the naked truth of who we are right now as shaped by our past.

Looking honestly requires us to be impartial yet kind. We are all doing the best we can at any given moment. Understanding this is important. It helps us let go of judgment which is just extraneous perspective. Judgments about situations usually do not help us because they become fraught with emotion. These loaded judgments often pull us down into the murky depths of negativity, clouding our vision of the truth that lies deep within each of us: the truth of who we really are in that moment: a person doing the best they can with the hand they have been dealt with.

When we see that hand and ourselves clearly through teasing apart our perspectives, then we have the choice to be all that we are.

Relationships are a multi-faceted mirror.

20131230_143723“Others are a reflection of what we are” is a saying that can seem full of esoteric lessons and not particularly concrete until we understand that a) people mirror our own behaviours (and we mirror theirs) often through an unconscious learning mechanism and b) we see/understand in other people only that which we recognise.

One of our first learning mechanisms is imitation. From young we imitate those around us. We copy words, behaviour, actions, and reactions. At the same time we develop our own personality and we learn by trial and error, by experience, and through education. Yet, imitating those around us stays with us even as adult as an unconscious social learning mechanism, one that enables social cohesion. We tend to become like those around us, like our families, like our friends, like our community. Indeed couples often become more and more alike. Unless we make a conscious effort to be different, we naturally tend to mirror those around us unless there is a large gap between ourselves (our core values) and others when we will either seek solitude or seek those with whom we are more happily alike.

Understanding that we tend to imitate others and that others do the same, can greatly help understand ourselves and our relationships. Mirroring is not in itself positive or negative. Indeed when we are treated with kindness, we are more likely to treat another with kindness too. Smile and another will smile back. Becoming conscious of this mechanism and choosing our words, behaviour, actions and reactions gives us great power to be more authentic and to change ourselves and our relationships. When people react in ways we find unpleasant, rather than blame the other which is the usual response (that is what our egos are for: maintaining a sense of self), we can seek to understand our part. No one is “at fault”; we both are to some extent. Of course, there is always the exception; people are connected to more than one person so the origin may not always be ourselves. This is where patterns in our relationships can give us a fuller picture. If things keep repeating itself maybe we need to examine ourselves.

Mirroring can thus be seen as a learning tool for self-knowledge and transformation. One might think that mirroring on purpose someone’s behaviour might give them cause to change theirs (in the spirit of “now you see how that feels!”). The truth is that is rarely the case. Changes in our own behaviour are more likely to create such change. “Be the change, you want to see in the world” is a very true statement. One kind act tends to follow another, etc. For example, if we want the respect of others, we must first respect ourselves and them. It can be hard facing up to our own shadows, those weaknesses that we easily pick out in others, yet often deny in ourselves.

What we recognise in other people, how we see them, is in fact part of ourselves. Recognise is the operative word. We recognise something that we know, maybe unconsciously, inside (even if we are convinced on the outside that is not the case). This is the same principle as we can usually only really understand something if we have lived through (or been close to someone with) something similar. For example, depression is hard to understand until we have felt it ourselves. Understanding that what we see in others, is also part of us, can be hard to accept. But it helps us learn about ourselves in both the positive and negative. When we see courage and strength in someone, it is also in ourselves that we see this (even if we haven’t acknowledged it). When we see judgementalism in others it is because we judge too.

No one is perfect, and striving to be and expecting others to be is nonsensical. Being aware of what is, accepting what we find, forgiving ourselves and others, and making changes that we want to make that is all we can really do. So look in the mirror with eyes wide open and see ourselves.

There is no “design fault” we just haven’t understood its purpose yet.

I have often heard, and even uttered myself, that certain things in our world seem like “design faults”. Our world is one of evolution and evolution follows its own road, responding to each moment it encounters. What we get is a result of what came before and the circumstances within which it is formed. It follows a trajectory that makes complete sense when we can step back enough to see it.

Many of us struggle with a deep sense of unworthiness at our core. A sense that often holds us back from being all of who we are and creating deep suffering. That sense of unworthiness comes not from our soul but is connected to our ego. Our egos, the expression of our individuality, are very fragile. Our ego is often blamed and vilified yet it is the means by which we express who we are and interact with others. Egos are key to our survival because they keep us interested in ourselves. However, we are also social creatures and we need to be able to cooperate, to surrender, to sacrifice, to work for the common good, as well as look after ourselves individually in that process. Feelings of unworthiness can help us learn to step into the background and respect others.

Moreover, a fragile ego is necessary so as not to block us from the divine inside. It is often only when we break that we see the light of our soul. When we do we can see that we are worthy and whole. Then we can step into an empowered place of being ourselves as part of the whole of creation.

Everything has a reason even if we don’t understand it yet. We just need to keep learning as we go, to continue evolving with life that wants it so.

 

Sometimes to let go, we need to let in

When an animal is hurt or wounded, it will seek a safe place to lick its wounds, to avoid predators catching it when it is vulnerable and unable to run away. We are no different. When we hurt, we seek a safe place to shed our tears, to release the pain. Some retreat to family and friends, some to therapists, some to the divine, while some retreat into themselves to deal with it alone. Yet there are times even within a “safe” place, the pain remains. Moreover, there are many times when a safe place cannot be found, even amongst our circle of support. And so we hold the emotions in and shove them deep down, to bury or deal with in time. Time masks the pain inside and we tend to forget about it (until it shouts too loud).

Our safety can feel compromised when we fear the pain will destroy us (or others) as we let go. Indeed, painful feelings can be so powerful that touching them stabs us to our core. Releasing our pain requires a leap of faith, an acceptance and surrender to the fullness of the emotions. In doing so we find that pain creates more suffering when held than let go. And we discover the fresh joy that comes like shining dew after the storm.

Our safety can also feel compromised when we believe our fragile core worth is threatened by this pain; for example when dealing with feelings of anger, guilt and shame. We fear that others might see and reflect our believed unworthiness. And of course we fear the predator, the betrayal or being rejected. When we let go, we open ourselves to more emotion both painful and joyful; we open ourselves to the potential and to the unknown. Indeed, just as the tides rise and fall, just as for every act of giving there needs to be an act of receiving, we can’t let go without letting in.

The fear of letting in can be as great and sometimes more so than the fear of letting go. And so we create protective barriers around ourselves. These barriers are beliefs (and behaviours) we create in our minds, based on knowledge and experience. They can of course be useful at times. They save us from harm and enable us to survive; but only as long as they are flexible enough to change with knowledge, experience and wisdom. However, when barriers are formed as core beliefs, they can thwart us from opening and letting in what serves us. Core beliefs like “I am unlovable” or “I am a failure” or “I am worthless” or “I am a monster” or “I am different” are in sense protective barriers because we can’t get as hurt when proven right as we do when proven wrong.

The problem is that as we remain resolutely closed to the potential hurt outside, the pain and the fear remains stuck and protected inside. For hurt and fear to come out, love needs to come in. We need to open to allow and integrate the experiences that will enable us to change those beliefs, those barriers for something more flexible. Those experiences can only be provided by those we seek to protect ourselves against: others and ourselves.

Why knowing why is not always useful.

“Why?” is the most common question we have. We are curious beings and we, our minds, seem to need to know why. We need to understand, to find a reason, a meaning, a neat box for something to fit in. Children ask “why?” all the time so as to learn. As we grow older the question “why” tends to fade as we (think we) know more things. Yet when something goes wrong, the question “why” becomes a heartfelt cry for understanding, for some reason that will absolve our pain.

Understanding the “why” of a problem is not always useful albeit sometimes necessary. When we were little, just knowing the why of something resolved “our problem”. Our problem was learning. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why are you going to work?” to name just a few of the usual questions. Often our questions of “why?” when we are older relate to things like “Why did this happen?”, “Why can/did I not….?”. If and when we know why, we hold on to the answer like a talisman. We believe that now that we know the answer why, all is fine. Except that often it is not. For example, knowing that it is our low self esteem that stops us getting a promotion does not solve anything. Yet we believe it does because “knowledge is power”, right?

Knowing can be helpful but only if there is action following it. We need to take steps to improve our self esteem, for example. Indeed we see that for matters where understanding “why” induces direct action, knowledge is power – power to change something. For example: doctors finding out why something hurts badly or us finding out why someone is upset at us will usually inspire direct action to resolve the root of the problem.

However, there are many circumstances where we may never truly know why, although with experience and hindsight we might be able to find an explanation or at least some meaning to assuage our hungry minds. What is more important than understanding why is the movement, the actions, the flow, the change that WE take in face of the problem underlying the “why”. Indeed, we don’t have to know why. We just need to heed the signal and take action. For example, the question “why am I here?” generally comes when we feel down, bored, sad, depressed. These are signals to inspire us into action, to create our purpose by following our hearts and being ourselves.

If we are lost as to regards to the action, then getting to the “why” will be useful, if it is possible. Although I would urge us to look at what exactly is the question we are asking with the “why”. For example, with questions of loss, the “why” is actually about grief rather than the loss.

Often problems occur because we haven’t heeded prior signals, have tried to stop the flow and stem the tides of change, have set limiting beliefs and behaviours, and because we forget that we are part of nature and the universe and that we can’t control everything/anything.

We need to accept that some things we can’t understand or don’t need to understand. However, we do need to heed the signals, listen to our inner guide, learn, move with the flow, let go, grow, evolve and we need to love unconditionally and compassionately. Not always easy in the face of something big. Yet, when we look back at other times in our lives, or in the lives of others, when big problems occurred, we see that those of us that took it as an opportunity and followed our inner guide, that we found growth and light, the “silver lining” of the cloud. And so we can have faith that “everything happens for a reason”; because when we take action, we create the reason that we needed.

The destination of life is the journey

We often see life as a path with milestones on which we travel towards something. When we are children we imagine what we might become: a teacher, an astronaut, a princess, a policeman; identities are our destination. As we grow up, career often becomes our path. We see people up at the top and think that “they have made it”, “they have arrived”. We might see wealth and power as the destination. Indeed, we make our destination anything that we or society values, anything that we decide we want for our lives. We spend a long time pursuing our dreams, our destination. In that pursuit we often stop ourselves from living or from enjoying life now because we are waiting for it to be different. Many of us tell ourselves: “when I have lost Xkgs; when I have a relationship; when I have finished….; when I have a highly paid job; when I have…..I will be happy or I will have made it”. For those of us that actually make our destination, life does not magically feel changed and feelings of anti-climax can set in. And so we search again for fulfilment. Our search for our happy ending can become desperate as life nears its end. Moreover, with the unpredictability of life that can result in our dreams being dashed, life can seem futile or even against us.

When we project our happiness onto something external, onto some future that we dream of, chances are we will be (at some point) disappointed. It’s not that we are foolish for believing in a bright future (or present) to be attained. After all, many children’s stories create this paradigm for us (“and they lived happily ever after”). Moreover, the milestones of life: childhood, working adult, family, etc. point to a growth with different stages we might reach: mini destinations so to speak. Yet those destinations, those milestones are not the point of life. We all know the saying that life is a journey. Yet even that saying betrays us because all journeys have an end, which we mistake as reaching some goal. The end of (this) life is simply death but that is not our destination. The destination, our “destiny”, or purpose of life is found in the present moment, in the journey itself. This is the point of life: living it; giving it our all, receiving all it has to offer and creating.

Life is a journey of discovery, but only if we choose to walk our path awake. When we sleep-walk our path, it can feel like a life ruled by fate, where events just happen to us, where life seems to be one of doom or fortune; it can feel dull and subdued and we might wonder whether only suffering is real.

We walk our path awake when we navigate the flows of life, without attaching ourselves to a particular outcome, to a particular destination; when we readily experience the ups and the downs of life, without holding onto or avoiding; when we try and fail and try again without letting our fears stop us; when we gain and lose; when we laugh and cry; when we learn and grow; when we are authentically ourselves; when we love and connect with ourselves and others. Then we truly live.

We have a choice in co-making our path with what we find around and in us at every moment. We have a choice in how we respond, in how we think, in how we act, in what we create (or not). Furthermore, everyone’s journey is different. Comparing makes as much sense as comparing shoes and apples. What matters is our journey, our life path, each moment which we experience.