The old saying is, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Teachers of love have been appearing fast and glorious in the last few days.
Lesson one: the Divine is the Source of love.
I was feeling overwhelmed and unqualified [as I have been all month]. From where am I meant to pull this love I keep wanting to shower on others? I am fortunate to have been raised in a loving family and to have loving people around me, but I still somehow understand love as a conditional thing. Surely I need to be more evolved and accomplished before I really deserve love and can give it to others.
Coincidentally (?), I began reading Tales from a Spacious Place, by Elizabeth Frerichs (full disclosure: she’s my niece). Liz reminded me that God is the source of love. Believing that, I am no longer limited to my human resources. What I have or haven’t experienced, what I feel or don’t feel, the habits of the culture around me are all irrelevant when I connect to the ultimate source of love.
Lesson two: we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
As you may know, I am a Brené Brown fan. We finished our Daring Greatly read along last week “discussing” whole-hearted parenting wherein Brené reminded us that children learn love and how to deal with shame and vulnerability by watching how we parents treat ourselves. (Brené explains more in an interview with Koren Motekaitis.) Oh snap. My child has 15 years of me under her belt so all I can do is (a) have a conversation with her and (b) forgive myself and (c) continue to move toward love, including self-love.
I recently visited an unfamiliar church. In the room in which we were meeting hung a poster showing the results of a study of the Great Commandment. Under the headings of God, Self and Others participants had listed examples of actions that showed such love. There was nothing written under the Self heading. Apparently, participants were stumped on that one. I felt very sad.
I was pleased, then, to discover the work of Christine Arylo, who has a new book, Madly in Love with Me. She describes herself as “the queen of self-love.” I like her image of a self-love tree with many branches. While I haven’t (yet) read the book, I listened to an interview she gave with Jan Louden. I resonated with her ideas of beginning the day with an energy check-in and adapting her schedule accordingly (though the adaptation examples she gives are unachievable to most of us) and making a field trip to find evidence of love. Christine provides suggestions and practices for those of us who are fumblingly reaching to fill our own cups.
Lesson three: love is the road, not the destination
Basking in the glow of lessons from these gentle teachers, I realize I have been asking the wrong question. All month, I have been thinking, “How do I go about loving without keeping score?” I have made love a goal…an achievement… something I strive to make specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Whoops! When I said “without keeping score” I was trying to escape both from my Productivity monster and its attendant, Comparison. I need to move away from my Western business world training and move into holy space.
In this space, I can return to the Source and let love fill me and open my heart. As I go through my day with my heart open, I will respond to myself, my circumstances and my fellow travelers with compassion and gentleness.