Happy Valentine's week! This is a wonderful time for some and a difficult time for others. Emotions run high when love is on the line.
As simple human beings we're all just looking for love. We want to love and be loved.
Love or a search for love motivates many, if not all of our actions - virtuous or otherwise. As Marianne Williamson says 'the way the miracle-worker is to see all human behavior as one of two things, either love or a call for love'.
When we see that and can interpret our own and other people's actions in that light a great deal of compassion arises. We move through the world with more softness, kindness and strength. In other words, we move through the world with love.
My dear friend Kino MacGregor says that 'Love is the only form of strength which has no limits'.
Although St. Valentines is about romantic love, we look for love of all sorts. We want to be loved unconditionally and hopefully most of us will have received some form of that from our parents. In adult life it's harder to find and in relationships even harder. Some say that it is healthier not to love unconditionally in relationships. I disagree. The distinction to be made is between loving a person and loving their actions. You can love a person and not like their actions. You can indeed love a person and choose not to be with them.
Love is a gift not a trade. When we try and trade love we end up in a mess. But loving unconditionally is hard. It requires vigilance and self awareness. And for it to be healthy in adult life, it requires us to use more discernment and less judgment, more kindness, more strength, less cruelty, defensiveness and retaliation. It requires less of a desire to be right, to win, and more of a desire to be happy. (When there's a winner there's always a loser too and that's no fun).
But love really begins at home. The foundation of love for others is love for ourselves. Unconditional love ideally. We really only get upset with others for things that are still unresolved at some level and rejected in ourselves. Again, this does not require that we like all of our actions and behaviour patterns and want to keep them. Instead, it asks us to acknowledge that there are reasons for them, and to see the ones we don't like as a call for love. When we can do that, we can approach ourselves with more kindness, compassion and love. This means that our inner strength and resources grow and we are able to approach others with more love (and less neediness).
Make this week, either side of Valentine's day, a time to nurture yourself and give yourself love. See if you can also make it a time to love others, to find compassion for their weaknesses and flaws, without asking anything in return. You don't have to give them anything specific or do anything for them. Just feel love for them and compassion for their current limitations. Maybe start small with someone you already care about dearly. Stay in your love of yourself as you do this.
On this journey towards love of self-love and love for others, two of my teachers have some lovely resources. For self-love, a poem by Jennifer Welwood, Unconditional. For relationships a book, by her husband, John Welwood, Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationship. My friend, Evgenia Markova, has also created a really nice love visualization.