Becoming Love

“There is only one question: How to love this world.”

-Mary Oliver

What is love? What comes to mind when you say I love you? How do we learn and practice becoming love? 

Although there can be great joy in life, we live in a world filled heartache and suffering. There are wars, violence, unspeakable tragedy, poverty, hunger, disease, sadness, pain, and suffering. 

How do we love this world? 

To love only in optimal conditions is not real love. It can be easy to love all beings in the abstract, but it can be a great challenge to do so as our lives unfold with a multitude of demands or in the face of personal suffering. It is one thing to stay you love others and another to express that love in daily life.

The Buddhist tradition has developed a range of practices and reflections designed to develop our capacity to love. Like a muscle, love can be strengthened through practice. Lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and a particular form of equanimity are the four kinds of love taught and encouraged in classic Buddhist teachings. The four types of love can each become a core practice as we connect with the ways we can love this world. 

Tips for becoming love

Practice compassion and non-judgement of yourself and others. 

Do you focus on your shortcomings and deny or take for granted your positive attributes? Practice appreciating yourself and focus on the positive, rather than the negative.

Replace harmful habits with life-affirming habits and practices. 

Practice appreciative joy and celebrate the qualities, gifts, and achievements of others.

Practice self-acceptance: honoring and accepting all of yourself, including your shortcomings, mistakes, and feelings.

Practice forgiving yourself: as we develop self-compassion, we’re more accepting and compassionate toward others. 

Work through and accept your barriers of fear and shame that can hinder your path to cultivating love.

Practice loving-kindness through yours actions, everyday awareness, and meditation.  

Who do you love? What qualities do you bring into these relationships? Connect with these feelings of giving and receiving love and bring these qualities into all of your interactions. 

One of the most rewarding practices is to cultivate the ability to bring love into all aspects of our life and to all people we encounter. We can practice being a loving presence while we speak to others, even when we might be in conflict. This can be a greater challenge at times. It begins with having the intention and is supported by our own appreciation of love that we encounter. 

Open your heart as wide as possible. What would it be like if you brought love into all of your interactions, into all of your relationships, and into the lives of all living beings? 

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Published by tlindquistpsyd


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