Whatever the test, love can pass it.
However intense the feeling, love is stronger.
However hard it is to hold, love can hold it.
That is a little poem I wrote for myself a few years ago. It was a difficult time. My wife was ill, and we were struggling with meeting some big work commitments while simultaneously caring for our young son. During one particularly stressful moment, I asked myself: “What do I have that can help me get through this?” The one-word answer that came back was: “love.”
Love is the most valuable thing I have. Remembering love — in that challenging time, and as often as I can at other times too — is the most important thing I know. This is why, in this first blog I write here, I want to share something about love with you — I want to give you the best thing first.
Love is valuable because it is helpful. How so? Think of how it is that our lives are an interconnected web of relationships: relationships we have with ourselves, with others, with our environment — with all of our experience. And how can we insure that these relationships feel healthy, joyful, and meaningful for us? By grounding them, infusing them, and sustaining them with love.
Does this mean that we need to like everyone in our lives, everything about the world, and every experience we have? That we should never feel anger, sadness, or disgust? Absolutely not. Accepting the existence of all of our emotions, and of all parts of our experience — both pleasant and unpleasant — is what love is really about.
We can therefore understand this kind of love more specifically as being the“accommodating space of loving awareness.” This means that we relate with how it is that whatever comes up in our experience, our consciousness has room for it. Whatever it is, we can practice welcoming it into our experience in a warm and gentle way. And it is funny how strong experiences of happiness and pleasure can be as anxiety-provoking and unsettling as negative experiences can. So whatever happens, we can practice making room for it without letting it freak us out.
And doing that definitely takes practice. So if you feel daunted by the idea of meeting yourself and your experience with loving acceptance, or if you have tried to do it and feel like you cannot, please know that you are in good and numerous company. As Zen master Kobun Chino Roshi observed, “self-acceptance is the hardest thing to do.”
The good news is that even though it is hard, it is still possible. It is possible to lovingly accept yourself, because you are worthy of love. You deserve it — we all do. You may not believe that, perhaps because no one ever encouraged you to lovingly accept all the parts of yourself. But if you start giving that gift to yourself now, I promise you will gradually notice a big, positive difference.