The Art of Loving
by Frank Vilaasa
When a rosebush starts to bloom, we know what to expect. We don’t stand around waiting for little green men to pop out. When we enter a relationship, however, our expectations are often for little green men – singing, dancing, bearing gifts and cracking jokes. Many of us carry all kinds of illusions about love, and end up missing out on the real thing.
Our illusions have changed over the years. While our grandparents dreamt of knights in shining armour, our fantasies are now more narcissistic. Narcissism is more about being admired than being loved. In the myth, the youth Narcissus sees his reflection in a pool of water. He becomes so captivated by his own reflection that he loses all awareness of himself, till he eventually starves to death gazing at himself reflected in the pool.
This is what many lovers nowadays seek to do. They look for someone who will reflect their image back to them in such a way that they become enraptured with themselves. Men seek women to appreciate and praise them, and women do the same thing. Each person becomes a pool of water for the other, reflecting back an enhanced self-image to his or her partner.
If our chosen pool of water starts reflecting unpleasant things back to us, we become very disturbed. They may be telling us some truth about ourselves, but this is not what we want to hear. We are not really interested in the other person, but only in what they can reflect back to us about ourselves. Eventually, like Narcissus, we lose awareness of ourselves and become starved – of genuine companionship, and of love.
The Nature of Love
Love is an energy that arises spontaneously in the heart. There is nothing we have to do to make it happen. Inside each of us there are wellsprings of love, which are always ready to flow. If we are not experiencing love right now, it is not because we are failing to create it. Not at all. We are, in fact, preventing it from arising.
We can think of love as like water flowing in a stream. Our illusions about love are like dams across the stream, blocking its flow. When we see that the flow is dammed up, it doesn’t help to jump into the stream with a paddle and start trying to move the water along. All we have to do is remove the dam.
How do we prevent love from arising? Besides narcissism, there are six other ways in which we block the flow of love:-
Possessiveness turns the other person from an autonomous being into an object. It demeans the other, and is self-centred rather than loving.
Dishonesty cuts the other person off from who we really are in that moment, creating confusion and mistrust.
Expectations/Demands are an attempt to force a response from another person. They prevent the possibility of love arising spontaneously.
Judgements show a lack of tolerance and acceptance for the other – qualities that the heart needs in order to open.
Idealism lacks acceptance of the frailties and imperfections that are part of everyone’s human nature. It makes the other person feel unnecessarily inadequate.
Projecting into the future. By creating dreams and expectations for the future, we turn our backs on the only place where love is found – the present moment.
We may know these things intellectually, yet in spite of this we can still find ourselves acting in unloving ways. The barriers that we place in the way of love are generally put there unconsciously. Other people may see what we are doing, but we are often blind to it. The first step to removing obstacles is to recognise that they are there. Once we have seen them, then removing them is actually easy. It’s just a matter of giving up old habits.
Besides removing barriers, there are positive things we can do to cultivate love. There is a close connection between our thoughts and actions, and the spontaneous arising of love. Love will not just happen under any circumstances. Like every other aspect of life, it is governed by certain universal laws.
There are seven steps we can take to cultivate the right climate in which love can blossom.
Be here now. Love is only ever experienced in the present moment. Being present, making eye contact, tuning in and sharing feelings in the moment; all these help to bring us to the place where love is found – the here and now.
Be non-possessive. Respecting the freedom of the other person just to be themselves, without any interference from us, greatly helps love to blossom.
Trust. Letting go of anxiety, and trusting in the innate goodness of the other person, and in the benevolence of the universe, will help the heart to open.
Be honest. The more you can open up with someone, the greater the intimacy that can develop. Honesty and vulnerability go hand in hand. They break down the barriers between ourselves and others.
Transform negative emotions. If anger/fear/jealousy etc arise, rather than project them onto the other person, we need to take responsibility for them and learn to transform them. This is done through awareness, acceptance and practicing positive affirmations to counter these negative states.
Be forgiving. Nobody is perfect – including ourselves. By practicing forgiveness, we release the judgements and negative emotional reactions we may have when others act unconsciously towards us.
Be grateful. Seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty helps us to appreciate all that we have been given. Complaining closes the heart, whereas gratitude helps it to open.
Balancing Action and Feeling
The art of loving consists in finding a balance between cultivating the right attitudes and behaviour (action/control), and being spontaneous (letting go into feeling). Love is not just a matter of technique – it happens spontaneously, when our thoughts and actions are in harmony with the true nature of the heart.
There are two sides to the heart. The right side is the active side, and is affected by our attitudes and behaviours. The left side is the spontaneous side, and is affected by factors that are beyond our control – such as karma, astrology, past life connections and so on.
When it comes to loving relationships, people generally fall into two categories. There are those who believe in romance, meeting the ‘right’ person and letting the magic happen. If the magic doesn’t happen, or if it fades away, then it could not have been the right person.
The second type believes that relationships have to be worked at. They believe in the active side of love. They will do and say all the right things, follow the guidelines and generally ‘try’ to create a loving connection.
While each of these approaches has some validity, neither is complete in itself. Each represents only half of the story, and is not enough in itself to ensure a life of love. Love is magic – but it also needs an understanding of the laws of love to make it endure. Otherwise we can easily stifle the magic with our foolish behaviour. Love can make you soar up into the clouds – but you need two wings to fly - the left wing of spontaneity, and the right wing of acting in harmony with the universal laws of love. Without this you’ll be like a one-legged duck in a pond – just going round and round in circles.
Aligning our thoughts and behaviour with the universal laws of love creates a balance and harmony between the two sides. The masculine, active side supports the feminine, spontaneous side, rather than interfering with it.
It is, however, in the spontaneous side of love that its real magnificence lies. When love arises, we find ourselves in the presence of something far grander, wiser and more powerful than we are. It cannot be reduced to a few words or gestures. Our thoughts and actions can support the arising of love – but they cannot cause it.
What causes love? Nothing. Love is not caused by anything we do or say. Love is our essential nature. It is already there, waiting deep in our hearts for us to give up trying to control our lives, and surrender to it. Love demands from us a surrender – and then it rewards us with the greatest fulfilment in life. It gives us a seat at the table of the Gods, where we can drink a glass of their nectar with them.
Love is the doorway to the divine, and the practice of aligning your thoughts and behaviour with universal law removes the rust that has collected at its hinges. The door then swings open, and ushers you into the palace of the gods. In the palace, a life of magnificence awaits you. When the heart awakens to its full potential – when our actions are in harmony with our feelings – a peace and tranquillity arises in us, beyond anything we have previously known.
Frank Vilaasa is a healer, counsellor and meditation teacher. He is the author of the recently released book ‘What is Love? – the spiritual purpose of relationships’. He can be contacted through his website www.awaken-love.com