By what measure do you love? If you are like most people, you probably keep some score of reciprocity, monitoring whether or not others are giving as much as you are in your relationships. Granted, no one likes to feel that a friendship or partnership is one-sided, but this typically self-referential approach to love does not really serve our highest good, and keeping score never feels good.
It is true that the feeling of love we have will fluctuate based on how balanced the giving and receiving is between us and others. But if we instead approach love as an action rather than a feeling, then we can be grateful, either for what we may be receiving, or if we are not, then for the opportunity to practice stepping deeper into love. If we take the perspective that loving is a spiritual practice, it changes the measure by which we love.
The Energy of Love
The key to making this shift is recognizing that there is only one energy of love. It is not mine, or yours, or hers. Divine love is radiating to us and through us in a million different disguises, through every human expression of loving that we share with partners, relatives, friends, and even strangers.
Love is the universally harmonizing energy that draws all things together. It is the uniting principle of the cosmos. When we see it as such, rather than a limited personal commodity that we may or may not be getting from another person, then we can start to create divinely loving relationships.
We can see one another as love channels and appreciate every moment as an opportunity to dive deeper into loving action, offering kindness and compassion to each person we encounter, rather than selfishly looking for what they can bring to us. If we are not watching to see what someone is giving back, then we are free to expand our capacity to love.
This is certainly not the world standard for loving, is it? And if someone is unkind, or even hurtful to us, how can we be loving then? This is when our practice is most essential! Rather than react in a similar way, we need to pause and breathe. We can bear witness to the purity of the person's soul behind his disagreeable exterior and choose to drop into the energy of love that lives in our own hearts.
Although it is not easy to keep our heart open in this way, it is possible if we allow conflict to be the catalyst for our spiritual evolution. Our challenge is to return again and again to the essence of love itself, not as an intellectual exercise but as an embodied meditation on our shared oneness, twenty-four hours a day, every day.
Of course, we will feel challenged by the painful limitations of our ego at times, but if we attempt to spiritualize every moment of our lives by living the principle of love, we create a purposeful connection to all beings and to the Source of love itself. Any small gesture of love moves us in a positive direction and eventually we experience a newfound freedom in all of our relationships. This practice also keeps us from drowning in the worldly fear and outrage that threaten daily to rob us of our inner peace.
Love Is Always the Answer
By making our engagement with conscious loving, rather than the scale of reciprocity, our measuring stick of success, then whether the world responds or turns away we are able to carry on with passion and purpose. Love becomes our guiding philosophy, sustaining us during times of sorrow and discouragement, and giving us meaning and joy. There is no more powerful or constructive force for positive change.
Every moment becomes different when we approach life through divine love. We see more possibility, more compassion, and more potential. We feel more expansiveness in every moment as we grow beyond our old personal limitations until the whole world becomes our beloved. By consciously loving, we remember the truth of our being; that we are love and that love is the answer to everything.
Meditation Opens the Door to Divine Love
The best way to develop a strong connection to this energy of love is through mediation. Daily stillness illumines the ways in which we may be blocking Divine love in our hearts or minds through habitual reactive responses, or the tendency to fight or flee if our ego feels threatened. It calms the body and the mind and creates the foundation for a deeply peaceful life and more harmonious human relationships. It also connects us with our innermost soul, which is love, and this makes us feel joyful and eager to extend that universal love to all those around us.
Beginning meditation is not difficult and requires no special techniques. The first step is simply commit to some time to be still. Begin with just five minutes each day. Turn off cell phones and other distractions and sit down somewhere quiet. Feel your breath moving in your belly and chest. Notice any thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations, but do not engage with the story. Instead, direct your mind to something that inspires the feeling of love for you. For some this might be a religious teacher or symbol. For the non-religious, it could be your spouse or beloved pet. However you initially connect to love is fine.
Train your attention completely on the energy of love and breathe into it with your whole being. Eventually, with deeper and deeper concentration on love, you will feel a merging into the energy of love itself so that you perceive no separation from it.
If you are in intimate relationship and would like to experience a connection together in Divine love, try an open eye meditation with your partner. Again, be sure to eliminate distractions and commit to a period of quiet time together. Sit in close proximity to one another and hold eye contact without talking. Take slow, mindful breaths for at least two minutes. See the essence of love within the eyes of your partner. This will create a profound feeling of togetherness and deeper intimacy.
Studies by Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education have shown that meditation increases positive emotions and decreases negative communications. As a result of seven weeks of loving kindness meditation, reports show participants felt heightened love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe: all factors for relationship longevity. And it only stands to reason that people who are happier and experience positive emotions are more likely to form stronger, deeper bonds.
Devotion to Divine Love
To experience the full measure of Divine love, a total commitment to it is required. The same is true for meditation. Spiritual practices, both meditation and conscious loving, evolve with time and patience. Unfortunately, too many people throw in the towel because results are not always immediate. But this is just like the worldly, self-centered love that we stop offering because we are not getting it back in the way we wish.
The more we choose to focus on Divine love, the more profound our devotion becomes. And as we become saturated with loving devotion, both our meditations and our relationships deepen. Our consciousness blooms in empathy, compassion, understanding, and ever-deepening love and we no longer feel limited or motivated by personal agenda or feelings. Instead we feel the bliss of oneness and unconditional love.