By John Schorling
“In the end we discover that to love and let go can be the same thing. “
– Jack Kornfield, A Path With Heart
There are so many difficult things going on in the world that it can be easy to lose sight of what’s possible. With the connectivity of the internet and our portable devices and the continuous presence of the 24 hour news cycle we are constantly getting input about mostly negative events. If we are not paying attention, this negativity can really affect our outlook. Yet if we can drop below our thoughts, frequently focused on wanting things to be different than they are, and instead become aware of our present moment experience, we may realize that while there are many problems in the world, and even in our own lives, in this moment things are ok. Recognizing that our own suffering, arising out of this desire for things to be a certain way (our way!), is part of the universal human condition, can help us connect to others. And if we can be aware of this without judgment, feeling compassion for ourselves and others, we may also find love. And not just the love that comes with attachments or conditions, but unconditional love.
Our minds are wired to pay attention to negative stimuli, presumably because we have been under nearly constant threat from other people, animals, and circumstances for most of our human history. Being vigilant was necessary for survival. This negativity bias often gives rise to fear and avoidance and a desire to create the external conditions that will make us feel safe. We have also learned certain rules for how we believe things should be that we have internalized. Yet much of the time the conditions we seek already exist in this moment, and it is primarily the thought streams in our mind that are trying to convince us otherwise. If we can notice this, and let go of the thoughts and judgments and instead become curious about how we are feeling, then we may be become more open to experiencing love and compassion instead.
For instance, if we grew up in a household where loyalty was valued, we may feel that good people are always loyal and get angry if a friend is not as committed to our relationship as we think they should be. Our anger feels justified since to us loyalty is obviously a good trait. Yet if the friend grew up in a home where relationships outside the family were questioned and not supported (and getting too close to outsiders was viewed as threatening), they might have a totally different view of the proper role of being a “loyal” friend. If we can recognize the source of the anger in ourselves, and recognize that this anger is causing us to suffer, we may feel compassion both for ourselves and the other person who is acting based on their own view of the world. We may even find that we can choose to love them without their having to conform to our expectations, but rather just for who they are, unconditionally.
“With mindfulness, loving kindness, and self-compassion, we can begin to let go of our expectations about how life and those we love should be.”
― Sharon Salzberg, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection
Filed Under: Monthly Musings