Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Love

love haiku

I have known friendship love, parental love, romantic love, family love and unrequited love in my life time, but the only love that made a difference was self-love. You don’t need confirmation from the world or another person that you matter. You simply do matter. When you finally believe that truth and live it then you can do amazing things with your life! Shannon L. Adler

Love; has there been a more talked, written, sung, danced, painted or drawn about subject in the history of mankind? Love is the most celebrated emotion of all. But what is love? In 2012, that question was the most popular search on Google; the Guardian article attempts to answer it by offering viewpoints from the fields of science, psychotherapy, philosophy, literature and religion. Love consists of all of those perspectives, combined, and, I suspect, a whole lot more besides.

C.S. Lewis identified four categories of love; in The Four Loves he writes about how three of them, Affection, Friendship and Eros all materialise easily in human beings. Charity, the fourth, was, for Lewis, divine, and he believed it is necessary for us to cultivate Charity in order to temper the other three loves and prevent them from becoming warped and even harmful.

The necessity for, and existence of, women’s refuges worldwide (not forgetting that men are also victims of domestic abuse) suggests that Lewis was right to highlight the need to expand our capacity to love. He wrote about the difference between ‘need’ love and ‘gift’ love; it’s hard to describe the type of relationship which results in one partner being on the receiving end of violence as bountiful. Indeed, Lewis states: Need-love says of a woman ‘I cannot live without her’; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection – if possible, wealth.

A Course in Miracles says that what isn’t love is always fear; in other words, at any given time, we are either expressing love, or crying out for healing and help. If you look closely at all situations you will find that to be true. For example, when an abusive partner behaves aggressively, dig deep beneath the bullying and you will find that fear is at its root. Of course, this doesn’t excuse or even justify cruel behaviour; it does, however, explain it. To quote Rainer Maria Rilke: Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

What might transpire, I wonder, if when we were confronted by fear-fuelled expressions we were able to respond with love and compassion? This doesn’t mean we allow people to mistreat us, rather we pause before reacting impulsively when our ‘buttons’ are pushed; after all, we only snap when faced with opposition if our own fragile egos are prodded.

Psychotherapist Philippa Perry, who features in the Guardian article mentioned above, says that: in order to care for others you need to be able to care about yourself. She refers to the Ancient Greek concept of Philautia, or self-love, which is the opposite of selfishness. Philippa’s claim that we can’t truly love another before we can love ourselves has been disputed; what is beyond doubt, however, is that there can never be too much heartfelt love awarded to both ourselves and our fellow human beings.

Reflecting on the fact that I put up with a string of increasingly abusive relationships eventually made it abundantly clear to me that, for whatever reason, self-love was lacking in my life. The consequences of this were so destructive I count myself lucky that I’m here to tell the tale. I can relate to Brene Brown’s statement: I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.

What it comes down to is this: we all deserve to be here and to have the best. Our essence is love; it’s what we are at our core. But when you’re as low as it’s possible for a human being to go, how do you find a way to keep going? My love for my son gave me the will to persevere; I’m not sure if I’d have had the strength to carry on if it wasn’t for him. I’ve called him my saviour on many occasions. And now I know that I was worthy of love all along, for my own sake, not just my son’s, I’m keen to encourage the downtrodden to bounce back.

Have you ever granted yourself the love that you’ve desired from (or given to) someone else?

Try following Amy Leigh Mercree’s advice: Being present to yourself in love and with kindness is the ultimate gift… Celebrate who you are in your deepest heart. Love yourself and the world will love you.

If we could all love ourselves the world would be transformed; how amazing would that be?

Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Lifelong Learning

lifelong learning haiku

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. Jiddu Krishnamurti

I’m a big fan of lifelong learning, and not just because I have a PGCE in the sector. I’m convinced that a desire to learn has contributed to me overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges and developing as a person; lifelong learning has considerably enriched my life.

Jeff Cobb has outlined 5 key benefits of lifelong learning:

  1. Economic: the saying is that the more you learn, the more you earn.
  2. Intellectual: not exclusively academic; for example, creativity is nourished.
  3. Cognitive: keeping the brain stimulated is said to ward off senility.
  4. Social: brings us into contact with others; social connections have been shown to increase not only our happiness, but also our lifespan.
  5. Spiritual: as in nurturing the spirit, increasing zest for life.

I’ve discovered Jeff’s findings to be true. Willingness to learn has opened my mind to the extent that I am inexhaustibly curious about our world and its inhabitants, attesting to Philo of Alexandria’s axiom that: Learning is by nature curiosity. I can honestly say that I’m never bored.

Where are you on the disinterested – engaged with life spectrum?

Henry Ford said that: Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. It could be argued I’m living proof that; people tell me I don’t look my age, and I’m sure it’s as much to do with an interest in the world as it is good genes. Fascination with life keeps my spirits up and my outlook cheerful.

Is your attitude to life one of apathy or playfulness?

I have to acknowledge that I have learned the most from my mistakes; I could be said to embody Richard Bach’s assertion that: There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go. Would I have undergone the essential personal transformation I have were it not for my gargantuan mistake? I doubt it would have happened in the way it did; there was only one way to make sense of my experience, and that was to learn – fast.

What have you learned from your slip-ups?

Walt Whitman asked: Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you and disputed passage with you? I can’t deny that the person whose actions led to my steepest, and most influential, learning curve was the perpetrator of violence against me. Having said that, there have been caring human beings without whose teaching I would not be in the position I am today.

Who have you learned the most from?

A hunger for learning, including learning what I am passionate about, has enabled me to make the most of my abilities. I sometimes wonder how my life would have turned out had I not blundered in the ways I have; would I still be trapped in the thorny, ensnaring briar of the immature ego? I’m not entirely sure I’d choose to endure such heartbreak to attain my hard-won wisdom, although I wouldn’t be anyone other than who I now am.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross sums it up well: Learning lessons is a little like reaching maturity. You’re not suddenly more happy, wealthy, or powerful, but you understand the world around you better, and you’re at peace with yourself. Learning life’s lessons is not about making your life perfect, but about seeing life as it was meant to be

Learning from my experiences has given me insight and helped me to find meaning in my life. It has made me resilient; I’m able to remain calm in a crisis and face life head on, no matter what.

Lifelong learning has improved the quality of my life and my life satisfaction.

I concur with Louise Hay’s opinion that: The gateways to wisdom and learning are always open, and more and more I am choosing to walk through them. Barriers, blocks, obstacles, and problems are personal teachers giving me the opportunity to move out of the past and into the Totality of Possibilities.

When I do this, possibilities do appear unlimited; it’s a fortunate place to be. Care to join me?