On Having the Courage to Love
Your task is not to search for love but to find a portal through which love can enter – Eckhart Tolle
In his book Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, John Welwood explores what he calls “the universal human wound”; the feeling of not being loved, especially not being loved for who we are. A psychotherapist, Welwood casts new light on the possibilities relationships, and intimate ones in particular, represent for personal transformation and spiritual awakening. Unlike others in this field, Welwood focuses, not on relationships themselves, but on our capacity to receive love and how we can open up to that capacity.
He was moved to write Perfect Love, not by his divorce, but by the desire to understand what lay in the hearts of those who attacked New York’s Twin Towers fifteen years ago, and why, given its power, love is not a greater force in political and economic life. “Badly-loved” suicide bombers, with a deep sense of resentment and grievance, with a desire for revenge for being badly treated, are, argues Welwood, encouraged by our brutal use of force, and its dehumanising impact. On a much lesser scale, he says we do the same in our relationships when we shut down, harden our hearts and attack our partner as the “bad other”.
“All the beauty and horrors of this world arise from the same root: the presence or absence of love. Not feeling loved and then taking that to heart is the only wound there is. It cripples us causing us to shrivel and contract”
Romantic relationships are so compelling because they offer the prospect that another’s love will free us from this state, from the deep-seated and universal state of fear that we are not enough.
At any given time, invariably one in my circle of (mostly divorced) girlfriends is experiencing some kind of relationship trauma. However, generally we reach for the rose wine, not spiritual enlightenment, and bond over the intimate details of why he’s a total arse / undeserving / commitment phobe / emotionally retarded etc. It was with this mindset that I read Renee Dubeau’s Being “Not Lonely” Isn’t Enough.
“I want to be loved” says Dubeau “I want to be honoured, cherished, adored…We never have to choose between this or that when we know that we deserve to have it all. We deserve to have all of our needs met, our desires fulfilled, to be loved in every way. We deserve to be ridiculously happy every single day. We simply cannot accept less than that.”
“Go girl”! I was thinking as I was about to hit send and forward it to she-who-deserves-more-than-that-rat-bag-of-a-man. But I stopped myself. “I want to be loved”……”I want….” My finger hovered over the return key. Then I was reminded of Wayne Dyer’s words:
“You don’t attract what you want, you attract what you are”
Feeling that you are deserving, that you are worthy, is a precursor to attracting the objects your heart desires, but if what your heart desires is love, how do you “be love”?
In The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle purports “love is state of being..not outside..deep within you. You can never lose it and it cannot leave you. It is not dependent on some other body…You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realisation of oneness. This is love.” Tolle believes that the only love we can experience at a individual human level is the painful, clinging type, the type we experience when we fall in love, when we have an almost addictive need for another. In this experience of love however, love’s opposite, hate is never far away, as the ego becomes offended by the possibility of rejection. This kind of love cannot last, unless it transforms into something deeper.
Tolle’s definition love is “the recognition of the other as yourself” which we experience as a sensation of feeling at one with the world. We need to create space in our busy lives to connect to this sensation. Sometimes our human selves are so rigid it takes something drastic to crack us open – as Rumi said “the wound is the place where the light enters you”. Meditative practices are a rather less dramatic way to experience the gaps in our thinking that allow the light to get in, and create moments in which we experience a deep sense of joy, peace and oneness. In other words, love.
George Orwell wrote that “the essence of being human is that….one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals”. It takes courage to do love, to be defeated and broken up by life. On the other hand, it takes almost no courage at all to be love. One for the girls to meditate on when we crack open the next bottle of rose.
Also published on Medium.