The world is a difficult place to learn how to love. There is fear, anger, betrayal, heartache and pain. Instead of connecting with others, we divide the world into one side or the other, one religion or the other, one political side or the other, one idea or the other. Perhaps some of us look at each aspect of the world in relationship to something else. Therefore something is either good or bad, up or down; in or out. Unfortunately looking at the world through the lens of contrasting to something else, can make our viewpoints narrow and divide us from one another.
During these challenging periods, this time in our world, fear and rhetoric mightily overtake our news, social media and even our opinions. How can I love when I am told I must pick a side? How can I love when I don’t agree with another? How do I love when I fear the other? How do I act as a sister to my sister when she seems in a trance? How can I understand another when their opinions scare me and their actions cause me to retreat to only the people that I know; only the people who think and feel like me?
These are questions to allow us to wake up if we are willing to start examining deeply into the illusions that we are somehow separate. There is no other. There is only us.
Learning to love ourselves is a good first start. To love oneself, is to question my suffering as no more difficult than yours. Perhaps it’s even less difficult? In other words, someone else’s behaviors and choices, what we often rally against, is born of pain. Someone’s life choices made them do such and so and say X, Y and Z. A humbling realization comes when you fully realize that you might have felt and said the same things given the same situation. When I can fully realize that we are much more the same than different, when I can truly connect with my heart with the pain that leads anyone to make certain choices, I am almost paralyzed by the feeling of humbleness that washes over me, taking away all judgement.
This is why loving yourself is so vital. It’s hard to endure the pain of someone else’s shoes without a good dose of self-love. Other people’s dark places are hard. They remind us of our dark places. And we don’t want to acknowledge our dark places. We don’t want to deal with the fact that we have thoughts, feelings, desires and longings that don’t represent our best selves. But they are part of our full selves. Loving ourselves is holding all the parts in our heart. Not trying to remove them, but instead to know those parts are there for some pretty profound reasons.
Can you feel it now? Understand more than you did? Or are you reading without feeling? We do that. We do it to stay safe. To feel what I’m writing, is to open yourself to a potential place that doesn’t feel great. But it is precious.
This is not to say that we give up speaking about Peace, Kindness and Love. None of this is to suggest we give up. But I am suggesting that we meet each other with more listening, less judging. We can’t just go around telling everyone they are wrong and we are right. No one is listening in that scenario. Everyone just gets more entrenched. And I’m trying to deeply understand others. I’m trying to deeply understand myself.
Perhaps through our dark parts, our “shadow selves” we can find understanding with those we disagree with? We can all find people whom we share positive qualities. That isn’t the path to peace. Sure we may have understanding with one another, we agree! But to find true world peace, we have to cultivate and practice understanding the shared qualities of our shadow selves. “You have lied? I have as well. You have acted unfairly? I have as well.” Comparing how much I’ve lied or acted unfairly as not as much or somehow better than someone else’s lying or acting unfairly isn’t helpful. We’ve all acted unfairly at times. This is a humbling state if you can allow yourself to feel it. It’s also a wise place. Because wisdom is born here. It lets us move forward with more openness to our vulnerability.
The more I work in this deep understanding of myself and my motivations, the more I know that “I don’t know anything about anything.” I used to think my knowing about issues, people, and life kept me happy, but really it kept me protected from exploring my deeper motivations and reactions. If I already knew, it kept me safe from facing my own flaws and my own stuck thinking.
I want to respond with love. Therefore, I want to be curious. I want to be curious about myself and about others. I don’t want to get so entrenched in my opinion that I can’t actually see what is happening for myself and others. I want to remember that someone else’s choices are the same ones I might have made, given the same life circumstances. I don’t have to react with pain. I can respond with love. Practice, practice.