Karen K Redding Ph.D.

Where is the Love? It begins with ourselves…

By Karen K. Redding/ February 1, 2016

Karen Redding, Where is the Love

It’s February and you know what that means…the presence of hearts, anywhere and everywhere, given the ever-increasing attention to Valentine’s Day.  Love is certainly something to celebrate, but is our attention to love only about ‘romantic’ love?

There are SO MANY ways to love and receive love.  Frequently, given different conditions in our life, it is hard, sometimes painful, and often fearful to open and steady our heart to the presence of love.  This steadiness is most challenging when love is directed towards our self.

The Dalai Lama has said,  ‘My mind is filled with disturbing thoughts, yet my heart remains steady.’  This quote asks us to consider how we cultivate conditions in OUR mind, so that in the midst of the inevitable ups and downs of life, OUR hearts can learn to be steady.

The practice of Mindfulness is MORE than being present and accepting the moment.  It involves meeting the moment with our deepest values, and the commitment to living ALL the moments of our life with greater clarity and purpose.  This is what it means to live with wise intention.

There is a Zen saying that says, “The most important thing is remembering the most important thing.”  What if the most important thing was to see the world with an open heart?  What might that look like?  Perhaps the growing capacity within ourselves to recognize and allow:

Anger feels like this…

Wanting feels like this…

Fear feels like this…

Disappointment feels like this…

When we can’t bear our own humanity, we project it onto other people. Hate and blame defend us from our own pain.  The capacity for a kind and loving responsiveness begins on the INSIDE.

With mindfulness, we learn to develop more spaciousness to OBSERVE what’s here rather than be ruled by it or lost in it.  However you are, it’s OKAY.  It doesn’t have to be any different.  This is what our mindfulness practice offers us – the direct awareness of this is how it is, RIGHT NOW.  This thought, feeling, sensation is the experience of stress, sadness, frustration, joy, whatever is here, arising in the body.

It’s not about making pain, fear, or discomfort go away, or trying to fix it.  We meet and greet it as IT IS because it is HERE.  In this exploration of meeting EVERYTHING…the joys, struggles, up’s and down’s, we are asked to stretch.  We are encouraged to see things that we don’t like or can’t even SEE, sometimes.

When we can do this, it can’t help but create underlying conditions for love because the heart that can meet ANYTHING…the OPEN heart…is the heart of love.

And one of the biggest stretches for ALL of us is meeting the struggles and stretches of our OWN heart.  Holding wise intention invites us into the radically different perspective of asking the question:  AM I ABLE TO CREATE HARMLESSNESS, TOWARDS MYSELF OR OTHERS, EVEN WHEN MY LIFE IS PAINFUL?

There is a spectrum of responses available to us when we practice mindfulness.  The choices become:  If I can’t be loving, can I be kind?  If I can’t be kind, can I be non-judgmental? If I can’t be non-judgmental, can I do less harm?

When love meets pain, it becomes Compassion.  We can’t WILL something, but we can cultivate a willingness to meet ourselves in a kinder and more accepting way.

A way of relating to our pain or suffering, might involve saying to ourselves:

May I hold my pain & suffering with care and compassion.

May I embrace myself WITHOUT judgment…WITHOUT comparison…WITHOUT fixing.

May I practice being ‘perfectly human.’

May I love myself completely, just as I am, moment- to- moment.

Ultimately, wise love doesn’t exclude anyone. Like a flower, it is open, inclusive, and present for everyone.