what is love

What is love?

Deee-lite, one of my favorite bands, asked back in the 1980’s, “what is love?” Although they wrote a fun song that asks the question, the song never really gets to the answer (unless love is “degroovy”). Love is a theme of a lot of music, literature, and art. Mostly we see people who are pining or longing for love. They want your love. They need your love. They gotta have your love. This type of love is often seen as a noun. It is viewed as something that exists on its own and can be given away. It is seen as something that is gifted to another. It is as if we each have a bundle of love that we dole out in clumps and pieces to those we deem worthy.


This type of love is focused around the ego. Our persona, the person we believe we are, needs need to be loved and accepted. We expect that those around us should shower us with love and we have definite expectations of what that love should look like. We determine if someone’s gifted love is enough or given in the right way. Not only do we judge the quality and quantity of the love we are gifted, but we also feel as if we are nothing if we do not have that love. How many romantic comedies show a person as incomplete without their “other half.” Seeing love as a thing, as something that is parceled out, makes it a commodity. It is just another possession. The gifting of it is usually conditional and transitory. This is love as a noun and something that can be possessed, and lost.

Giving the power of love to another, having them be the one who has what you want, also makes you powerless. Many people are sad and depressed because they do not feel another’s love and therefore feel incomplete. We then make stupid choices to get love. We hide who we are so others accept us. We give up what we want in order to receive another’s love. We hold our tongue around our “friends,” afraid if they truly knew who we are they would abandon us. We diminish ourselves, our purpose, our being so we can be gifted with a nugget of love from someone else.

What I am coming to realize is that love is not a thing with which someone else gifts us. It is not a noun but is something inherent in our soul. It is something peaceful, fundamental, and deep. Love is a state of being. It is a way we move throughout our day. Love is seeing others around us with the eye of empathy and compassion. Love is being conscious of our actions and words and how they affect others. Love is feeling connected to those around us, even when they hate us. Love is a state of inherent peace found in the connection to oneness.

Sometimes love comes out as a gift or expression. What I have found though is once the love takes form outside our self it becomes a noun.  When love becomes a thing, there is now a conscious or unconscious desire to be recognized for what we are giving. Love is an inherent, internal experience. It can be seen in our eyes, words, and actions, but it is not what we say or what we do. It is an energy that fills our being and radiates unseen to all those around us.

Sometimes we can experience true love through an enlightened person like Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama. Sometimes it is seen in a common person. The garbage man who came by my old house was one of those people. He was calm and joyful and just radiated a peace that is indescribable. He didn’t give me the noun of love through picking up my garbage. But being in his presence I felt the existence of love.

Think through your life. Have you met someone who radiates love? Have you ever embodied that pure essence? Have you ever expressed your love without wanting in return?

giving a rose

To Give is to Receive

I am not a relationship coach, but I often work with clients who are seeking a real, long-lasting relationship. Often times they are depressed and desperate. They are upset that this amazing relationship has not come into their lives yet. From my side of the desk, it is easy to see how no one would be attracted to someone who is desperate and depressed. I encourage them to start being the person they want to date. If you want someone with a good sense of humor, smile, laugh and joke more often. If you want someone who enjoys an adventure, get out every weekend and try something new. If you want someone who enjoys travel, book a trip. If you want someone who jogs, schedule time every day to get a run in. If you want someone who loves freely and completely, start loving others. If they follow my advice, worse case scenario is they begin living the life and being the person that will truly make them happy. Best case scenario, by being all they desire to be, they will attract someone like-minded.

giving a rose
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The best way I have found to receive what we want, is to give it out. Often, what we send out into the world is what we receive ten-fold.

Don’t ask people to love you. Be love.

Don’t desire to be accepted. Be acceptance.

Don’t long for someone to comfort you. Reach out to comfort someone else.

Don’t pray for someone to forgive you. Forgive those who have hurt you.

Be the experience you want to have. Give to others what you wish to receive. In giving we also receive, and often we will receive more by giving to other, than others could ever give in the first place.

Be careful not to give to get. Do not give to receive immediately or directly from the person to which you are giving. Give to your mother and you may receive from your friend. Give to a stranger and you may receive from your boss. This is not quid pro quo. It is not like going to a store and exchanging money for the thing we want. This is open, honest, and non-expectant giving. The second you do something in order to receive, you stop the flow. Your giving must be done freely, with love, and without the expectancy of receiving in return. It is the unattachment from the result of giving that leads to receiving.

As with the example of looking for a relationship, giving freely of what you want to experience leads you to experience that thing. What we feel by giving is deeper than if someone tried to give us these experiences, because so many times we do not accept what others are giving to us. How many times has someone tried and failed to cheer you up when you are down? They can not give you what you don’t want to receive. They can’t give you what you can not embody yourself. By first embodying what we want to receive, it opens us up to accept more.

For the next few days experiment being the emotional states you want to receive. Give to others freely what you want to receive yourself. How does it feel to give without expectation? How does embodying what you want to receive feel different than when you actually receive it from others? See for yourself if it is not more beneficial to give than to receive.

building blocks

Building Blocks

I work with a lot of perfectionists. The reasons they became perfectionists may differ, but they do share a few challenges because of their desire for perfectionism. First, they have high expectations for themselves and others. This can be a good personality trait when used with realism, otherwise it can be very detrimental. Second and surprisingly, sometimes perfectionists give up too early; we lack persistence. If we are not immediately perfect, we quit and stop trying. And finally, we perfectionists lack patience for completion which can affect our happiness. By focusing on the building blocks instead of the overall achievement, perfectionists – and others – can accomplish what they desire without unnecessary stress and hopefully also find joy along the way.

Expectations

The other day I spoke to a driven overachiever who had just taken on a new challenge. She was attacking herself for not perfecting something new immediately after setting the goal. I compared it to deciding to start running and berating oneself for not winning the Chicago Marathon the next weekend.

Building Blocks: It is important to have realistic expectations for what we c

building blocks
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

an accomplish. If we decide to take up running, winning the next marathon is not a realistic immediate goal. However, waking up the next morning, stretching our legs, and putting on our running shoes is a good first goal. Trying to do too much too fast will only hurt us (and maybe others) and we will probably not achieve what we want. Analyze what you are capable of doing in this moment and set realistic goals. Then as you master each level move on to the next, but only when you are ready.

Persistence

Another aspect of expecting immediate mastery is that if we can’t achieve perfection on our first attempt, we attack ourselves for incompetence and stop trying. If we are not first, we are last so better to get out of the game before we are labeled a “loser.” A recent client had this all or nothing attitude. Either she was amazingly accomplished or she was a failure. She saw no middle ground. She gave no credit to her progress. Her success at the overall goal determined her self-worth.

Building Blocks: By breaking down our goals, we can celebrate our wins during each step. Instead of thinking we are a failure because we don’t have our degree on our first day of class, we can celebrate showing up for that class. Then we celebrate passing each test then passing each class then finishing semesters then completing years, until finally we can celebrate our degree. The key to persistence is constant recognition of how far we have come.

Patience

I heard you perfectionistic Type A’s laughing. Patience is not part of our vocabulary. Even if we create realistic expectations and break them into smaller goals that we persistently work through, we may feel very impatient with how long things take. I ran across a story the other day about how it took Ann Dowd until her 50’s to really make it in acting. This article is a great read for many reasons. For us, it is a lesson in staying in gratitude and joy throughout the process, even if it takes decades.

Building Blocks: Focusing on the end goal creates impatience and disappointment. Achieving the goal gives you 30-seconds of satisfaction. The processes leading up to that goal may give you years or even decades of enjoyment. When we stop looking at the accomplishment, we can tune into how blessed we are to experience the journey that takes us to our goal.

I agree with Daniel Burnham when he said, “make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” And . . . I think we have to cut ourselves a bit of slack. Mr. Burnham didn’t say one had to accomplish those plans immediately or perfectly. He didn’t say that failing was the end of the world. And from what I can tell, he had a pretty good time accomplishing what he did. Look at your goals. Are they realistic? Are you trying to accomplish too much at one time? Are you berating yourself for not doing as much and as perfectly as you would like to right now? Slow down. Accept what you can truly accomplish in the moment. Celebrate where you have come from and how far you have progressed. And please, enjoy the ride.

carry water

Walk the Talk

A friend introduced me to an author and the founder of a new system to activate the use of our whole brain. After reading weeks of his posts, I don’t think there is validity to his system which is another get-enlightenment-quick scheme. But I did find one of his initial posts poignant.

In this post, he talks about how “awakening is our beginning – not our end.” Awakening or enlightenment is the transcendence of our human minds and existence. Meditation, prayer, and numerous other tools help us transcend our physical lives and get a glimpse of the deeper meaning of life. The point he brings up is that this glimpse does not mean we are transformed forever. Enlightenment gives us the information for a better life, but then we need to choose to live that way each day.

carry waterIn my 20’s and early 30’s, I worked with a psychologist. Early on he put me on a medication. It was a very low dose, but it was enough to help me feel what life could be without stress. It didn’t, however, take my stress away. It showed me that life could be different, but it didn’t make my life different. The medication showed me that it was possible and then I had to work every day to maintain that stress-free feeling. My daily actions, the daily habits I created and utilized were the things that made a difference in how I experienced life. The medication showed me the possibility, but it did not alter my long-term experience. I had to do that.

Many experiences in Peru gifted me with amazing insight into the beyond, how we are all one, and the truest meaning of life. It was there that I also learned the old phrase, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” We may glimpse the amazing truth beyond our human existence, but then we still need to live on earth with traffic jams, bickering families during holidays, and irate managers. Having a moment of enlightenment does not changes us. Trying to live our lives based on what we gleam from that moment of enlightenment is what changes us.

The first book I wrote, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, was designed to help you wake up. It was meant to show you that there is a different way. Hopefully in using the tools in the book you can experience a pop of transcendence here and there, or at least begin to see that there is a better, more joyful, move loving, more peaceful way to live. Currently I am working on two new books, one that is meant to help us learn to walk the talk of enlightenment. The difficulty is not finding enlightenment, but to experience a higher form of living each and every day, no matter what is going on around us. And sorry, but this takes work and effort, it is not found in some new age tool that will automatically leap you into this new way of being.

Have you had a moment of transcendence? If so, share with us here. As you go about your day, be aware of how often you are in – and out – of that loftier way of being. How often are you triggered by situations or individuals? How often do you fall into depression, anger or resentment? Can you pull yourself out of these negative experiences and back into the transcendent experience you desire?

airplane above the clouds

Rise Above

As my plane approached Chicago and I enjoyed the warm sun streaming through the porthole window onto my face, I remembered that Chicago was in the midst of intense rainstorms. Where was the rain? Perhaps the forecast was wrong.

After a few minutes, the captain began the descent and the plane went below the beautiful sunlit clouds plunging into darkness. Rain poured. Lightening danced. Here was the rainstorm that the forecasters had portended. Interesting how that storm was not apparent, and was not a worry, when we were above the clouds at a higher altitude.

airplane above the clouds
Photo by Thammie Cascales on Unsplash

We spend most of life under the clouds. We are in the midst of the storm of life dealing with issues, challenges, sorrows, and conflicts. From where we are, we can’t see anything besides rain. We only see the storm. We only see the pain. We only see the issues. We only see the challenges. We only see the sorrows. Life is hard. This is only true because we are keeping ourselves at this lower altitude, this lower vibration. We soak in the negativity. We resonate with the pain. We don’t expect better.

It is possible to rise above the storm. Since we don’t have our own planes and a pilot’s license to take us to a higher level, we can use these tools to help us rise above into a higher vibration.

Gratitude: Our minds automatically go to the bad, to the danger so we can protect ourselves. It is a biological, survival technique handed down generation to generation. And it is necessary for our survival. It is not necessary, or conducive, to our happiness. When you feel stuck below the clouds replaying your pain and woe, take time to list at least five (5) things for which you are grateful. This act refocuses our brains and our attitude to see above the clouds.

Act: When we are down, we tend to wallow in the negativity. We stare blankly at bad television while mindlessly ingesting our vice of choice. We have low energy. Instead of taking a nap which will not recharge us, take action. Muster whatever energy you have. Clean the pot that has been in the sink for a week. Pick a weed or two. Go for a walk. Waking up our bodies will also wake up our minds, taking us out of morbid reflection.

Connection: Talk to a friend. Talk to a stranger. By reaching out to another we get out of the loop of sadness replaying in our minds. We are listening to another. We are connected to someone else. We are no longer in the mind-storm and once more connected to a larger world.

Service: A step further than just connecting is to actually serve someone else. This could be helping at a soup kitchen or smiling at the cashier who appears to be having a bad day. When we give to another, when we wipe away someone else’s storm clouds, we receive the same joy in return, and then some. In giving to another we are not just affecting them but are healing everyone they touch, including ourselves.

When you find yourself in a storm, remember you can rise above the clouds. You can find your joy again through gratitude, action, connection, and service. Through these tools you can rise above the rain clouds into the sunny skies.

simon electronic game

Everything You Want

As a child back in the 1970’s, I remember spending weeks pouring over the Sears Catalog to compile what I wanted for Christmas. The latest doll. A pair of roller skates. The Simon electronic memory game. The list would go on with every gadget and toy I could find. Santa was usually pretty good to me. I wouldn’t get everything I wanted, but I would receive a lot. And usually by February, I was bored with it all. I had everything I wanted, but nothing I needed.

simon electronic gameIn contrast, two years ago, I gave my husband some plain white socks for Christmas. He was ecstatic. He could use the socks. He wears socks without shoes while working and usually wears them out quickly. With this practical gift, he received something he truly needed and was very grateful.

Look around you right now. Are you surrounded by what you wanted? Do you have the house, car, and clothing you desire? Do you have a room filled with collectibles or your passion? How full are your closets, your basement, your garage? Do you have everything you want? If not, what else is on your wish list?

It’s exciting to have a dream and work toward having what you desire. Yet how often once we have a certain thing, do we find it does not fulfill us? When you look back at your life, is it things that make you happy? Or are your moments of joy due to an experience?

One of my and my husband’s desires and dreams was to have a boat. We would spend wonderful weekends on her exploring the Chain o’ Lakes. The boat itself did not bring us joy. What did satisfy us was what the boat provided. It gave us time together. It gave us projects to do together, and it showed us how to work together even when the projects were not going well. It brought us closer to nature. It allowed us to relax after a hard week of work. What we thought we wanted was a boat; what we really needed was time becoming and being a loving, strong couple.

Here are a few ways to focus on fulfilling-needs versus unsatisfying-wants:

  • Look through all the things you wanted and now have. Do they bring you joy in themselves? Do they sit on a shelf? If they provide you with joy, is it the thing itself or the experience that the thing provides? Is there another way you could have that experience without the thing?
  • For the things you still desire, what do you hope they will provide? Do you have to have that thing to receive what you really need or should you just focus on having a similar experience of what you believe it will provide?
  • Start a gratitude list for everything you have that you truly need: food, shelter, clothing, family, friends, health. Focus on the fulfillment from the true necessities versus the disappointment of yearning for your desires.

For many years my husband and I worked hard to have the boat and a beautiful home with the items we desired. I don’t regret spending money on the Elfa closets I desired or the Mid-Century furniture and art my husband wanted. When it came time to move and we had to leave much of what we had wanted behind, over time it has shown us the beauty and gift of having only what we need. No more, no less. Feeling free and more fulfilled that any of the items every gave us.