Friday, 18 May 2012

The Gift of Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (NIV).

 While going through my cancer treatment I often reflected on the nature of love, the different kinds of love, and the different ways each of us have at showing it – this was part of my personal introspective spiritual journey which often involved reflecting on the gift of love which is a wondrous thing.

“Love is the joy of the good, the wonder of the wise, and the amazement of the Gods. “ Plato

I know this is a huge and complicated subject one that has been explored for centuries and I probably can’t do it justice here and satisfy everyone’s views and opinions of love – I can only put my own spin on it and tell where my journey has led me.  Warning its quite a long blog!

“I believe in the compelling power of love. I do not understand it. I believe it to be the most fragrant blossom of all this thorny existence. “ - Theodore Dreiser

The main thing I have learned is that love is not necessarily about people spending time with you, or needing you, but about being there for you no matter what and vice versa.   It’s about acceptance and letting go.  Accepting that people won’t always be the people you want them to be, act the way you want them to act, or do what you want them to do and finally by letting go of your expectations and loving them for whom they are.

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. “ Victor Hugo

Despite believing this though, my expectations of love have been high - particularly with regard to unconditional love over the last few years or so - and you can push love to its limits whether is regarding colleagues, friendship, family or lovers.

 “ Love is when you need someone to be a part of your life, even when they are boring and dumb and rude, because you know they will again have one of those moments where they shine and that light is what you need to survive.” – Unknown

Of course there are different degrees of love - love of animals, your children, lovers, husbands and wives, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews, friends, colleagues, of God and humanity itself.  Each has a part of my heart.  The love has always there but I also believe that for someone to grow deeper love, they also have to go through some pain.  Just as there is different degrees in loving there are also different degrees of pain and suffering and it is through this that we learn how to love.

“Love is giving someone the ability to destroy you but trusting them not to do it” – unknown

The Greeks had just four words for love: affection, friendship, Eros, and charity.  Loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and understanding; are just four qualities of heart that reside within everyone or at least has the potential to do so.  I believe that love can be strengthened through practice.  This is very much recognised in Buddhism.  It can be easy to say you love all things in the abstract, but it can be a great challenge to do so when we have to live with them. It is one thing to love and another to express that love in daily life.  I do try to cultivate the ability to bring love into all aspects of my life and to all people I encounter.  This is not as easy as it sounds!  Learning how to include love’s presence while we speak to others, live with others, and are in conflict with them can be very difficult.

A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge. “ Thomas Carlyle

I have a great affection for many different people.  This kind of love has been described as the most natural, emotive, and complicated of loves: natural in that it is present without coercion; emotive because it is the result of fondness due to familiarity; and complicated because it pays the least attention to those characteristics deemed "valuable" or worthy of love.  Its strength is also what makes this kind of love vulnerable and as a result people come to expect, even to demand, its presence—irrespective of their behaviour and its natural consequences.  With my immediate family it’s all about unconditional love whereas with my some of extended family it has seemed more about keeping within rules and boundaries – some of which I seem to have broken.  Sometimes we expect too much of our families and expect them to be a friend instead.  I think my expectations of unconditional love were probably too high.

“Love is when the one person in the world that shouldn’t make you cry just happens to be the one person in the world that makes you cry the most”- Malinda

I came across a meditation recently to help you to forgive those who have hurt you and those you have hurt to forgive you, and by the very act of forgiveness attracting love and contentment in your life (rather than obsessing on the issues of the past) and moving forward.  So while relaxing in the sun, visualise the person walking on to a stage.  See a white loving light of the universe pouring through your heart surrounding them. Tell them how you feel.  Hear their replies.  Forgive them and hear them forgive you.  See a scythe of white light cutting the cords that bind you together releasing negativity.  Let the cord return to the person as they leave the stage.  The next time you think of them, the connection will be lighter, making way for more light, joy and love in your life.

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (NLT) Proverbs 17:9

Friendship is freely chosen and seems the happiest and most fully human of all loves. Sometimes we tend to ignore the importance of this kind of love.  Again there are different degrees of friendship and our ideas of what it means to be a good friend, a close friend, a really close friend or a best friend are all different.  We may describe someone as a friend,  to which we enjoy each other's company, are useful to one another, and share a common commitment to the good' .  Friends rely on each other both for support and a sense of personal identity, but also accept that each needs the space to develop relationships with others.

“It is those who desire the good of their friends for the friends’ sake that are most truly friends, because each loves the other for what he is, and not for any incidental quality” - Aristotle

“Material things can't make the soul whole. Only the love, trust, and loyalty of friends can do that. – Unknown

My idea of a good friend is a person who will hold my hand when I’m scared, helps fight off those who try to take advantage of me, thinks of me at times when I am not there, reminds me of what I have forgotten, helps me to put the past behind me but also understands when I  need to hold on to it a little longer, stays with me so that I have confidence, goes out of their way to make time for me, helps me clear up my mistakes, and  helps me deal with pressure from others, smiles for me when they are sad, helps me to become a better person, and most importantly loves me!  I know very high expectation but one I would reciprocate in every way!

"Friendship that flows from the heart cannot be frozen by adversity, as the water that flows from the spring cannot congeal in winter." - James Fennimore Cooper

During my cancer journey I lost a few friends but also became closer to others. I tried to ponder why I lost some friends – and think some of it was because I suddenly found myself disconnected from dozens of people who were my "friends".   I was lax in returning calls mainly because I was going through a tough time and found myself not really up to talking to anyone and also became very inwardly focused.  Most of my friends understood this and gave me space when I needed it although I can understand why others may have felt snubbed (this is the same for family as well).  Some People just didn’t know what to say so avoided me not being able to handle the negativity of my illness. I am certainly a different person now than when I was first diagnosed with cancer and although it has hurt to lose friends I have made some new friendships whose relationships are now developing and flourishing.

“We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person. “ W. Somerset Maugham

Eros is the kind of love which I don’t have right now and not sure if I do want – although it’s not completely off the agenda!!! This is all about making a strong emotional connection with another person - a type of love that creates excitement at the beginning of a new relationship where some people experience love with a lot of passion, intimacy and intensity.   It’s not necessarily a healthy kind of love and can become dangerous if it becomes idealised.  Rolled into this is that some people experience love as a game to be played with other people’s emotions to gain control over a partner through manipulation.  For people who experience this kind of love, it is satisfying to outwit a partner and exploit his or her weaknesses.  I have lived through this kind of love in many various ways and say no thank you!

“Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.” – Dr Joyce Brothers

“Love is always bestowed as a gift - freely, willingly and without expectation. We don't love to be loved; we love to love. “ Leo Buscaglia

Love can be overwhelming experience; resulting in a complete loss of one’s identity.  Some people love tends to burnout before it gets the chance to mature. People who experience this kind of love are easily taken advantage of – I am not getting caught in this trap again either!

"Sometimes we must get hurt in order to grow, we must fail in order to know, and sometimes our vision clears only after our eyes are washed away with tears." – Unknown

Charity is the love that brings forth caring regardless of the circumstance and some sees this as the greatest of loves.  Charity came into English from Latin and Old French, meaning love and care for our neighbours.  Some people experience this kind of love as being the caregiver or nurturing -  attentive, caring, compassionate and  kind - a more altruistic or selfless type of love. If you like, defined as “humanism”.   This kind of love has many faces, such as a warm smile to strangers, a personal thank-you-letter, an encouraging hug, an unexpected phone call, a thoughtful word of appreciation, a bonding with a person in grief, a prayer for the healing of others, a heartfelt forgiving when you are wronged.  All this is done not out of duty or responsibility but out of the abundance of warmth and love you feel welling up inside you.  

 “ You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love. “ Henry Drummond

This is the love I am trying to encourage and grow within me not just the feeling, but by actions. It is the kind of love I have most appreciated on my cancer journey which has taught me most of all compassion.  You may not call it yourself love, but I think I would call it the most natural kind of love and one which is shared by all people because we are born with it.   I don’t want to be the kind of person who loves, but only in response to the love shown towards me.  I want to be able to love freely, not judge people and dismiss them because of their views, or feelings, their background or the way they look or talk.  

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them." - Mother Teresa

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (NIV) 1 John 3:18

I am not looking to become the perfect person far from it - every day frustrations interfere, and I have also had to learn another valuable lesson in that I need to love myself as well – that also means taking care of myself from a health perspective and despite what I have gone through I am not very good at that either! It’s something I do have to keep practicing like working the muscles in my ankle. Loving doesn’t mean not getting angry or disappointed it just means doing what is right from your heart.  You may disagree with me on several aspects in this blog – but a least you are having a debate with your heart and yourself (or others) on the nature of love!

“Love is the foundation from which your decisions about your life should be made. “ Darren L. Johnson

However, you never know the strength or what the capacity of loving can do if you don’t take a risk and dive in and what joy and happiness it can give you as well!

“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides." - David Viscottus

 “There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved: It is God's finger on man's shoulder. “ Charles Morgan

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