Understanding Unconditional Love

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Of all the journeys of life this is the most important one you can take. 

Love can be confusing because there are different kinds. It shouldn’t be, because really it’s the most basic of human desires – to love and be loved. Maybe it’s because we all feel it is something we deserve as a birth right (and it is), but it’s easy to become disillusioned when things don’t work out how we planned.

So what is this thing called love? Is it just a feeling? A feeling of gratitude, joy, warmth, belonging, pride, happiness, satisfaction, empathy, affection all rolled into one? I guess everyone has a different definition. I know it’s something that allows you to be selfless, to focus on the object of whatever it is that causes you to feel like that. And on the surface this is a good thing – but it can also be bad.

There are many different objects of our affections and love. Obviously a romantic partner, children and family are at the top of the list of people you would expect to love unconditionally – the kind of love that you give without any expectation of receiving anything in return. 

Let’s examine the different kinds of love in a little more detail.

Romantic love – The starting point for beginning a family. Everyone wants to experience it at some point, to find that one person who cherishes you, accepts you for all that you are, walks beside you as a partner and totally trusts and believes in you. Someone with whom you can share intimacy and your innermost secrets – who fills your cup and makes you feel whole. If you’re one of the lucky ones who can sustain this type of love through your lifetime, then you have probably mastered the art of loving unconditionally. But sadly, divorce statistics tell another story about romantic love.

Children – To me this is who I think of when I think about unconditional love. We give birth to them and attend to all their needs often at the expense of our own, despite the fact they are initially unable to give us any reward for our efforts. As they grow and develop, we teach them right from wrong, but if they stray from our guidance we are still prepared to forgive and support them no matter what. We understand it’s all part of growing up. We are so proud of them but know when to back off and let them make their own mistakes in order to learn their own lessons. Even if the relationship blows up somewhere along the line and we become estranged from our children, we never stop loving them.

Parents  – Your parents are your first role models of what’s it’s like to be loved. If this doesn’t happen as it unfortunately doesn’t with many people, then it can lead to a rather grim outlook of something that should come naturally. Assuming everything is normal however, our parents show us the unconditional love that is common between a parent and child so we go out in the world seeking to do the same thing one day. Although they may show us unconditional love, do we do the same for them or are our expectations too high?

Siblings – This kind of love can be a little more complicated. They can be very different people in personality and just their existence can teach us the negative emotions of jealousy and anger, as we fight for our place in the family, competing for our parent’s attention. Some siblings are the best of friends however and remain so for their entire lives. The interesting thing about these relationships is sibling love sometimes feels like an obligation – like you have to love them because you’re related. To me there are often conditions placed on sibling love.

Pets – This kind of love is definitely unconditional. The best example are dogs who are so faithful they will love you and be excited to see you every day, no matter what mood you’re in or what’s going on in your life. They just exist as a ball of pure joy to make you feel good. They seem to know when you need more love than usual and they give it to you. Even if they are mischievous, just like a young child, we forgive them.

Friends – The love we feel for our friends can often trump the love we feel for family members because we choose them. They are our support network who are there because they want to be and we love them in a different way. It is not the kind of romantic love we feel with a partner obviously, but just as special. There is a bond that encourages us to be there for each other through good and bad, offer advice and feel grateful for their care and attention. There is mutual enjoyment of what each side brings to the relationship through experience, conversation, advice, knowledge, fun and much more.

However, except for perhaps a few very close friends who remain embedded in our hearts for our entire lives, they tend to change. As we develop and mature we outgrow some friends. People who may once have been the centre of our social life may, after a few years, no longer fulfil our needs as we pursue different interests and go in other directions. 

This sounds harsh but as you experience more of life, new people come in and old friends fall away. So if you really examine it, friend love is not all that unconditional. We make an unconscious condition that we will love them for as long as we need them in our lives. It doesn’t take away from the specialness of what was experienced together, it’s just change and change is necessary for growth.

Other types of love are for places or situations. For example you may love being out in nature because it offers a sense of peace and unity. You may love visiting certain places in the world because you feel a connection or you appreciate the culture or customs. You may love your job because it makes you feel fulfilled and gives you a sense of purpose. Although you may think you love these things unconditionally, do you really? What if your experience of them somehow changes and lets you down? They cease to be special because there are conditions, criteria on what they need to be so they can be loved.

As you can see there are many types of love but we still often place conditions on them, whether we realise it consciously or not. How then is it possible to have all these different feelings of love and make them unconditional?

The answer to this may seem complicated but it is really simple. 

We show unconditional love to ourselves.

Unfortunately when talking about love, most people think outwardly about it rather than examining what should be the first object of their attention. Themselves.

I think many people confuse self-love with being selfish or self-centred. There’s a bit of a fine line it seems. I know when I was growing up it was unattractive to be someone who “loves themselves” because it usually came across as being superior to others.

We’re taught to love without judgement, although when we see things we don’t like it’s difficult not to judge. Those things we don’t like are reflections of things we don’t like in ourselves but we either do not realise that yet, or don’t want to face it. It’s normal to shy away from facing our shadows because we don’t want to admit that we have a dark side. 

We grow up being taught not to cry when we’re hurting, to be a nice person, to be considerate We’re taught not to feel anger, resentment, jealousy, hate, greed so when they rear their ugly heads in our own lives we think there’s something wrong with us, and how can you love something that exhibits so many negative emotions?

Consequently many, many people have low self-esteem and self-hate issues simply because they’re not taught how to love the uglier parts of themselves. We’re too busy trying to feel love for everyone and everything around us, that we struggle when this becomes difficult because there will always be people and situations that invoke negativity.

It doesn’t matter about all of these different kinds of love and trying to make them unconditional because we are always changing. Those people and things change too so really it’s impossible to go on feeling the same way about them no matter what happens. We can only control how we feel about ourselves and then everything else will reflect back to us. If we truly learn to love our shadow side then those negative things will no longer appear in front of us because we’ve made peace with them. And if we show love to ourselves, that’s what we will receive in return.

Think about when you witness a colourful sunset. How does it make you feel? For me it’s peace and gratitude for the beauty of Mother Nature at her finest. She’s showing that to me as a reflection – so I can recognise it in myself. The more you love yourself, the more beautiful experiences and people will come along into your life. 

When you love yourself unconditionally, you allow other people to love you that way as well. Realise that you can’t control everything. You have no control over some things because you were born that way. There’s no use hating your body shape or size, your hair, your skin – you have to love all of it because it’s part of you. All these things are not the real you anyway – they are just what was given to you. Love them and others will too.

Don’t push away or hide your feelings. Face them, understand them and deal with them before they suffocate you. Forgive yourself and know that you are always doing the best you can with the current state of awareness that you have. We are all perfect beings inside. Our soul knows this but it has to convince all the other parts of us that fight to keep us in doubt. Listen to your soul and don’t give power to the parts of you that try to bring you down. Accept them so they don’t control you anymore and you will find the balance you are looking for. 

Opportunities will come, and people will be attracted to you because you’ll become a mirror of what’s good inside them. 

And what a wonderful way to live!

Do You Nurture Yourself?

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I recently got to really understand the importance of unconditional self-love. 

As life goes on and you’re faced with challenging situations, It’s so easy to accumulate guilt inside you for the way you handle some of these situations. At the end of the day we’re all human, therefore not perfect. We are learning all the time and the way we deal with things comes down to what we believe is the right course of action at the time for all concerned.

It’s only later when we witness the fallout of our not-so-perfect actions that we can develop regrets. But there is no value in holding on to regret. I know in my case, I never set out to intentionally hurt anyone, but sometimes the way I handled some situations was a survival mechanism for me which caused other people pain. 

These types of actions are motivated by the need to honour ourselves, but then you begin to feel selfish for making yourself feel better at the expense of someone else, even if you think it was warranted at the time. This then stops you from feeling as though you can give time to yourself because you’re trying to compensate for your mistakes by giving, giving, giving to everyone else.

I believe that guilt is anger turned inwards on ourselves and it is so destructive. You don’t even realise but it stores itself deep inside and you become unaware that you’re even holding onto it. It causes you to stop enjoying life and with time you can’t even really pinpoint where it all started. You just know that you’ve developed some level of self-hate without really understanding why.

Hanging on to guilt and regret depletes your levels of happiness, which in turn also hurts others, particularly those who are closest to you, those who just want you to be happy.

If you really want to stop hurting others, you need to heal yourself. This is not selfish. It is actually the only way to become the person that other people want to love and spend time with. It is impossible to love someone else fully if you can’t first love yourself. No amount of kindness, care or generosity has value if you can’t offer yourself the same thing.

So start with self-nurture. It may seem like a good idea to put everyone else ahead of your own needs but it doesn’t work. It is not selfish to look after yourself first. You can’t help anyone else if you’re broken.

It could be as simple as giving yourself alone time to do whatever feels good. What would this look like to you? It could be taking a long bath, reading a book that stimulates your brain, listening to soothing music, taking a long walk in nature – anything that energises you and fills you up.

When you feel good inside and start to love and appreciate yourself for the incredible human being that you are, and know that you have so much to offer, only then can you move on to supporting others.

 

Love Yourself First

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As humans it is easy for us to blame others when things go wrong. This is because it’s hard to admit we’ve made an error of judgement and face the consequences of what people might think or say. But remember, nobody is perfect and making mistakes is actually a valuable part of life.

What I have come to realise is even if we do blame others, we are actually angrier with ourselves, we just aren’t ready to own it yet. Blame is just delaying the inevitable realisation that we are not perfect. Although we may like to think we are doing the right thing all the time, the reality is that instead of understanding that it’s OK to make a mistake, our confidence takes a hit and we privately beat ourselves up. To me this shows that our natural state is actually to respect and even love who we are, but over time (and more mistakes and criticism from others), people can sometimes start to doubt themselves, which leads to a lack of self love. 

Most people I meet have issues with self esteem. When I was growing up in my all-girls school environment, those who were most criticised were usually described as someone “who loves herself”. If you think about it, that should not be a bad thing, although in that context it usually meant they were self-centred, only caring about themselves and not about anyone else. But that language started to tell people that it was inappropriate to show the world that you valued yourself as a person.

We are all connected and all part of the human family. When you hurt someone else, it comes back to you as well. So it makes sense that if more people loved themselves, they would be able to spread more love into the world and make others feel good about themselves. Loving and appreciating yourself for who you are is the easiest way to change the world. 

It’s hard to love other people unless you can learn to love yourself first, so if you’re frustrated because you haven’t met your ideal partner or found friends that you resonate with, take a look at the relationship you have with yourself. Your outer world is definitely a reflection of your inner world.

I don’t believe anyone is born “bad”. The way we turn out is a reflection of our environment and beliefs. Those beliefs come from early childhood and it is possible to change them. The simplest comment from a parent or teacher can create an unconscious belief that can potentially destroy a person’s self esteem later in life. We need to stop this cycle of feeling like we don’t deserve to be happy, successful or be who we really want to be.

The only thing you need to do is love yourself for who you are. Look for the good points, recognise the mistakes you’ve made and how you’ve learned from them or done something to turn them around. There is good in everyone, we all have a unique gift to share, so you owe it to yourself to recognise and embrace your magnificence. 

 

Children and Past Lives

Did you know that up until around the age of seven a child can still remember their last incarnation? The subconscious mind does not kick in until roughly that age so a child that young cannot be hypnotised because they can remember everything anyway.

You may have noticed young children often have an understanding of things they have never been exposed to. I once knew a three year old child who described to her mother one day how when she died they opened up her body, took out all the organs and replaced them with seeds. Then they wrapped her in bandages and buried her in a big room. Her stunned mother, albeit fascinated by the account, was a little worried about how she knew about such things when she had never seen a book or a TV show about ancient Egypt. A little research revealed that this method of embalming using seeds only took place for a short time in Egyptian history and only for royalty. The strange thing was when this child was born, her mother always felt that she had to give her a regal sounding name, so called her Natasha.

There are hundreds of stories like this one. The point of this story is that if you have a child who starts to talk about their previous experiences, it is nothing to be afraid of. Some children can bring the emotion and distress of a sudden death from a previous life to this one, so the best way to deal with it is to listen and help them by explaining that it is from the past and can’t hurt them anymore. Perhaps they haven’t yet realised they are in a different body now, so just listen and be understanding. Introduce them fully to their new life and make them feel loved and supported.

Unfortunately, a young child telling stories like this is seen as just their imagination and adults don’t tend to take them seriously. I believe that imagination is based on real experiences that we are not aware of. Many children also have imaginary friends who they talk to. These could be anyone from a passed loved one, a guide or someone from a past life they are still communicating with. This is also not cause for concern and should preferably not be discouraged as it so often is. My own daughter had an imaginary friend who was very real to her. We used to make him morning tea and strap him into his seat belt in the car when we went out. He seemed a great comfort to her so I never told her that he wasn’t real. To this day, although she doesn’t remember the details about him or who he was, she does remember that feeling of security she always had around her and thanks me for believing in him.

By the time children go off to school and their subconscious minds become activated, all of these memories and experiences will disappear. They will have current life experiences to learn and remember so these past experiences are not in the forefront any more. It is so important to the wellbeing of a child to support them in their beliefs and offer encouragement and understanding. This will prevent any unhelpful subconscious blocks developing in them that they are somehow not normal, which could affect them later in life.

Loneliness versus Alone Time

I have recently been pondering the concept of being alone as many of my clients tell me they have a fear of being alone in life. Some also fear dying alone. I would like to assert that what these people fear is actually loneliness, not being alone, which are two different things.

As a human race we are all connected to each other, but how much we notice that connection depends on how we feel. When things go wrong, people let us down, we suffer heart break it is easy to feel lonely. We tend to cut ourselves off from other people at these times because we feel vulnerable and not open to accepting outside help. We become angry at the world. It seems easier to wallow in our sadness and try to look for reasons or answers on our own whilst in that state of vulnerability. The most common thing that happens is that we grieve. The initial reaction is to blame others for our circumstances and hold that grudge, until we are willing to forgive (if that ever happens). We are sometimes not prepared to own our part in the situation, even though at some level we know we are guilty of something. If you are this type of person, you will not seek out other people because you fear they may point this out to you, when all you want to do is blame the rest of the world. Denial will definitely attract feelings of loneliness.

On deeper reflection, we may eventually discover our own weaknesses which can lead to a lack of self-worth. If we are unable to find love for ourselves, this can be an extremely debilitating and difficult thing to overcome. So it’s no wonder that loneliness follows – because we feel we are not worthy of attention from others. Again we are unwilling to enlist help because we feel ashamed, so both of these scenarios open ourselves up to loneliness.

What really should happen when life throws us a curve ball is that we realise we are probably on the wrong path or spending time with people who are not fulfilling our highest spiritual goals. Adversity is just a lesson and easy to recognise in hindsight – but difficult to cope with when you’re in the middle of it. We all make mistakes on our journey and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Instead of seeking blame, seek the lesson.

What is most important is having the ability to go into our hearts and discover our true essence. When things don’t work out, people tend to look for answers externally, instead of looking inside their own hearts. We all innately know what is best for us and what are our greatest strengths and weaknesses. Understanding ourselves and loving who we are is the key to being happy and fulfilled. The fastest way of breaking the pattern of loneliness is to be completely in love with ourselves which will attract others to our loving energetic field. If something doesn’t work out, look into your heart rather than retreating into a cocoon. The answers will be there and your fellow humans will not judge if you have done your own work and acknowledged your lesson.

Alone time is important because you need it to build that healthy loving relationship with yourself. This is very different from the loneliness you feel when you cut yourself off from your fellow humans. Being connected means that everyone feels your emotions so if you are self-loving, others will feel it too and you will never be lonely. There are people all around you doing the best they can and probably feeling just like you. If you can be the change you want to see in them, together we can create the world of peace we are all seeking.