One of the most precious gift we have been given is our ability to love. Our love may encompass the big and small, our love may encompass the beautiful and ugly, our love may encompass ourselves and everything around us. Think about the many layers of your love; the romantic love for someone special, the love for something you like to do, the love for your family, the universal love which drives your desire to help those in need and protect everything in creation from harm.
Love is a central tenant of many world religions. In Christianity both the love of worshippers for God and Jesus as well as the love of God and Jesus for worshippers are often repeated themes. Likewise worshippers are encouraged to love one another and others:
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.
1 Thessalonians 3:12
In Buddhism love or loving-kindness is known as one of the four immeasurable minds. It is in essence the strong wish that all sentient beings be well and happy:
Radiate boundless love towards the entire world — above, below, and across — unhindered, without ill will, without enmity.
While we should practice our ability to feel this kind of love in every action and thought, the following practice may help us to become more mindful of our ability to love and strengthen it:
- Take five deep breaths
- Think of the love you feel for someone close to you, such as your partner, parents, pets, children or friends.
- Think of someone who was wronged you - do you have the capacity to feel love for them?
- Think of yourself, with all your faults and shortcomings. Can you find love for yourself?
- Think of all of humankind, every single living soul. Can you find love for each and every one?
- Think of all sentient beings. Cows grooming their calves; lion brothers fighting for their territory; elephants wandering together. Can you find love for each and every one?
- Think of existence as a whole; every particle in the universe, every field and power, seemingly endless time itself. Can you find love for this vessel in which we exist?
Love just like gratitude and forgiveness is a powerful, deep emotion. We have a natural ability to love and using this ability may make us stronger and wiser. Unfortunately in times when we are weak, it is often difficult to find love, and much easier to find hatred and self-pity. If we find ourselves unable to love easily, we may follow some of the other practices to help us be stronger and unlock our ability to love unconditionally again.
Image credit: Dan Sudermann