Opening to Love

"People killin', people dyin'
Children hurt and you hear them cryin'
Can you practice what you preach?
… would you turn the other cheek?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
'Cause people got me, got me questionin'
Where is the love…"

- The Black Eyed Peas

Where is the Love?

Where is the Love?

A day may come, if it hasn’t already, when you might look out at the anger and hatred and injustice and greed in today’s world and ask, along with the Black Eyed Peas’, “Where is the love?” For example, in the U.S., where is the love

1-When we sometimes don’t even bother to know the names of our neighbors…
2-When monetary wealth is concentrated in just a tiny fraction of our population…
3-When we lead the world in both the production and use of lethal weapons…
4-When we incarcerate more of our fellow citizens than any other “developed”      nation…
5-When we are so polarized, as a people, that we are often incapable of civil      discourse…

It is FEAR that is the root cause for the absence of LOVE in the world… FEAR that has us ignoring our neighbors, hoarding wealth, wageing war, building prisons and abandoning civil discourse. At a personal level, it is FEAR that has us reigning in our life-force by playing it safe… FEAR that has us separating from each other and from our very selves. But consider this: It is only by learning to LOVE that we will fully AWAKEN because LOVE is the force of connection that counteracts the separation and alienation that FEAR propagates.

But to the extent that any one of us has been hurt or disappointed by LOVE, we might not trust in the realness of LOVE. If this happens to be the case for you, consider that LOVE is not just a transitory feeling or emotion; instead, it is an integral part of human nature insofar as our endurance as a species depends on our ability to selflessly extend LOVE to each other.

Leslee AmongLilies - Oil on Canvas - Jean Forsberg

How is it With You?

What is your understanding and experience of love? You could explore this right now by giving consideration to the following questions:

Who is someone you love and how do you know that you love this person?

How is it that you show and extend your love to other people?

How do you extend love and respect to the more-than-human world—e.g., to the towering trees and the winged ones, and the  four-leggeds, along with the gazillions of tiny creatures that maintain the balance of nature?

How do you extend love to yourself?

What if love is who you are…who we all are? What would shift or change for you if this were true?

The Challenge of Unconditional Love

How would you describe your relationship with yourself? Do you accept and love yourself, unequivocally, just as you are? Or, do you have an inner-critic within your psyche. Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance, describes how she awakened to her “inner critic” in her twenties. It happened on a camping trip when she was sitting by a fire listening, as her friend described how she was working on becoming her own best friend. This idea rocked Brach’s world because she knew that she was anything but her own best friend—i.e., she knew that she would never treat a friend in the critical, judgmental ways that she often treated herself.

How is it with you? Do you delight in your own company? Do you forgive yourself when you make mistakes? If so, it would appear that you are on friendly terms with yourself. But, if you are like many of us today, you may struggle to respond with a resounding “Yes!” to these questions.

The capacity for unconditional love begins as we develop the ability to accept and love ourselves, unconditionally. This is easier said than done because, for many of us, our self-love is conditional. For example, when our lives are going well, it it easy for us to be happy and accepting of ourselves; but when things are not going well, we tend to be at odds with ourselves. In this vein, psychologist, John Wellwood points out: “All the things we dislike about ourselves—the tight, constricted, shut-down parts of us that give us the most trouble—are like children in need of our attention, whom we have cut off from our unconditional caring… The painful fact is that no one else can ever give us all the love we need in just the way we want...”  We are the only ones who can do that!

Radical Self-Acceptance

Have you ever noticed that there are thoughts running through your head every day, from morning till night? Think of it as a silent monologue. If you eavesdrop on this self-talk, you will probably discover that it is peppered with judgments that often trigger worry, anxiety and insecurity. Yes, far from being kind, self-talk often stirs self-alienation.

But rather than being a victim of our self-talk, we can choose to behave in ways that generate self-love. For example, if you notice self-talk like: I am such an idiot…, you could introduce kindness with words like: May I appreciate and love myself just as I am.

It’s also possible to cultivate self-love through radical acts of self-acceptance. For example, take the case of Amy Pence-Brown from Boise, Idaho, who had the courage to stand—blind-folded in a black bikini—for an hour at the center of Boise’s public market. With her, she carried a sign that read: I’m standing for anyone who has struggled with a self-esteem issue, like me, because all bodies are valuable.

To view what happened to Amy on that day in Boise, click on the heart button.

In response to Amy’s radical act, might there be a Self-Love experiment that you would consider putting into action?

Stepping Beyond Fear: Opening Our Hearts

In a recent class, I challenged students to make a distinction between the self-talk messages that arise from within their heads compared to those emerging from their hearts. We began by bringing our attenion to our chest region and, then, in a word or phrase, we each described the condition of our heart.

Michael went first and said that he was “tired”. Trusting that he could dig deeper, I suggested that "tired" might describe the general condition of his body, but perhaps there was a more specific word that captured the state of his heart. Michael followed with “I am feeling challenged.” Again, I coached him, saying: “Challenged” sounds more like the condition of your mind, not your heart.” At this, Michael looked perplexed. So I asked him (along with his classmates) to close his eyes and to bring his attention, first, to his breathing… and to the beating of his heart. Then, I asked him, for a final time, “What is the condition of your heart?” His response came quickly: “My heart is clamped shut”.

Michael is not alone. Gaining access to our hearts—to our capacity to FEEL—is essential if we are to fulfill our birthright as loving, compassionate and awakened beings. This work begins with the simple intention to open our hearts. Love is, after all, a state of open-heartedness.


I have a simple practice I do when I experience the icy fingers of fear shutting down my heart. It begins by making a relaxed fist with my right hand; and then tapping three times on the heart region of my chest while whispering the word: Open… Open… Open… After the third tap, I rest my open hand over my heart. I do this practice to remind myself that it is only by opening our hearts that we—both as individuals and as a people—might come to manifest, what author, Charles Eisenstein, calls the more beautiful world that in our hearts we know is possible.

"Love is your true identity; it is who you really are and what you exist for. Love connects you with all other human beings and with all of creation... We are created by love, to live in love, for the sake of love. Love is expressing itself not only through us but as us."

- Gerald May

"The hardest thing that I've learned on my journey with love has not been navigating my love for my partner, but cultivating unconditional acceptance of myself."

- Christy Carfagno, Steppingstone #17 Guide

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