I have recently arrived back in the UK to undertake a PhD. The working title of the research is ‘Toward a Psychological Understanding of Unconditional Love’. I have never been more excited by a topic!
As those of you who know me know, love is a huge passion of mine. In my capacity both as a spiritual teacher and therapist, and as an academic psychologist, it intrigues me all the different ways human beings have of choosing to love or not to love, of fearing love, loving with conditions and restrictions, or making love right or wrong in different circumstances. It seems that often, through limiting love and our capacity for love in these ways, we end up losing parts of ourselves and causing ourselves pain and anguish.
Fortunately, the mystical texts, living saints, and glimpses I've had through my own life experience tell me that there may exist a different type of love. Unconditional love, as I currently understand it, is a spacious love. It is a love that helps us to see reality with the accuracy that comes from the absence of fear. Unconditional love is dynamic, flexible and robust. It is a love we can trust, and that in turn, can potentially heal us of our pain, create wholeness, and bring us new levels of joy and fulfilment.
Given the obsession I have for the topic, my musings on love are far too many for this newsletter. You’d be here for hours! So for today, I want to focus on how the spaciousness of unconditional love can help us when the reality we know, whether outside or inside of ourselves, begins to change.
When I was a young girl, my mum used to say to me ‘love is not a pound of sausages’. The entertainment factor of this metaphor becomes greater when you realise we are both vegetarians, but bear with me! She explained that with sausages, when you give one sausage away, you end up with less sausages. With love, on the other hand, when you give love away, you end up with more love.
We had a mixed family. My parents had divorced when I was two and both remarried when I was between the ages of four and six. As I was adjusting to these changes, both Mum and Dad wanted to help me to stretch my concept of family: more family members didn’t mean a ‘broken home’, it meant more people to love and be loved by. The sausages analogy was Mum’s way of letting me know that even though my parents weren’t together anymore, and were leading – let me tell you! – completely different lives, I was allowed to love both of them as fully and deeply as my little heart could. Loving one parent didn’t mean betraying the other.
As I grew up, my two households diverged in almost every way imaginable. My parents, both of whom I adore and respect, held sometimes completely opposite truths about reality, God, and the purpose of life. In my formative years, this posed somewhat of a struggle. Parents are the first guides we have for what to expect on Earth, but mine were obviously working from two very different guidebooks. Often, their views appeared to completely contradict each other. Which view was right and which was wrong? Surely they could not both be true.
Yet despite the confusion, I loved these two different humans so much! The love I had for each parent allowed me to listen when they shared their truth with me and to hear each one’s perspective. Over time, what I came to realise was that even though the two points of view seemed completely opposite to each other, that didn’t make either one wrong.
It turned out, that each of my parents – who are both bright, intelligent people – had a set of beliefs and values that was perfect for them. Both of them were right! And I could choose from this open-minded smorgasbord what my own values would be. Even better, (and this took me longer to work out, but was always true) because of the spaciousness of love, whatever I ended up choosing, both parents would love me as I am.
I am delighted that throughout my life, both of my parents have been role models for respecting their own truth, and following the path that was right for them. It would be such a shame for either of them to have become half of themselves by trying to fit into the other’s universe. Meanwhile, I would not be who I am without the elements - both nature and nurture - that I have absorbed from each of them. Yet the person I have become is not exactly like either one of them.
That’s the journey, isn’t it? It’s not about being like or unlike anyone or anything else, it’s about becoming who we are. For me, love provided the spaciousness I needed to receive all that was on offer, and then to find and become myself.
What I’ve noticed about humanity as a race, is that when we come to forks in the road, whether caused by our own change in direction, or the change of another, we often get scared, and our consciousness clunks into rigid notions of right and wrong. Sometimes we feel we have to make something wrong in order to allow ourselves to leave it or to choose something different. But the truth in these situations is usually that nothing is wrong, we have just felt a more authentic calling in our heart and need to follow that ever-evolving truth.
When we can open into love, the world becomes more spacious. We don’t have to make something wrong in order to go another way, we can hold the new truth next to the old truth, with gratitude for both and clarity about where to go next. Through love, we get to feel into what is right for us in each moment, without condemning that which is right for others, or that which was right for us before but which we’ve now outgrown. We get to keep the treasures that our experiences have given us, whilst continuing to move forward into our most brilliant, blazing truth and wholeness.
I’m sure over the next four years of my studies, these newsletters will be full of ideas about unconditional love! But for now, I invite you to play with love as a pathway to spaciousness: the spaciousness to see things as they are; to listen to the people around you and hear what they are really saying, rather than what you fear they might say; to value all the adventures you’ve been on so far and the people who made them sacred, even whilst continuing on your own journey as you become your most authentic you.
There’s isn't one point on this self-discovery journey that is better or worse, ‘righter’ or ‘wronger’ than any other. You are perfect and the adventure is perfect every step of the way. Open your heart, love spaciously and listen honestly to your truth, and the way won’t be able to help but reveal itself to you: a way that is as sacred and unique as you are.
Wishing you a life of spacious love, and all the wholeness and joy it brings.