To love unconditionally is a term we like to throw around a lot, as if it is a state we can simply slip into if our willpower is strong enough.
We speak of unconditional love as a place that we come to inhabit, or not, when in reality unconditional love is an ongoing and arduous journey into the depths of ourselves.
When we begin to summon the courage that allows us to shed light into our darkest corners, and when we accept those dark corners as parts of ourselves, our first tastes of unconditional love become possible.
Usually we attribute unconditional love to parents and their children. A mother’s love is the most renowned example of this dimension of love, an example used by spiritual seekers and masters and offspring all over the world.
The concept of a mother’s love is linked to deep understanding, selflessness and a willingness to connect in the face of anything. But very often, a parent’s love–even a mother’s love–is not willing to understand, to connect, and to forgive in the face of anything.
And so what then? Where is our example?
What It Means To Love Unconditionally
Especially in modern life, where the pressures of society have become so great, our collective fears around surviving and thriving have become so swollen that anxiety is the standby mind frame of the masses.
Children are often shunned for imperfections in the face of this anxiety, for fear that the child will not succeed if handled too compassionately or too delicately.
So what is it then, to love unconditionally? What does it look like? It’s difficult to know. And it’s especially difficult because in order to experience this powerful form of love, we have to find it within ourselves first.
Conditional sacrifice is not unconditional love
I used to have very romantic notions about how to love unconditionally that were dangerous.
In the dynamic of one very potent and dysfunctional relationship, I completely obliterated myself while trying to love someone unconditionally, even though this person made me feel unhappy and anxious.
Why did I do it?
I did it because I thought that if I love someone unconditionally–at this time this meant that despite the abuse–that this person would change, that my love would transform them (dramatically). In the wake of my efforts, I had emptied out all of my reserves, and my lack of self-respect was eating me alive.
I became a fractured version of myself, because this is what happens when we skip over our dark corners and instead charge full force towards the light–we end up chasing the illusion of our own illuminated being, while ignoring the full tunnel of dark matter that we are traveling through. In the end, the overwhelming amount of dark that we are ignoring ends up absorbing us.
How To Practice Loving Unconditionally Every Day
If you were raised in a culture based on fear, a culture that asked you to be perfect in order to allay this very fear, then unconditional love is a foreign concept to you.
How to begin? Start small, and start with yourself.
You missed the train? Oops. Since the train is not angry at you, any lingering anger is only directed from yourself. Forgive the imperfection.
Were you in a rush? Perhaps you could ponder why this was, so that you might plan more accordingly in the future. Perhaps you even admit to yourself–gasp–that this won’t be the last train you are going to miss.
And perhaps the very acknowledgment of your imperfections will allow you to relax. Once we can relax, we can accept. The problem is that so many of us are so tightly wound.
Now let’s say that in the future, your sister is driving you to the train. She doesn’t get out of the house in time, and she is the reason why you miss the train. Angry on the platform once more, you direct your anger towards your sister.
But this time, you’ve already forgiven yourself once for missing the train, so why not forgive your sister? She is not perfect, either. When you excuse her, you relax again, and notice that there is something in you that feels buoyant.
Here, a small, sweet taste of unconditional love.
Love is the highest calling of our spirituality because it demands that we accept our imperfections and use our creativity to love through them. If we can love ourselves, we can love each other. We can miss a thousand trains, and come to find the empty train platform as beautiful as the crowded one.
What is something about yourself that you wish to love unconditionally? Inspire us in a comment below!