In this reflection piece, I share my personal discovery which may or may not be true. What is shared here is a personal experience and reflection. It is not an opinion piece. I recently heard a talk that said unconditional love is like the Sun that always gives. The Sun has enough to give and does not demand any return. The Earth too gives, but in the end, we have to give what the Earth provided back.
As a youth, I held the ideal of unconditional love. But I had no understanding what it is. When I was young, I wished I could experience unconditional love. When I could not receive how I would like to be treated, I felt it was because I didn’t deserve love. But how could I receive what I could not give? It took me almost a lifetime to understand what unconditional love means.
Misunderstanding unconditional love
I had a simple thought that volunteerism was a way to give love unconditionally. But I was unable to give unconditionally. I found I lacked the energy in my endeavor for volunteerism. Due to this discovery, I had at times dwelled in despair for my lack of being able to keep giving. I also gave more than necessary to those I was fond of.
It is only in recent years that I realized unconditional love is not about always giving. I realized that giving can be a form of suffering for those who do not want to receive from me – this includes gifts, an offer of help, or even a listening ear. I also discovered in recent times a hidden motivation behind my giving was because I had the idea that I needed something or someone to feel complete.
Beliefs shape the idea of love
Not long ago I underwent a Rapid Transformation Therapy hypnosis from a friend. An episode made me realize there exists an emptiness in my heart. I decided to try hypnosis because I had not felt this emptiness for some time since I began meditation. The session helped me recall past memories as a child where a belief was formed. I believed I needed to try to get love from others. This belief was formed as I became a witness to my parents’ unhappy marriage. My parents could not make me feel loved or secure because they too lacked love and security. Their marriage was based on what society believes is the norm – to be married if you are not going to be ordained as a monastic.
What I discovered in the session is that I have always been complete and never lacked love. This applies to everyone, not only me. If you think about it, what are we formed by? Sperm and eggs, where do they come from? They are made of genes – organisms that lived and thrived from the energy of the sun and other elements, supported by the food we consume. Food too comes from the sun’s energy. If we keep thinking back all the way back to the idea of creation, we are all created by universal elements we studied in chemistry class and beyond. The idea I needed to be loved was an idea I had absorbed as a child. Children absorb ideas without much discernment until a certain age. So I urge all parents to be mindful of what you say to your kids.
What is unconditional love?
My meditations have helped me see that unconditional love does not have any conditions attached to it. For example, a romantic relationship or love between husband and wife involves the conditions of sex, financial, and emotional support. If any part is unbalanced for too long, such relationships may fall apart. It requires energy and agreement between two parties that these conditions are met. Such as being there for each other till death comes, to fill the emptiness in the heart and to survive together. These are all conditions.
Love is a romanticized idea. Our belief has been shaped by many stories in books and movies we have been fed with. It is also the society’s belief that we always need someone to feel complete. Remember Tom Cruise’s famous line “You complete me” in Jerry Maguire? Or it could be the disillusionment of one’s parent’s marriage that a child makes much determination to make such relationships work. Unconditional love requires no condition at all. It means that if we truly love someone unconditionally, we would not feel sad if he or she leaves. We would also feel no sting if we are rejected by another – in whatever relationships.
In parent-child love, it would mean the parent is able to love the child without needing the child to meet certain conditions. Conditions such as gaining good grades. It also means the child need not fulfill the desires of the parent in order to be loved. It would also mean the parent would respect the child’s freedom to choose after putting effort in the initial period of teaching the child during his/her growing years that every action brings on a certain effect. Such that virtue brings good results for peace of mind, no matter what happens on the outside.
Unconditional love is freeing
Unconditional love thus means the ability to let go and be free from others. To be free is not to give others the burden of the responsibility to make us feel loved. But to feel complete on our own. It also means giving others the same freedom, by not having anyone feel loved only if they do something for us. Unconditioned love is to accept others as they are. This would mean even those who are causing suffering to others. To be able to accept does not mean condoning the action. It only means to recognise that some people act in ways to cause others pain because they themselves do not understand and seek love through control – because they too, feel incomplete.
If we use tough punishments and violence for what we cannot accept, not only do we not have a peace of mind – but happiness would most times elude us. Happiness follows unconditional love always.
We need not be like the Sun
The Sun gives unconditional love for all on earth to live and to experience because it has enough hydrogen for it to convert to helium, producing heat. It could burn for billions of years. To be able to give unconditionally, we need to generate a huge store of love within ourselves.
The good news is, we can practice making ourselves feel complete and secure slowly. We can start to forgive ourselves and be kind to ourselves first. Then slowly start not expecting everyone to do things we would like them to while being okay with it. Love is only balanced with wisdom – to see when others do not want to receive our love (gift of listening, presents, and companionship), and not force it upon them.
It also means to protect our own freedom. Not allow anyone to force us into doing things we do not want because that would not be love. The practice does not mean we will be successful all at once. We may find times when we succeed and other times when we fail in epic ways. The idea is to persist in this practice of letting go while being able to forgive and to love ourselves and others.
This article does not mean I am fully learned or have the ability to love unconditionally. It is from my practice in mindfulness meditation to be able to observe what I feel and see how I affect others. My love often comes without wisdom, which makes others suffer. But I also had moments of serenity, when I could let go, allow myself and others to be. It is this serenity of allowing that keeps me going. This may be a long practice. I may not even be successful all the way. But it is one which is needed for a happier life on earth.