How to Love … Unconditionally.

Unconditional Love - Mark Nepo - web size

My first thought … whenever I hear the concept of ‘unconditional love’ being bantered about, is that we must somehow ‘turn the other cheek’ and tolerate/endure people’s chronic ways of being with us  … even if it hurts … because we love them.  It disturbs me, however, that a wholehearted commitment to this interpretation of ‘unconditional’ might encourage the most caring and compassionate souls to step over neglectful/abusive energy … instead of stepping up to address it … or … stepping out of it entirely.

No … from where I am looking, that does not serve the greater good.  In The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo sagely suggests:

In truth, unconditional love does not require a passive acceptance of whatever happens in the name of love.  Rather, in the real spaces of our daily relationships, it means maintaining a commitment that no condition will keep us from bringing all of who we are to each other honestly.

For example, on any given day, I might be preoccupied with my own needs, and might overlook or bruise what you need and hurt you. But then you tell me and show me your hurt, and I feel bad, and you accept that sometimes I go blind to those around me.  But we look deeply on each other, and you accept my flaws, but not my behavior, and I am grateful for the chance to work on myself.  Somehow, it all brings us closer.

Unconditional love is not the hole in us that receives the dirt, but the sun within that never stops shining” (p. 309).

I much prefer to embrace the notion that the unconditional’ nature of love is really best reflected in our willingness to keep working through the accidental harms that are an inevitable part of our humanity … consciously fostering opportunities to afford restitution for the collateral heartaches that result due to the colliding of our competing needs, wants and desires.

Perhaps, we might love each other most unconditionally by graciously making space for such an honest, sincere and transparent exchange  … rather than dismissing, excusing  and/or failing to tenderly express/address the wounding within our relationships.

In fact, when we take a really honest look at our lives, we will see that many of our deepest resentments have arisen out of our undelivered communications. Yes, it is often the unspoken violations  … the unexpressed injuries that covertly forsake the love and security in our relationships.  And maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe we can create a safe space within our relationships to honor each others wounds instead of righteously defending ourselves.

hurt

Thank you again, Mark Nepo, for obviating the ‘unconditional’ love that is inherent in “bringing forth from within, rather than the enduring of what comes from without” (p. 310).

May we feel such love and be such love … unconditionally, Karen

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She teaches me to love … unconditionally.

feathers

Although our nest has been empty for nearly 10 years, the recent birth of our 7th grandchild got me reflecting more deeply upon the richness of motherhood … and … the peaks and valleys of my own journey through it. From where I am looking, parenting is one of the ultimate callings in life.  For me, I think it is the HIGHEST and most NOBLE calling because it has been the HARDEST calling of my life.  It has also been the most MAGNIFICENT and SACRED calling of my life … stretching my character to unknown vistas, bringing me to my knees in humble appreciation and heartfelt compassion for those who have parented before me …  and … leaving me with a deeper appreciation of LOVE than I ever fathomed could be possible.

Motherhood has been the ultimate in both agony and ecstasy for me.  It has been, and continues to be, the most remarkable part of my journey.  But, it has left me completely shaken, broken to the core and scared spit-less.  Feeling terrified that in my best efforts to be an amazing parent, I have screwed up royally.  Feeling petrified that I have harmed the souls of those whom I most cherish.  Reassuring myself, often, that they are resilient enough to rise above any of the pains I have etched in their hearts.  My three daughters, all grown up and with beautiful, sparkling little cherubs of their own, have broken me open in ways I had not expected … nor … at times, thought I could possible endure.

It is such a vulnerable place to live … being a parent.  Your heart is wandering about in the world … all by itself … and out of your control … so you tremble.  And, from the outside, you look rational for the most part, but you get crazed by irrational fears … blindsided while you are flipping a pancake or cleaning out a closet.  But your awareness of the lunacy of your fears is not sufficient to silence them.  You make up horrific stories in your head that won’t allow you to sleep until they are tucked safely back in the nest at home.

I swear that you view the world differently once you become a parent. You see things you never noticed before … and … you wonder how you missed such obvious hazards and then you worry beyond all sense and sensibility.  You treasure your children so much that your fears can eclipse your capacity to let them breathe … and … blossom.  If you are not careful, you smother them with your love.  And  you KNOW they can’t survive that kind of selfish, conditional love that places your fears before their freedom, but you can’t help yourself.  So you clip their wings in order to spare your own heart.  And then you feel guilty … and ashamed … because they deserve a chance to grow and thrive and offer their delicious and dazzling gifts to the world.

It is excruciating to learn that unconditional love means you make the decision to let yourself sit in the prickly discomfort of giving them wings.  You shift your gaze and do your best to silence your primitive protective instincts  … and … you commit yourself to dwelling in the anxiety of letting them flap their wings until they learn how to fly.  You accept (as some very wise soul once contended) that the question is not when they will find their wings, but  what they are going to wear with all those magnificent feathers.  And you cry.  And you know you shouldn’t.  It’s just hard to think about them fluttering off …  leaving the nest.  But you also know, they are meant to SOAR …

And you do your best to encourage the fulness of their flight.  And it is so hard some days.  So you practice your own counseling skills.  You attend an art therapy workshop but you use it to do your own internal healing.  The others might be thinking about how they will use this skill with their clients … but you are expressing your innermost emotions in the creation of the mandala … and … you write a poem from the artistry you have created.  And you feel some release of the weight in your heart …

Unconditional Love - 2

Unconditional Love … mandala/poetry by Karen Lanser

In a blazing circle of hearts

I am centered magnificently

watching

learning

growing

noticing a chaotic but definite pattern

of complete balance.

I see symmetry and asymmetry

interwoven into the continuous circles of change

and between

the sharp lines that sometimes divide us.

Although there are definite starts and stops

A beautiful yellow blossom

is emerging

from the center.

She is my sweet daughter

bursting magnificently

as a bold blossom

 generously gifted into our lives

to help

us learn

how to love … unconditionally.

It is my deepest honor to see my dazzling, brilliant and beautiful daughters embracing the highest and most noble calling of all … they are now raising my treasured  grandchildren.  I am so proud of how stunning and graceful they look in full flight with all those magnificent feathers …

And, I am so deeply humbled  and so richly blessed,  XO  Mom & Gram

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