Love is a vast and expansive topic. Given that February is the month I’m dedicating to the heart of relationship, I thought I’d start with the question, what is love?
Here’s a definition of love from Atlas of the Heart by psychologist Brené Brown, whose research on love has withstood the test of new data from studies she and others have conducted.
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known. And when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.
Love is not something that we give or get. It’s something we nurture and grow. A connection that can be cultivated between two people only when it exists within each one of them. We can love others only as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and a withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can survive these injuries only if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”
Brown goes on to describe that no matter how well you think you know the defintion of love, love is still a mystery in the end. “It needs to be experienced, cultivated, and lost to be known.”
To understand love more fully, what’s needed, first and foremost, is the understanding of self-love.
The practice of sadhana (deep yogic practices) is a powerful form of self-love. Setting aside the time to immerse yourself in the spirit each morning in a formal way, breaks down the barriers inside the heart such that you’re able to give and receive love more readily. You’re able to really take in love when it’s offered. So many times we deflect the love that comes our way by doubting that it’s real or being suspicious of the motives of the giver.
To receive love fully you need to be able to trust and let go. You need to be able to surrender. Love is about being vulnerable which means you lower your shield and allow yourself to be undefended, open to ridicule, and open to judgment and pain. Love is letting yourself be raw, unrefined, imperfect, unguarded, and authentically you. In this surrendered state, there’s no barrier between you and grace, between you and love. You are face to face and heart to heart with grace. You return to a state where your heart intention is pure and innocent. You only want goodness. You only want to help, heal, improve your life and the lives of others, and give a blessing.
My heart is open and receptive.
I now fully open to grace.
I allow love and light to flow freely through my heart.
I open to the fullness of the power of my heart.
I release all of the rough edges around my heart.
I allow my heart to soften and open.
I take down the walls around my heart.
I willingly lift the veil of my heart to let the light in.
I lower my shield for I am eternally safe.
I release all that is unresolved in my heart.
I am complete with whatever is incomplete in my heart.
I am patient and trust the process. Life has my back.
I no longer need perfection to find my joy.
I am perfectly imperfect just as I am.
I am joyous with who I am right now.
My heart is flooded with loving kindness.
My heart is flooded with compassion.
My heart is flooded with joy.
My heart is at peace and I dwell in a state of equanimity.
Grace is bestowing blessings 24/7 but we’re usually asleep to it. We need to wake up and remember. Remembrance is one of the highest virtues of the heart. Life is a blessing but we miss it because we forget. We’re preoccupied with thoughts and feelings of regret, or trying to resolve the past, or the mind is flooded with uncontrollable anxiety and worry about the future. This creates an obstacle in the heart that blocks us from remembering our true nature. It blocks grace from getting in. It’s too crowded. When you let go of what’s in the way, a space opens in your heart where you remember the bigger energy. Then the blessing of grace is received.
In Tantra, it’s not only that you receive blessings from deities and grace, but you have the agency to bestow blessings on yourself and others. Whenever you take care of yourself, you extend a blessing to yourself. This self-blessing automatically blesses everyone around you.
As heart followers, we seek to know ourselves. We seek to know life and flow in the wake of experience and wisdom to bring more peace, light, and joy into our lives and into the lives of others.
Relationship is a powerful mirror of our own inner work. Your relationship with others directly reflects your relationship with yourself. If you have a difficult time being honest with yourself, you’ll struggle being honest with others. If you’re unable to forgive yourself, you will likely be hard-pressed to forgive another. We are bound by the quality of relationship that we have with ourselves.
One of the biggest acts of self-love in sadhana is simply to remember, to remember the bigger energy. When you remember that you are connected to a bigger energy, your heart opens and you recognize your true nature which is love. Tat Tvam Asi. I am that.
May you practice the yoga of self-love by remembering and surrendering. I look forward to seeing you on the mat!