Listening to what love is
Softening instead of judging, being gentle and inquisitive, asking, listening and listening more as if all that matters is right there, now. This kind of presence is powerful and courageous, and in our current world, feels unusual, even radical — yet it is the essence of real love.
We live in strange times, where memes and announcements about love and loving, how people “should” love themselves and practice loving-kindness to others, are interspersed with venom and vitriol about, well, everything. Why is there this dichotomy? Perhaps it’s due to our attachment to what we think love should be.
The idea of love can mean different things to different people. The idea of love can be fueled by personal whims or fantasies, even feeling unfulfilled within oneself. We want love and to be loved, but often form unconscious conditions or what I call “perfect pictures” of how we should experience it. And so we write, read and post things about love, about how it should be, how it should feel. But then get upset or disenchanted when what we think love is or should be doesn’t show up as we imagined. Our attachment to the idea of love fuels expectations that many times aren’t real or possible — and then we feel angry, hurt, unloved. Often real love is right there, but we miss it entirely because it doesn’t look like what we think it should.
This is true for all kinds of relationships — romantic, familial, friendships, community.
And so, what can we do?Listen and take in. Listen to what Love really is. And even if we think we know, we can always learn more, hear more, witness more, be more in love. Listening is key. Stepping outside of ourselves and really listening to the other person, not our own narrative while the other person talks. Looking directly at a person and seeing what is, right here, right now. Not judging it or comparing it to anything or anyone. Not checking out because another’s words are uncomfortable. Not preparing our response while our counterpart is speaking, not revving up a “smart” comeback to perpetuate an illusion that we always have the answer, that we know more, better, best. I am, you are, we are more than that. Love is more than that. Love is. Opening and present-timing and understanding truly that in the context of our close relationships, no one has to be wrong. What if no one had to be wrong?
Everything would change. Everything would change because when Love Is, every single person has a right to their own ideas, experiences and feelings. When Love Is we are interested in what others have to say or share, even if we personally don’t understand it or appreciate it in the same way. In allowing people to simply be, in allowing ourselves to be present, we can all learn something, see what’s deeper and behind, ask meaningful questions and create greater opportunities for connection, affinity and evolution.
When Love Is, Love Knows the pendulum will swing back upwards if we let it. And that when we can curiously explore the shadows in Love, the resistance, the fear and anxiety in each other, with each other, deeper connection and heart wisdom will always be the outcome. Real love knows that always assuming the worst makes everything hurt more. That turning towards, not away, always brings better outcomes. That seeing the best in others encourages more of it. That in general, people are more open and willing than we sometimes think. If we are present we can see that, even in the midst of a storm.
More open, more willing, more in the heart. Even more. Because Love is Presence. We think it is scary to open our hearts, but it is incredibly uncomfortable to live with a heart closed in fear of the worst that “could” happen. It means we actually aren’t living in the here and now — we are living in the worst of what could be. In opening we take risk yes, but in risk there is expansion, growth and the possibility of greater affinity with another and with ourselves.
Love can create spaces where speaking from and through vulnerabilities is encouraged, is safe, is witnessed as a strength. What if we took time to really hear what another had to said without projecting our own stories and pain onto their words. What if we could give up our need to control the narrative and listen to the truth. We if we could listen, really listen--and understand that another person's reality and experience doesn't have to be like our own for us to love them. What if we could listen, really listen and consider another's point of view or ease another's fears instead of making them wrong, intead of shaming them? What if we worked on letting go of the pain in us that sparks this need for posturing, righteousness, and wrong-making of others? These things never help anything. Ever. Ever. What if we focused on simply listening, being present, objective witnessing in the moment. Giving space for the other person to speak their truth: Without feedback, automatic defensiveness, fear of judgement or of rejection.
My humble opinion is that if we want this in our relationships, we have to make the first move. We can want and hope that the other person will show up and be present first, but only in taking action ourselves can we actually set the stage, activate it, evolve it. Evolving to presence, and to love.
Ever, ever returning to love. Being in presence to love — especially in ourselves. Softening instead of judging, being gentle and inquisitive, asking, listening and listening more as if all that matters is right there, in the now. This kind of presence is powerful and courageous, and in our current world, feels unusual, even radical — yet it is the essence of real love. For when we are present, we aren’t so attached — to ego, to emotion, to judgement. And it makes things like opening to joy, feeling empathy, having understanding, taking responsibility, making amends, elevating the vibration of the situation, easier.
And so the common habit of waiting, holding back, wanting the other person to speak love first, apologize first, fix it first can come to an end. Someone has to start the opening, and if it’s you, it says even more than the words that fall from your lips. Love knows this.
And speak about what you need to feel loved. We can’t expect people, even those dear to us, to know exactly what we want and need at all times. We have to tell them, work with them, be present. Again and again. Because in helping each other we automatically create more love.
Love doesn’t need to judge, or criticize or direct. Thank about it. No one ever became happier or brighter or more in love by being labeled, blamed, yelled at, stonewalled or ignored. Even “constructive criticism” implies that one person’s view of things is right and the other is wrong. What is our need to make others wrong? What if we are all simply doing our best, and sometimes making mistakes along the way?
What if instead of criticizing we turned to mentoring, modeling, suggesting, asking questions, sharing experiences? If someone does something disruptive or hurtful to our feelings, calmly ask them why. You will get more information than by yelling at them or telling them what they “should” have done. What if instead of lashing out, we paused, and simply shared and inquired with the intention of greater understanding, of greater affinity? And what if we were bold enough tell others what we wanted and needed? It’s an approach that’s been proven to actually work better than judging others for not showing up as we want. And, yes, holding your tongue until you can speak with more neutrality always yields better results … always.
It is primal to want to feel that someone has your back. What if it were ok to admit that? To admit that sometimes it gets scary thinking about losing another, or being alone, and that sometimes it is easier to feel love for ourselves when other people tell us, show us, remind us that we are lovable.
When people feel insecure or scared or lonely, that’s really what they need. When people try and control scenarios and outcomes, that's what they really need. When people lash out, that’s really what they need. A reminder that they are loved. I know we have a lot of people right now feeling scared, lonely, uncertain, emotionally sensitive. They don’t need our wrath or alienation. They need the opposite — presence, seeing, listening, understanding, love. We as a culture are not really good at any of that. But we can learn--learn from and teach one another how to care and love all in. Because we all need help in this.
My humble opinion is that we need to be more gentle and honest about that fact that we all have felt unloved or even totally unlovable at certain times in their lives. And so, we can use that to be more present and in Love for other people. We can look and feel into other people and ask how might they feel in certain situations or if certain events were happening to them. Anxiety, insecurity, fear? Crazy joy? Tears of relief or of grief. These are not things to shame others for or be ashamed of. Love’s presence sees the value and beauty of it all. Love outreaching in kindness, in deeds and words that are transparent and from the heart, manifests even more Love.
Love and remember that no one really knows what they are doing. Our expectations for people to be perfect and show up exactly as we think they should diminishes the truth and fullness of who they are and the truth and fullness of you. Love sees all of this and holds it and can transform it if we allow it. Love grows in honor, honesty, transparency, integrity, kindness and forgiveness. These things are needed now more than ever.
Inside, we are all tiny children. Inside, we all need more love. Keep that in mind when speaking to others and especially to your dear self. And keep that in mind when listening. If you allow it you can always hear and sense so much more.
Trust that even a bit of love is enough to create a miracle. Trust that right here, right now, in this moment you are pure love, and you are enough.