“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
– John Lennon 10/9/40 – 12/8/80
A bit more than three years ago, I was sitting in a tiny luncheonette in Harlem with a teacher of mine. He told me that day that I should fall in love with the world, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. What baffled me at the time was the question of how. How could I fall in love with a world filled with baffling and often stupid people, petty annoyances, irrational limitations? I knew that I could get past all that somehow, that people weren’t all that stupid, and that the irritations of life were born from my own irrational fear. But I couldn’t see how to look past that fear to the brilliance that I knew was there. I took it on faith, at that moment, that it was somehow possible, but I didn’t really trust it deep down.
I’ve been in love several times, passionately, deeply, in love. I loved the feeling of letting go of the usual constraints of my life: the irritations and fears, the limitations, the petty little things I thought I needed to get along. When I was in love, everything worked better. I was healthier, the world was brighter. What I didn’t like was the desperation and pain of being in love with someone I couldn’t have; and that is, unfortunately, what always happens with me. I don’t know how it is for other people, but I always fall in love with people who are unavailable. Perhaps it’s related to my childhood difficulties, but that’s speculation best left for another time. Maybe your experience is different; maybe it’s abusive relationships, or a series of relationships gone stale faster than the ink can dry on the marriage papers. It’s all the same: we rely on these relationships to fulfill us, and they always fail to do so. All we have in the end is ourselves.
What baffled me was how to transfer that love for one person onto a more attainable object. And what I have learned so far, or perhaps I should say, what I have glimpsed, is a love that I can have for myself. After years of sitting in meditation as well as reaching into myself, touching my own heart, I have started to feel how it could be. I have begun to settle into a sense of love for myself. It’s not as dramatic as being in love with some special person; it’s deeper – more tangible. When I stop to feel, I can touch in to a deep well of peace within my center and a warmth in my heart.
How does it work? All it takes is a few minutes a day to settle into the body, feeling the seat beneath you and the ebb and flow of the breath. Place your hand over your heart and think of someone you love – not the person you should love or the person you wish you loved, but whoever makes you smile right now. It’s ok to love who you love, and if that person is not you right now, that’s ok. Love you for loving who you love. Love is universal, so it will work out in time. Give it time.
Being in love is a powerful force, and it’s satisfying to focus that where it can do some good rather than continuing on the same old road of failed relationships. I always hoped that I would some day find the key, the special magic word or insight that would change my mind and free me from the pattern of unrequited love. What I discovered is that it takes time. I had to make a point of loving myself every day, and sometimes I didn’t even feel it. But it didn’t matter because after continually working on this practice of loving myself, eventually I could feel it. The key, the magic formula, is repeated application and patience. You are worth your time.
I always thought that someday I would find a solution to the problem of falling in love, that maybe I would figure out how to fall in love with the right person. What I have found is that I am the right person, right here and right now. Will I ever fall in love with the right partner? Will I ever manage to fall in love with the world? I don’t know, but somehow it doesn’t matter because I am falling in love with myself right now, and that seems to be the most important thing.
Today, on the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, a man who asked us to imagine living life in peace, I would like us to imagine falling in love with ourselves. Imagine love. I think if we do, we can find peace.