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I asked a friend of mine recently if he loved himself. He approaches most things in life with humor and good cheer. With a grin, he said "I like myself quite well." "But do you love yourself?" His gaze dropped. He couldn't bring himself to say the words. Liking ourselves and loving ourselves are two different things.
A lot of people don't notice the way in which love flows within us or between us.
Notice the flow of love that exists between you and yourself. Does it flow warmly and steadily? Or is that channel hard and clogged? What about the channel that runs toward your mother? Your father? Your rival? The first step to see these invisible rivers of love is simply to notice when love is flowing and when it's not. Once you get used to "seeing" these flows between people, you might notice how often arguments and conflict originate from a slow-down, stoppage, or reversal of love's flow. Once we are able to operate on the level of love, we show up in more color. More alive. More in tune with the person in front of us, or the needs of a group. We can shift dynamics in ourselves, in others, and in entire communities, that would be impossible to alter on any other level. Being conscious of love's flows is the first step in understanding how to wield the power of love.
There are rivers of love between you and every person you meet.
These invisible, subterranean flows are the source of conflict, and the key to its healing.
The most effective way to shift your relationship with another person, or a whole group of people, is through a free flow of love from you to them.
Our mind is usually not conscious of when love is flowing to us or not, but we can sense it instinctively.
When someone lights up a room as they enter, their love is flowing.
When we feel deeply heard and understood by a healer, love is flowing.
When we forgive ourselves for our mistakes, love is flowing.
Softening a Hard Heart
It's easier to let love flow toward people, pets, places that we naturally love, and which love us in return.
When we direct our flow of love toward those who have done us wrong, it feels different.
But if we open up to them in this way—even just in our minds—something shifts.
That hardness, anger, resentment may drop down into sadness. It brings us into the raw pain of a broken heart.
Along these lines, James Baldwin once wrote: "I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense, when hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain."
Love dissolves hate. And in its place, we are left with pain.
This pain is the pain of healing. It is a necessary pain and it brings us low to the earth; it brings us to humility.
As we let our love flow to those we dislike, who have harmed us, or who we have harmed, we must at the same time let love flow toward ourselves.
This is the process I call "double forgiveness," where no matter the circumstances, you must extend forgiveness both outward toward the other person and back toward ourselves—even if one side appears blameless, both people require forgiveness.
In this way, we can start to heal ourselves.
And the healthier and more whole we are, the more powerfully we can show up in moments of conflict and skillfully bring love and light to the fore.
Seeing these invisible flows of love and knowing how to maneuver them is an essential skill for becoming a spiritual warrior.
For those serious about living from a place of powerful love, I offer 1:1 guidance and mentoring.