Many of us look for love in the wrong place. It’s the primary reason why we keep having failed relationships. There is a way of getting the love we want, but it requires looking someplace new.
Where does love come from?
Often, we expect love to come from another person—usually our partner. So when we don’t feel adequately loved we start doing weird things. We become needy, which isn’t very attractive and doesn’t usually bring us more love. Or we become distant, because we’re feeling unloved, and of course this doesn’t help us get more love. We become punitive, punishing the person for not loving us enough. That doesn’t work either.
Instead of looking to another person, we need to learn to fill ourselves with love so that we are not dependent on another person—our partner—to do that for us. Some people hear me say this and they think I’m saying, “You need to love yourself first, before you can find love with another.” But that’s not what I’m saying.
I’m not talking about loving yourself; I’m talking about loving the miracle of life.
I’m talking about filling yourself with love every day, as much as you possibly can. This is an active practice. You might call it a gratitude practice. The point is to wake up in the morning and just notice that you’re alive. That’s a great start. Can you find something to look at that’s beautiful? Can you appreciate your ability to walk from your bed to your bathroom? Some people can’t do that. Maybe you’re greeted by a four-legged animal. Sipping a morning cup of tea of coffee while looking at your partner, reading a book, or looking out the window. All of these can actually inspire love, if we let them.
What is love?
Love is an emotional state that stirs us to feel affection, attraction, appreciation, and to act with care, compassion and commitment—but not only toward another person. I am stirred to feel love every day—for life. Simple things arouse this feeling in me: the blue New Mexico sky, a beautiful piece of music, a tender story.
And when I feel stirred in these ways I am inclined to act with greater care, compassion and commitment. My commitment is not always to another person, it may be a commitment to take the time to notice the blue sky, listen to music, or be present while others share their story with me. Each time that I act with greater care, compassion and commitment, I fill myself with a little bit of love.
Can you feel love right now? What would you think about in this very moment if you wanted to fill yourself with love? You’ll have something like 60,000 thoughts today, about one per second during your waking hours. How many of your thoughts are loving thoughts? Do you have a loving thought every ten minutes? Could you? What if you had one every minute of the day? Is that even possible?
Here’s the thing, most of our thoughts are repetitive—95%—and of those, 80% are negative. This is called a negativity bias. Our brains are designed to emphasize the negative, because it is the negative things in life that are most likely to harm us. So for a survival advantage we spend most of our time thinking about what’s wrong or what could go wrong.
To create more love in your life it helps to learn to access spacious consciousness—a mindfulness practice—so that you learn to let thoughts pass by without attaching meaning to them. This is one of the first steps to create love in your life, because you’ll stop bogging yourself down with negativity.
The second step is increasing the amount of loving thoughts you have each day. Notice things you appreciate—that stir you, make you feel delight, joyful, appreciative, and open-hearted. Use these thoughts to fill yourself with love.
For those of you who read this in hopes of finding a way to have more love in your romantic partnership, please don’t miss the point. The point is that when you fill yourself with love, you are easier to love. Other people will appreciate you more. You will move other people to love you, not because you need them to, but because they naturally respond to your loving presence.