Many of us are in the midst of holiday preparations and celebrations. Hopefully, you have time now or in the coming weeks to rest, renew, and recharge. Today I’m leaning into courageous authenticity and practicing vulnerability with a post out of my comfort zone because this feels like the right time to write it. For this post, more than most, I would love a like or a comment if it connects with you.
A Thought Experiment
A friend recently posed a thought experiment to me. If you could meet with three individuals from any time, who would you choose, and what would you discuss with them? I didn’t have an answer for her, so I decided to reflect upon it.
A few days later, I could not quiet my monkey mind* in my morning meditation. At that moment, this thought experiment returned. I knew I would choose to meet with Buddha and Jesus and ideally would include several additional spiritual leaders from history. I chose Paramahansa Yogananda as my third, having recently read his Autobiography of a Yogi.
The monkey mind continued. I knew what I would ask this group. “I think you would agree that you are essentially saying the same thing at the core of your spiritual traditions. Because you each frame it uniquely, it’s easy to lose sight of the commonalities. How can we get to a common language? How can we help everyone understand that no one practice is right and that any of these paths are good for humanity?”
At this point, I was again attempting to quiet the monkey mind and focus on my meditation. Unbidden, I received an answer to my question.
The common language is love.
The answer seems so simple, and yet for me, quite profound. What are we capable of when approaching life from a place of love?
What is Love?
I ask this question not to provide you with an answer. I ask it to prompt some inner reflection. In college, this question was one of my favorites at parties. I’d channel my best Socrates and ask whomever I was with how they defined love. At the time, my concept was that love is when you care about someone else as much or more than you care for yourself. That feels simplistic to me today, but I give myself grace as this was three decades ago.
I set my love bar very high back then. Caring about others as much or more than myself limited my love to my wife, my children, and the rest of my family (my sister, my parents, my grandparents, etc.) This view of love held me back from experiencing love the way I do today. Over the years, I have grown to embrace a love for friends, colleagues, animals, plants, and life in general.
How Do You Show Up With Love?
Think back to a challenging interaction you had recently. It could be with a work colleague, partner, parent, or friend… Did you show up with love in your heart for the other person? If not, take a moment and reflect on how that interaction might have changed if you had. All too often, we show up with a conscious or unconscious bias that shapes our perceptions before the exchange has even begun. If we take a moment to shift to a mindset of love and see the other person first and foremost as another human worthy of love, we are positioned for a much more constructive conversation.
If you are struggling with the L word, consider substituting loving kindness. That may feel more comfortable than outright love. The spirit is the same. When we practice loving kindness, we wish for happiness, health, safety, and peace. In a loving kindness meditation, you might focus on your breath, clear your mind, and then recite (in your mind or out loud):
- May I be happy
- May I be healthy
- May I be safe
- May I be at peace
After a few minutes of reciting this for yourself, pick someone close to you and wish the same for that person.
- May you be happy
- May you be healthy
- May you be safe
- May you be at peace
Next, repeat this for someone more distant from you, possibly a neighbor or a casual acquaintance. Finally, repeat this for someone you genuinely dislike. Over time, this practice will help you approach every situation with more love in your heart.
We all have our faults. We all have our differences. And we all deserve to be happy, healthy, safe, and at peace.
I invite you to find a person to whom you can show more love or loving kindness. The next time you anticipate a difficult conversation with a challenging person, practice loving kindness before you enter the conversation. Show up with love, and see where it leads.
However you celebrate the holiday season, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, and may you be at peace.
* Monkey Mind is a term often used in meditation and mindfulness practices. It refers to the constant chatter of thoughts in our heads when trying to clear our minds.
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- All you need is love