I remember when my first spiritual teacher told me that love was the most important thing there was, that it could transcend and heal all things. I thought he was crazy, not the love I was familiar with. The love that I knew was learned from those perfect families on TV and any of that I received from my family came at too high a cost. So if that was what I needed to heal I’d rather stay broken. Little did I know how wrong that I was!
My difficulty with love growing up was that I really didn't know much about it. It was so rarely mirrored for me in my family so that my perception of what it was became skewed. I remember as a little boy waking up early in the morning and running into my parent’s room and jumping under the covers to snuggle with my father. I felt safe, special and wanted. Even today, fifty years later I can still remember the how he smelled. But as my family life changed drastically behind my mother’s alcoholism and its effects on my parent’s relationship and our family, those types of interactions with my father stopped. As a child with limited understanding, I thought that the fact that the nurturing ended was because I had done something wrong. This sparked behaviors of seeking for love and acceptance that were very detrimental to my well being.
Addictive Behavior pioneer and lecturer Earnie Larson describes these behaviors changes so simply
“What we live with we learn, what we learn we practice, what we practice we become and what we become has consequences.”
Love became something that I thought had to earn. My life became a game of cause and effect. The game was that I had to determine who I needed to be for you to love me and become that person. That who I really was did not deserve love. How painful and tiring it was to realize that I spent most of my time tap dancing as fast as I could and jumping through hoops to get the love that was mine because I was a child of god.
It has been a difficult, long and sometimes painful journey back to love and it has been worth every minute of it. I have learned that the feelings of love can sooth us, bring you to tears and warm your heart. But more importantly that the actions of love can and will heal the world. It is the courage that comes from self love that allows us to act. It is true that in order to heal we will need healing acts from others but, it must start with us. This will allow us learn to act in a loving way towards others. My father is one of the gentlest souls that I know. But growing up he rarely acted from that place with me. He was overly critical; nothing was good enough for him. I understand today that he could only give me what he had received growing up. Having love in our heart is not the end, it is the beginning. A feeling of love unexpressed in action is wasted.
Love can be expressed in so many ways: compassion, giving of your time, showing up, understanding, empathy, listening not just hearing (there is a difference), patience, gentleness, teaching, encouragement, tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness, a hug, support and speaking the truth.
I have spent a great deal of time over the years seeking spiritual enlightenment through prayer, meditation, contemplation, reading, personal growth and workshops to relearn an old lesson. Simplicity is the highest form of intelligence. Walking and living in love is the highest spiritual plane. Living in love allows us to make decisions based in love. Love based decisions take into account all those that are concerned with and effected by the decision. Not making decisions from a place of love is one of reasons that even though the US is considered the riches nation in the world, we have children going to bed hungry and citizens that are homeless.
Living love is available to us all and it is as simple as making a choice.
Author: Paul Hellwig
A recovering addict with over 25 years clean. Over 23 years of experience in personal, emotional and spiritual growth work. In the process of becoming a Certified Life Coach.