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Understanding Unconditional Love

What is unconditional love? How do we practice it and invite it into our lives? Learn three ways to bring unconditional love into your life today.

Hey friends. So today, I'm going to explore the topic of unconditional love. Each one of us yearns to be loved and accepted just the way we are, without condition. It's really something that everyone wants, but I think very few people feel capable of giving. Perhaps because they don't really understand what we mean by unconditional love or because they feel that that, that goal is just too lofty.

So we don't even try. Now in your own direct experience, you may have heard statements like this over the years. I love you when. I love you if. I love you, but.

What do all these statements have in common? Well, their conditional. You know, the implication here is that we're not innately lovable and okay just as we are. So we need to fix change or do something in order to be loved enough, worthy or whole. So when it comes to unconditional love, What exactly is it? What's the psychology behind it and how do we actually practice it and invited into our lives? So, first of all, you know, let's just get clear on what we mean when we say unconditional love. When it comes to relationships.

One way to define unconditional love is it's about caring about the happiness and wellbeing of another person without concern of how it benefits you, and accepting that person just the way they are. But here's the funny thing about this, right? That perhaps paradoxically, the research shows that it does benefit us even when we want no benefit. The research shows that actually the parts of the brain that light up during unconditional love are linked to the brain's reward system. So this suggests that unconditional love is actually pleasurable and rewarding in and of itself without you needing to receive anything else in return. So even if you don't want to receive something in return, you get something in return immediately, which is a beautiful thing.

It's one of life's beautiful paradoxes. So I love this term, unconditional positive regard. This is a term that was used, that still is used a lot by the psychologist, Carl Rogers. And so according to Rogers, unconditional positive regard involves showing complete support and acceptance of a person, no matter what that person says or does. Now, his work is mainly done in a therapy setting.

So in, in his teaching, the therapist is encouraged to accept and support the client no matter what they say or do. Placing no conditions on this acceptance. That means the therapist will continue to support the client, whether they're expressing so-called good behaviors and emotions or so-called bad ones. It means having these genuine caring for the client, but not in a possessive way and not in a way that is there to satisfy the therapist's own agendas or their own needs. So this term, unconditional positive regard to me is a really close representation of unconditional love in relationships.

This is what it's all about. So a couple of things, I just want to note here before I go any further. Unconditional love does not mean always giving people what they want or giving your needs away. Now, this is something that I've had to learn the hard way personally does learning this difference. It doesn't mean giving people what they want.

It doesn't mean giving your needs away. It doesn't mean tolerating everything that they do at the expense of your own happiness. Instead, this is a mature kind of love that means treating the other person with kindness and respect while at the same time, maintaining your own boundaries and looking after yourself. So your only obligation in the face of a person's behavior is to communicate your message with kindness and respect as best you can. So this means rather than being harsh or dismissive, you're being attuned and connected ,even while you're setting limits and having difficult conversations as you need to.

Unconditional love also does not mean people pleasing or trying to be everything to other people. So, how can we practice being unconditionally loving? How do we practice unconditional love? Well, the first key kind of insight to loving unconditionally is really, really simple. Think of unconditional love as a practice. Yeah. A teacher once pointed out to me a really simple but empowering truth that I never ever forgot.

He said, love is a verb. It's a doing word. So instead of thinking of unconditional love as some kind of permanent state or something that you, you just kind of it's all or nothing, you either have it or you don't, think of it as a practice that you can pick up and choose at any time. Or we can choose to practice unconditional love as a way of relating to ourselves, relating to the world around us, and a way of relating to each other. And whatever you practice grows stronger.

So if you practice unconditional love a lot, it eventually becomes second nature and can even move from being a state that you practice to a trait that's just a part of you. So here's three ways that you can start to practice being more unconditionally loving. The first is to lay aside your attachment to judgements. So judgements are often what gets in the way of our ability to be really loving and accepting of each other. So there's a story or an analogy that spiritual teacher Ram Dass often uses and I think it's really, it's really, really beautiful and simple.

This is what he says. He says, you know, when you go out into the woods and you look at trees and you see all these different trees and some of them are bent and some of them are straight and some of them have kind of twisted around the other trees to try and get to the light. Some of them are evergreens and you know, all kinds of different trees. So when you look at the tree, you simply allow it. You appreciate it, even if it's all twisted and bent.

You see why it's the way it is. You kind of understand that one tree maybe didn't get enough light. So it twisted that way or that way. And you don't get all emotional or reactive about it. You just allow it.

You appreciate the tree just as it is. But he also notes that the minute we get me a human's, near each other, we often lose all of that. Right? We're like the judging mind comes in and it's saying you're too this and you're too that, and you need to do this and need to do that. So he says what he practices now is turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are. And I love this analogy.

Because it invites us all to remember and to appreciate, and to remember to appreciate each other, to be kind to each other, to honor our differences and to really see past the judgements, opinions, and preconceived notions we often have about each other. What a wonderful practice of unconditional love this is. You know, by turning people into trees, we lay aside our judgments and we're more able to give others what we all most want, love and acceptance, just how we are. So I invite you to try this practice of turning people into trees and also to, you know, as you do that, to really ponder and hold close these words so eloquently spoken by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who said, "What is love? Love is the absence of judgment." So the second thing that we can do to be unconditionally loving is really simple. The second thing is to be truly present for people, to let them be seen and heard.

You know, one really simple practice to be more present with people is the practice of mindful listening. Because here's the thing, when we're often with other human beings, we, you know, when we're kind of communicating with another person, we're often there in body, but we're not fully present. You know, very often when not truly listening to people. We're caught up in our own mind chatter, judging what they're saying, mentally agreeing or disagreeing, or just waiting until it's our turn to speak next. You know, often we're just not really interested.

We're not really there at all. And sometimes we even interrupt and become impatient, or we assert our opinions instead of really listening to understand them. And the people we often do this with the most are the people closest to us, the ones who probably want out love the most. So one of the most simple and powerful practices I know of unconditional love is mindful listening. Yeah.

We, human beings are really social creatures. We're always communicating with each other. So we have a lot of opportunities to practice this. So here's the invitation, hey. The next time you're with a loved one or a coworker, try using this time as an exercise in mindful listening.

See if you can give them your undivided attention, you're full presence. Really listen to what they're saying. Give them a space to be seen and heard. And just like in meditation practice, if you find your mind wandering or judging what they're saying or waiting for your turn, just gently bring your focus back to the listening. The one thing you're really going to notice if you do this practice is that people deeply appreciate when you truly listen to them.

And you're also going to find very likely, it was much more likely that when it's your turn to speak, they'll listen to you and receive you in the same way. Now, and of course, besides mindful listening, there's just this general practice of really showing up for people, being there fully when you're with them. Be fully present with them. The nonverbal message that we send when we're fully present with people is this. You matter.

I care. I'm here. I love you. So you know, the greatest gift you can give the people in your life is probably your attention. And in a world where there's so much disconnection and distraction, being present in that way gives you back the possibility of genuine connection, authenticity, and love in your life.

So the third thing that you can practice is something called loving kindness. So if we think about unconditional love as, you know, the expression of our kindest self, you know, it's active, it's something we can do regardless, actually, of whether a person is right in front of us or we're all alone. It's something we can choose to do in any moment. And this cultivating of our kindness self can be done through a practice, a meditation practice, traditionally known as Metta or loving kindness. So in this meditation, we bring to mind, usually a person.

And we orient our mind towards sending them love, well-wishing, support and kindness. And, and we often do this in the form of mental mantras, or you might call them pres or wishes. We mentally repeat phrases that sound like this. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering.

May your heart be filled with peace. So during the meditation, we use these kinds of mental mantras as a support to orienting our mind towards love and kindness. So we can, not only hold somebody that we know that we like, like a friend in awareness in this way, but you can also practice with just strangers on the street that we've seen or the shopkeeper down the road, our enemies, even. And in this practice, there's a possibility of this is a very guided meditation, usually where we hold, you know, even our community or even the whole world, or all living beings in this loving, kindness, this energy. We bathe ourselves and the world in this energy of loving kindness.

But what it's really doing is it's flooding our own mind and our own being with this energy of loving kindness. It's hardwiring our mind to be kinder. So this is something that we can, not only doing these meditation, so by the way, this Metta meditation, this loving kindness, meditation is in the Mindfulness.com app library. So you can find it there to practice with, but this is also something we can do in daily life, too. One of the deepest habitual patterns of the human mind is that we often have this feeling that the present moment is not good enough.

You know, sometimes it's that we are not good enough. Our partners are not good enough. Others are not good enough. Our boss is not good enough life. Isn't good enough.

So this practice of unconditional love dissolves this pattern. By actively sending loving kindness to others, ourselves and the world, you prime your mind to embody this way of being more and more. So next time you find yourself criticizing, judging, or being negative about someone in your head, try pausing just for a moment, maybe five seconds, and dissolving that negativity by sending them love and good wishes. Now this can be done using those mentally repeated phrases like above. Like, you know, may you be free from suffering.

May you be happy. Or you can make up your own, whatever suits you, but you can also mentally repeat these phrases. Or you can visualize, if you're a visual person, you can visualize sending them light and love. You can also feel. Some people are really feeling people.

So you can just feel that you're sending like radiating love to this person. Now you can also try just sending loving kindness to a stranger on the street passing by, the shopkeeper, your boss. As you walk by them, you can just take a three to five second kind of mental pause and just send them your love and blessings. We can also practice this for ourselves. You know, many of us are really kind to others, but not so much with ourselves.

We're often really harsh and critical on ourselves. So we can practice this unconditional love for ourselves in the same way. If you find yourself being self-critical, being really hard on yourself, try changing the time to kindness. Again, three to five seconds, just to mentally say to yourself, may I be happy. May I be safe and protected.

May my heartbeat filled with peace. May I feel love and joy. And whatever phrases that make sense to you. So today and this week, see if you can practice loving someone just as they are without any need to change anything about them at all. See if you can lay aside judgments, give your attention and practice loving kindness.

And practice doing it for yourself and the world. Instead of rejecting the present moment or trying to rush through it or wishing it was different, we can practice showing up with our whole selves and being really alive to it all. If we can be whole heartedly present in this way for life, accepting and befriending, whatever arises moment by moment, we truly can start to fall in love with life again. So remember, what we all want most in this world is unconditional love and acceptance. And by practicing giving this kind of love, you might just become someone's next chance or maybe their only chance or their last chance to be welcomed, seen, understood, and accepted.

And your unconditional love may just create the conditions needed for them to flourish, thrive, and be a force for good in the world. And of course, in the process, you yourself become filled with the energy of love that you always wanted. Maybe this is one of the reasons it's so often said that the secret to living is giving.

Talk

4.8

Understanding Unconditional Love

What is unconditional love? How do we practice it and invite it into our lives? Learn three ways to bring unconditional love into your life today.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Hey friends. So today, I'm going to explore the topic of unconditional love. Each one of us yearns to be loved and accepted just the way we are, without condition. It's really something that everyone wants, but I think very few people feel capable of giving. Perhaps because they don't really understand what we mean by unconditional love or because they feel that that, that goal is just too lofty.

So we don't even try. Now in your own direct experience, you may have heard statements like this over the years. I love you when. I love you if. I love you, but.

What do all these statements have in common? Well, their conditional. You know, the implication here is that we're not innately lovable and okay just as we are. So we need to fix change or do something in order to be loved enough, worthy or whole. So when it comes to unconditional love, What exactly is it? What's the psychology behind it and how do we actually practice it and invited into our lives? So, first of all, you know, let's just get clear on what we mean when we say unconditional love. When it comes to relationships.

One way to define unconditional love is it's about caring about the happiness and wellbeing of another person without concern of how it benefits you, and accepting that person just the way they are. But here's the funny thing about this, right? That perhaps paradoxically, the research shows that it does benefit us even when we want no benefit. The research shows that actually the parts of the brain that light up during unconditional love are linked to the brain's reward system. So this suggests that unconditional love is actually pleasurable and rewarding in and of itself without you needing to receive anything else in return. So even if you don't want to receive something in return, you get something in return immediately, which is a beautiful thing.

It's one of life's beautiful paradoxes. So I love this term, unconditional positive regard. This is a term that was used, that still is used a lot by the psychologist, Carl Rogers. And so according to Rogers, unconditional positive regard involves showing complete support and acceptance of a person, no matter what that person says or does. Now, his work is mainly done in a therapy setting.

So in, in his teaching, the therapist is encouraged to accept and support the client no matter what they say or do. Placing no conditions on this acceptance. That means the therapist will continue to support the client, whether they're expressing so-called good behaviors and emotions or so-called bad ones. It means having these genuine caring for the client, but not in a possessive way and not in a way that is there to satisfy the therapist's own agendas or their own needs. So this term, unconditional positive regard to me is a really close representation of unconditional love in relationships.

This is what it's all about. So a couple of things, I just want to note here before I go any further. Unconditional love does not mean always giving people what they want or giving your needs away. Now, this is something that I've had to learn the hard way personally does learning this difference. It doesn't mean giving people what they want.

It doesn't mean giving your needs away. It doesn't mean tolerating everything that they do at the expense of your own happiness. Instead, this is a mature kind of love that means treating the other person with kindness and respect while at the same time, maintaining your own boundaries and looking after yourself. So your only obligation in the face of a person's behavior is to communicate your message with kindness and respect as best you can. So this means rather than being harsh or dismissive, you're being attuned and connected ,even while you're setting limits and having difficult conversations as you need to.

Unconditional love also does not mean people pleasing or trying to be everything to other people. So, how can we practice being unconditionally loving? How do we practice unconditional love? Well, the first key kind of insight to loving unconditionally is really, really simple. Think of unconditional love as a practice. Yeah. A teacher once pointed out to me a really simple but empowering truth that I never ever forgot.

He said, love is a verb. It's a doing word. So instead of thinking of unconditional love as some kind of permanent state or something that you, you just kind of it's all or nothing, you either have it or you don't, think of it as a practice that you can pick up and choose at any time. Or we can choose to practice unconditional love as a way of relating to ourselves, relating to the world around us, and a way of relating to each other. And whatever you practice grows stronger.

So if you practice unconditional love a lot, it eventually becomes second nature and can even move from being a state that you practice to a trait that's just a part of you. So here's three ways that you can start to practice being more unconditionally loving. The first is to lay aside your attachment to judgements. So judgements are often what gets in the way of our ability to be really loving and accepting of each other. So there's a story or an analogy that spiritual teacher Ram Dass often uses and I think it's really, it's really, really beautiful and simple.

This is what he says. He says, you know, when you go out into the woods and you look at trees and you see all these different trees and some of them are bent and some of them are straight and some of them have kind of twisted around the other trees to try and get to the light. Some of them are evergreens and you know, all kinds of different trees. So when you look at the tree, you simply allow it. You appreciate it, even if it's all twisted and bent.

You see why it's the way it is. You kind of understand that one tree maybe didn't get enough light. So it twisted that way or that way. And you don't get all emotional or reactive about it. You just allow it.

You appreciate the tree just as it is. But he also notes that the minute we get me a human's, near each other, we often lose all of that. Right? We're like the judging mind comes in and it's saying you're too this and you're too that, and you need to do this and need to do that. So he says what he practices now is turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are. And I love this analogy.

Because it invites us all to remember and to appreciate, and to remember to appreciate each other, to be kind to each other, to honor our differences and to really see past the judgements, opinions, and preconceived notions we often have about each other. What a wonderful practice of unconditional love this is. You know, by turning people into trees, we lay aside our judgments and we're more able to give others what we all most want, love and acceptance, just how we are. So I invite you to try this practice of turning people into trees and also to, you know, as you do that, to really ponder and hold close these words so eloquently spoken by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who said, "What is love? Love is the absence of judgment." So the second thing that we can do to be unconditionally loving is really simple. The second thing is to be truly present for people, to let them be seen and heard.

You know, one really simple practice to be more present with people is the practice of mindful listening. Because here's the thing, when we're often with other human beings, we, you know, when we're kind of communicating with another person, we're often there in body, but we're not fully present. You know, very often when not truly listening to people. We're caught up in our own mind chatter, judging what they're saying, mentally agreeing or disagreeing, or just waiting until it's our turn to speak next. You know, often we're just not really interested.

We're not really there at all. And sometimes we even interrupt and become impatient, or we assert our opinions instead of really listening to understand them. And the people we often do this with the most are the people closest to us, the ones who probably want out love the most. So one of the most simple and powerful practices I know of unconditional love is mindful listening. Yeah.

We, human beings are really social creatures. We're always communicating with each other. So we have a lot of opportunities to practice this. So here's the invitation, hey. The next time you're with a loved one or a coworker, try using this time as an exercise in mindful listening.

See if you can give them your undivided attention, you're full presence. Really listen to what they're saying. Give them a space to be seen and heard. And just like in meditation practice, if you find your mind wandering or judging what they're saying or waiting for your turn, just gently bring your focus back to the listening. The one thing you're really going to notice if you do this practice is that people deeply appreciate when you truly listen to them.

And you're also going to find very likely, it was much more likely that when it's your turn to speak, they'll listen to you and receive you in the same way. Now, and of course, besides mindful listening, there's just this general practice of really showing up for people, being there fully when you're with them. Be fully present with them. The nonverbal message that we send when we're fully present with people is this. You matter.

I care. I'm here. I love you. So you know, the greatest gift you can give the people in your life is probably your attention. And in a world where there's so much disconnection and distraction, being present in that way gives you back the possibility of genuine connection, authenticity, and love in your life.

So the third thing that you can practice is something called loving kindness. So if we think about unconditional love as, you know, the expression of our kindest self, you know, it's active, it's something we can do regardless, actually, of whether a person is right in front of us or we're all alone. It's something we can choose to do in any moment. And this cultivating of our kindness self can be done through a practice, a meditation practice, traditionally known as Metta or loving kindness. So in this meditation, we bring to mind, usually a person.

And we orient our mind towards sending them love, well-wishing, support and kindness. And, and we often do this in the form of mental mantras, or you might call them pres or wishes. We mentally repeat phrases that sound like this. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering.

May your heart be filled with peace. So during the meditation, we use these kinds of mental mantras as a support to orienting our mind towards love and kindness. So we can, not only hold somebody that we know that we like, like a friend in awareness in this way, but you can also practice with just strangers on the street that we've seen or the shopkeeper down the road, our enemies, even. And in this practice, there's a possibility of this is a very guided meditation, usually where we hold, you know, even our community or even the whole world, or all living beings in this loving, kindness, this energy. We bathe ourselves and the world in this energy of loving kindness.

But what it's really doing is it's flooding our own mind and our own being with this energy of loving kindness. It's hardwiring our mind to be kinder. So this is something that we can, not only doing these meditation, so by the way, this Metta meditation, this loving kindness, meditation is in the Mindfulness.com app library. So you can find it there to practice with, but this is also something we can do in daily life, too. One of the deepest habitual patterns of the human mind is that we often have this feeling that the present moment is not good enough.

You know, sometimes it's that we are not good enough. Our partners are not good enough. Others are not good enough. Our boss is not good enough life. Isn't good enough.

So this practice of unconditional love dissolves this pattern. By actively sending loving kindness to others, ourselves and the world, you prime your mind to embody this way of being more and more. So next time you find yourself criticizing, judging, or being negative about someone in your head, try pausing just for a moment, maybe five seconds, and dissolving that negativity by sending them love and good wishes. Now this can be done using those mentally repeated phrases like above. Like, you know, may you be free from suffering.

May you be happy. Or you can make up your own, whatever suits you, but you can also mentally repeat these phrases. Or you can visualize, if you're a visual person, you can visualize sending them light and love. You can also feel. Some people are really feeling people.

So you can just feel that you're sending like radiating love to this person. Now you can also try just sending loving kindness to a stranger on the street passing by, the shopkeeper, your boss. As you walk by them, you can just take a three to five second kind of mental pause and just send them your love and blessings. We can also practice this for ourselves. You know, many of us are really kind to others, but not so much with ourselves.

We're often really harsh and critical on ourselves. So we can practice this unconditional love for ourselves in the same way. If you find yourself being self-critical, being really hard on yourself, try changing the time to kindness. Again, three to five seconds, just to mentally say to yourself, may I be happy. May I be safe and protected.

May my heartbeat filled with peace. May I feel love and joy. And whatever phrases that make sense to you. So today and this week, see if you can practice loving someone just as they are without any need to change anything about them at all. See if you can lay aside judgments, give your attention and practice loving kindness.

And practice doing it for yourself and the world. Instead of rejecting the present moment or trying to rush through it or wishing it was different, we can practice showing up with our whole selves and being really alive to it all. If we can be whole heartedly present in this way for life, accepting and befriending, whatever arises moment by moment, we truly can start to fall in love with life again. So remember, what we all want most in this world is unconditional love and acceptance. And by practicing giving this kind of love, you might just become someone's next chance or maybe their only chance or their last chance to be welcomed, seen, understood, and accepted.

And your unconditional love may just create the conditions needed for them to flourish, thrive, and be a force for good in the world. And of course, in the process, you yourself become filled with the energy of love that you always wanted. Maybe this is one of the reasons it's so often said that the secret to living is giving.

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