What does love mean in today’s world? Emma Cannon asks the question
Every time I sit down to write about love I find myself avoiding it, pushing it to one side. I think it raises such deep questions within me that I am always afraid to go there. ‘Who do I love?’, ‘am I loving?’ ‘am I lovable?’ ‘is this love?’ I know I love my family, but sometimes that is painful. I love my friends but sometimes I neglect my friendships. I love my work, sometimes at the cost of other aspects of my life. I try and love myself – that’s confusing. I love my life – but life is not without pain and suffering. So does love inevitably cause pain and is pain an intrinsic part of love?
I have spent many years attempting to master and study love, trying to deepen my understanding of it. One of my favourite teachers on the subject is Osho; he teaches that ‘you are love.’ This concept takes a while to get used to. Osho describes love as being painful because of its transformative nature and because ‘love paves the way to bliss’. He also teaches that ‘you cannot have ecstasy without agony.’ So Disney got it all wrong? Or perhaps he just showed us the fantasy version of love. From an early age we are taught that love is a magical, mystical state that comes over us when we meet the partner of our dreams. But clearly this is a very limited view. Osho describes love as the part of you that radiates into the world, so rather than be an object outside of yourself, it is ‘a radiation of your soul’.
Amma, one of India’s foremost spiritual leaders, says that her religion is love. She teaches that ‘love is our true essence’ – I really want to believe in this but this is hard when there is so much suffering in the world. Is it possible that humanity has moved so far away from its true nature? Yet this is exactly what Amma demonstrates through her hugging ceremonies. People travel from far and wide just to be in her presence. Amma sits for many, many hours, some times hugging thousands of people in one sitting. This is her showing love; she says that love expressed is compassion, and compassion means accepting the needs and sorrows of others as one’s own. Yet many people are not able to demonstrate love to those closest to them. My yearly pilgrimage to Amma reminds me that if we are not able to show our love to our families what hope is there for humanity?
What of love of self? My father taught me that knowing and loving yourself is the most important relationship of your life. So many people look for solutions outside of themselves. Yet self-love, self-care and self-knowledge shows us the way to love others. When we do not love ourselves this is often because there is guilt or shame or a sense of not being worthy. This makes us reject and neglect ourselves. It is not possible to give or receive love from this broken place. So we must do the work, heal the past; learn to love those broken, unlovable parts of ourselves – the parts crying out for attention.
Finally, perhaps one of the keys to happiness is to learn to greet all things in our life with love. Trust what shows up in our lives; good or bad. In this way we learn to love it all.
“Be like the honeybee who gathers only nectar wherever it goes. Seek the goodness that is found in everyone,” says Amma.
Emma is an integrated women’s health expert, registered acupuncturist and author emmacannon.co.uk
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