Love is not something we give or receive it is something we nurture and grow.  – Brene Brown

Over the last couple years, as I have entered a continuum of transformation and transition in my life, I have spent a great deal of time contemplating the concept and emotional state of love. I cannot say I have complete clarity. I can say love is complex and it is simple. It takes courage and practice and the ability to truly be defenseless. Love is a risk. It takes an active choice to be sustained. I have to believe in the end, true wholehearted love, for the long term, is worth the challenge.

A friend recently added that she believes love is also trust. I have to agree. In fact it might be the purest form of inward and outward trust. In order to be loved I must trust enough in myself to hand my heart over to someone else to hold. I must also trust the other will indeed do the same. Without a specific barometer, ultimately, I must trust that I am loved.

Gil Fronsdal, of the Insight Meditation Center, introduces us to the Buddha’s teachings on love. “Love does not need to be left to chance. It mustn’t be a matter of “falling in love,” nor must it be accepted in whatever degree or frequency it happens to appear.” It is simple to think about love in the fairytale version. It just materializes and stays without effort. Love can often be confused with lust, the physical response that occurs when we first feel attraction to someone new or a reminder of an attraction once had with a past lover.

Love isn’t something that just happens. Love is more like a garden; it first takes a seed (this is the easy part). This seed will need cultivation to grow and produce a sustainable product (this is when it becomes more complex). Fronsdal, further illustrates this dichotomy using the image of a key unlocking a door (simple) and a muscle being trained for strength (requires effort, dedication). “As with a treasure behind a locked door, we can find the key that allows us to open the door of love; like a muscle, love can be strengthened through practice.”

Our capacity to love at all times is infinite but it takes determination. Love should be chosen when it is easy and obvious but maybe even more so when it is challenging. It is during the times of struggle that it will require and benefit greatly from nurturing and tending. “It is one thing to love and another to express that love in daily life.”

Putting it to practice.

A meditation for love.

Sit, close your eyes, take a few rounds of full deep breaths, then draw your focus to someone in your everyday life, for whom you are thankful. Imagine yourself telling them all things you appreciate about them, without guarding, see what resistance arises and lean into it. Look at it, look for the holes in it, lean into those holes, start to let the resistance soften. As the resistance softens bring the thoughts back to the gratitude you have for them. Not for what they do for you or others but simply for who they are. What gifts do they share that you cannot touch or see? Feel the way they hold and embrace the inner you. Lean into that space.

Allow the feelings of love to flow to the surface. Let the belief that they love you take root in your core. Let go of the filter and doubt.  Simply let the sensations be as they are without conversation.

Why is it hard to tell people we love, “thank you, I love you for who you are”?

It is because we must be vulnerable.

We must open our hearts.

We must first believe we are loveable.