Do you remember that time when your mom held you tight against her chest? When you felt warm and protected?
Or the time when you held your little one in the same way?
Merely thinking of these moments brings a smile! How beautiful love is! True love is the sweetest thing ever, don’t you agree?
Love is the most beautiful experience for not just human beings but all sentient beings. Indeed, even plants respond positively to love, as many studies have established.
Science understands love as “the release of oxytocin” in the brain.
Seems simple when you put it like that? If it’s so easy, why can’t we do it more often? Why is it so hard to love truly?
In the following article we’ll explore:
- What is Love?
- What is Unconditional Love?
- Is Unconditional Love Possible?
- How can one practice Unconditional Love?
What is Love?
For most of us, whether we accept it or not, what we call love is a conditional agreement, a kind of unwritten contract. We find such conditional love in relationships. And relationships are built on mutual expectations and conditions.
For example, you expect your husband/wife to be faithful to you. If they cheat on you, it’s a deal breaker.
So “love” is lost. This type of love requires boundaries to exist.
In this way, almost all relationships have a boundary. If both parties stay within these boundaries, the relationship blossoms.
And when the relationship blossoms, only then this love exists.
Think of all the broken relationships you’ve had in life. Look carefully at the cause of the break.
On the outside, it could seem like a very physical “incident” or “fight”. But when you look at it closely, it was because one of the people stepped outside the boundary. Your love came with strings attached.
Such love exists only within the boundary. There’s nothing wrong with it because boundaries are essential to sustain relationships.
But there is another, higher type of love, which transcends such limitations. It’s called unconditional love.
What is unconditional love?
Unconditional love is love without a boundary.
And tell you the truth, there is no such thing as “love with boundaries”.
Love, by its very nature, is boundless. It is not for certain specific people, it is for all. Love does not expect anything. It is the ultimate nature of life.
If you don’t agree just take a look around you.
The sun spreads out in the sky and touches everyone. It does not differentiate. It just gives. There is no expectation in return. It is boundless.
The Sufi poet Hafiz illustrated such unconditional love beautifully: Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.
Whether you appreciate this or not, this is affection without any limitations.
This is love.
We tend to label and box love into different kinds: maternal love, romantic love, parental love and so on. But we’re just fooling ourselves when we do so because love has no “kinds”.
Sure, there are different relationships and the way you express love in each of them is different. But love is always only one “kind”: unconditional.
Is unconditional love possible?
When we open our eyes and become more sensitive, this question shall not exist.
Because the answer is a big YES.
What we mean to say is we are being loved unconditionally. Even as you read this article you are being loved.
Don’t believe us?
Look around and see the energy that sustains your life.
Whether you’re angry, sad, happy or indifferent—the wind still blows on your face, the sunlight still shines on you, the plants still give you fresh air. The food that you eat is a piece of life that has been given up for you to live!
No one tells you, “I love you” every second. But love is expressed in ways we don’t always appreciate.
The closest to unconditional love in humans is the love of a mother. The mother always puts the baby first, no matter how the baby acts or reacts. And this behaviour often extends into adulthood: most mothers still put their children before them. That’s because a mother experiences the child as an extension of herself.
Unconditional love between couples
Unconditional love in romantic relationships requires maturity and understanding.
The reason romantic relationships exist is because people have mutual needs. People want to be loved, to express their love, to belong.
But putting the other before oneself and ignoring one’s own needs can lead to an unhealthy emotional state.
For example, if your significant other is an alcoholic, the relationship may do more harm than good to you.
But then, is unconditional love impossible in romantic relationships?
No, it is possible.
For this, the relationship and the love need to be separated.
The basis of any relationship is boundaries. Boundaries are what make the relationship beautiful and at the same time define them.
Love does not need a relationship, though relationships blossom with love.
So in the ideal scenario, the relationship exists under boundaries defined by the people involved. For example you may mutually decide that meeting your ex-lovers is outside the boundaries of your relationship.
Thus both the partners need to agree to and respect the boundaries. The boundaries are also not a thumb rule. They expand as the couple mature. You can clearly see this in the behaviour of older couples as compared to newlyweds.
Love, on the other hand, is independent of your relationship. When love is unconditional, it exists whether or not the relationship exists. Because it is by nature not ‘conditional’. And not being conditional, it frees the lover from all expectations and their associated disappointments.
Yes, only when love is unconditional is it rewarding to the lover. Otherwise, we set ourselves up for disappointment, sooner or later.
How can one practise Unconditional Love?
Even though it expects nothing, unconditional love is self-rewarding.
A good way to experience the power of unconditional love is to practise with an inanimate creation. Something that will neither reward nor disappoint you. You could use a rock, an image of your guru/master or even a living being like a plant.
Because it will save you any disappointment of unfulfilled expectations. Since you cannot expect anything to come out of loving a picture or a plant, it becomes easier than loving a human being who may unknowingly hurt you.
Once you start loving unconditionally this way for a while, you could take this to real human relationships.
But how do you actually start loving a rock or a plant?
The answer is easy. The same way you love a person. Or the same way someone loves you.
Here’s an exercise for you. And I guarantee by the end of it you will experience unconditional love.
- Get yourself a plant: You can adopt one at a local garden or buy one from a nursery and place it in your window. Or better still, you could grow a local variety from the seeds of the food you eat.
- Make this plant a priority: Think of this plant before yourself. Put its needs before your needs. Feed the plant before you eat. Greet the plant when you come in and go out of your house. Spend time with the plant like you would with a loved one. If you feel weird at first, it’s natural. But persist and you will discover wonderful things. Just remember “the plant comes before you”.
- We express love differently: Remember that the way you express love is unique to you. You may not be one to speak a lot. So you don’t need to do it with the plant. Maybe you express love by just spending time or by offering food. Be true to your expression.
- Time: Love takes time to blossom. Be patient. Though we’ve said this enough, we’re not here for the fruits. We’re here just for the sake of being here. Make all your effort with the attitude of only giving.
Once you feel unconditional love for your plant overflowing, graduate to loving another human this way. Make him or her your top priority. Do not expect anything from them—and love them even when they don’t act lovable, especially when they act unlovable.
Sooner or later, you will begin to feel unconditional love blossoming in your heart, making you feel lighter, happier and fulfilled.
Ram Dass says, “Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not ‘I love you’ for this or that reason, not ‘I love you if you love me.’ It’s love for no reason, love without an object.”
So don’t think of unconditional love as an unattainable attribute of God. It is an intrinsic characteristic of every living being; it is the very nature of creation, and it exists within you, too.
Let us all give expression to this hidden potential within us.
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