There are a couple of immutable rules to living a love-filled life, which demand respect and compliance. Although they are simple, they are hard to recognize, as our misunderstanding of them is often built into our identities through early emotional wounds. It is easy to become self righteous about what we believe about love and easier still to never understand that the action of love is the courage to work at it.
These rules become clear often at the moment of death, when we are faced with the loss of one who loved us.
We don’t get to choose how we are loved. I am not sure when this idea came into vogue- this expectation that we can determine what love looks like and have the gumption to turn away love that does not meet our expectations. We are blind to the love coming towards us. We see only the deficiencies of it, we don’t allow it into us, we hurt and reject the people who are loving us the only way they know how. We allow our disappointment and pain in relationships to serve as a barrier to being loved and we believe this is the truth.
I spent decades defending myself from the truth of my father’s love. It was a hard love to receive. His apologies when they came felt too small for my pain and came too late for me to hear them. I was stuck on his manner of communicating or lack of it. I was afraid to be disappointed and hurt again. I wanted to be seen by him with pride and gratitude, which he couldn’t muster for himself. I wanted him to be tender and kind towards me, emotional lands that were totally foreign to him. But he loved me still. And that is the truth of love, that even as we do all we can to turn it away from us, still we are loved.
Receiving love is an active choice. I always say that love is an action verb, but most people don’t understand that the actions required to make love real in their lives are not only, or even most effectively, the acts going out, they are the ones we must do for love to come in. Receiving love is the part of the cycle of love which completes the act. Without the capacity to receive, which is founded in our belief in our own worthiness to be loved, we remain forever on the sidelines of our heart. It is impossible to feel the fullness of joy, the wonder of curiosity, the peace of acceptance when we close off the back of our hearts to love. This is a physical reality, which explains the chronic back pain that so many experience between their shoulders. It also explains how perfectly workable relationships stop working. Love, which is perpetually blocked, inhibits the flourishing of relating like starvation does to the body. There is simply no substantive energy to grow on, to heal.
It took me years of meditation practice to learn how to feel and to experience the energy of love coming into me. Receiving is a skill that is built into our DNA, just as worthiness is the truth of who we each are. It requires our full attention and continuous practice. And it is worth every moment you give it, because as the small crack behind your heart enlarges to let in more love, everything in your life will change. Everything. Every relationship, every night of sleep, every effort you make will be fuller, richer and more meaningful because you feel it through love.