“Who do you love in this world with whom you have little or no conflict?” This is the third question of the Simple Path that I have been writing about for the past four weeks. Please see the four preceeding posts for background.
While people with different beliefs will work with this question in different ways this question is just as valuable for those who believe in God, those who do not, and those who are not sure what they believe.
Before moving on to other questions of love and practice, I want to offer these remarks on love.
Is there anyone you actually love?
Do you actually feel any love for those you love, or do you just say you love them?
Do you actually love those you say you love or have you just developed an emotional or financial dependency on having them provide the strength and support or identity you lack within yourself?
Do you actually love those you say you love or do you just say you do so you can have the sex you want with those with whom sex is part of your relationship?
If there are other feelings mixed in with the love you have for those you say you love, what are those mixed feelings?
Do you still the love the people you once loved? Or, have they or you changed so much they really are not the same person anymore and you are more or less going through the motions of saying you love them out of obligation, inertia, or ignorance?
But, if you do love those you say you love, what does this love feel like?
What do you need to do to feel this love more delicately, more tenderly, and more often?
How can you further refine the feelings of love you have?
How can you feel your love, and the giving of your love more consistently?
Some scientists and some biologists believe that love is just a biochemical reaction generated within us as an adaptation of evolution.
Perhaps they are right. Perhaps they are wrong.
You will have to decide this question for yourself.
But if you wish to find out, here is a good way to do so.
Improve the quality of love and kindness you offer to your own life.
Improve the gentleness of the tone you use when speaking to yourself when you have made some dubious, or downright foolish, mistake or decision.
Improve the quality of the listening skills you employ when you listen to the emotional and practical needs expressed to you by those you love.
Improve the quality of skills you use to discern the genuine emotional needs you have and how you communicate those needs to those you are closest to.
If you have any fears you have about loss or betrayal or abandonment or judgment, how are those fears affecting the way the way you try to control those you love?
For those who believe in God, see what happens if you purify the love and affection you offer to the lord of heaven, earth, and all the many realms of existence. See how improving the purity of the love you offer to God deepens your experience of God and insights into God’s mysterious nature.
For those who are not sure God exists as you improve the quality of your mortal relationships, see if this does not help you come to a clear answer as to whether God does or does not exist. If you want, you can experiment with the faith practice of seeing how loving God on a daily (hourly) basis generates sturdy and practical evidence that God does exist.
For those who are committed atheists, see how these efforts with love can enrich your family relationships and create more stable and more equitable communities. See how greatly enhanced skills with love transform your skills with reason, logic, and intuition. See how these enhanced skills transform your understanding of the deepest questions of physics, chemistry, biology and the social sciences.
It is simple. The only chance we have as people, the only chance we have as a nation, the only chance we have as a species, is if more of us get much better at love.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” and Host of MeditationPractice.com