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Understanding Unconditional Love

Melli O'Brien






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Understanding Unconditional Love

What is unconditional love? How do we practice it and invite it into our lives? Learn three ways to bring unconditional love into your life today.

Hey friends.

So today, I'm going to explore

the topic of unconditional love.

Each one of us yearns to be

loved and accepted just the

way we are, without condition.

It's really something that everyone

wants, but I think very few

people feel capable of giving.

Perhaps because they don't really

understand what we mean by unconditional

love or because they feel that

that, that goal is just too lofty.

So we don't even try.

Now in your own direct experience,

you may have heard statements

like this over the years.

I love you when.

I love you if.

I love you, but.

What do all these

statements have in common?

Well, their conditional.

You know, the implication here

is that we're not innately

lovable and okay just as we are.

So we need to fix change or

do something in order to be

loved enough, worthy or whole.

So when it comes to unconditional

love, What exactly is it?

What's the psychology behind it

and how do we actually practice

it and invited into our lives?

So, first of all, you know, let's

just get clear on what we mean

when we say unconditional love.

When it comes to relationships.

One way to define unconditional

love is it's about caring about

the happiness and wellbeing of

another person without concern of

how it benefits you, and accepting

that person just the way they are.

But here's the funny

thing about this, right?

That perhaps paradoxically, the

research shows that it does benefit

us even when we want no benefit.

The research shows that actually

the parts of the brain that light

up during unconditional love are

linked to the brain's reward system.

So this suggests that unconditional love

is actually pleasurable and rewarding

in and of itself without you needing

to receive anything else in return.

So even if you don't want to

receive something in return, you

get something in return immediately,

which is a beautiful thing.

It's one of life's beautiful paradoxes.

So I love this term,

unconditional positive regard.

This is a term that was used,

that still is used a lot by

the psychologist, Carl Rogers.

And so according to Rogers, unconditional

positive regard involves showing complete

support and acceptance of a person, no

matter what that person says or does.

Now, his work is mainly

done in a therapy setting.

So in, in his teaching, the therapist

is encouraged to accept and support the

client no matter what they say or do.

Placing no conditions on this acceptance.

That means the therapist will continue

to support the client, whether they're

expressing so-called good behaviors

and emotions or so-called bad ones.

It means having these genuine

caring for the client, but not in a

possessive way and not in a way that

is there to satisfy the therapist's

own agendas or their own needs.

So this term, unconditional

positive regard to me is a

really close representation of

unconditional love in relationships.

This is what it's all about.

So a couple of things, I just want

to note here before I go any further.

Unconditional love does not mean

always giving people what they

want or giving your needs away.

Now, this is something that I've

had to learn the hard way personally

does learning this difference.

It doesn't mean giving

people what they want.

It doesn't mean giving your needs away.

It doesn't mean tolerating

everything that they do at the

expense of your own happiness.

Instead, this is a mature kind of love

that means treating the other person

with kindness and respect while at

the same time, maintaining your own

boundaries and looking after yourself.

So your only obligation in the

face of a person's behavior is

to communicate your message with

kindness and respect as best you can.

So this means rather than being

harsh or dismissive, you're being

attuned and connected ,even while

you're setting limits and having

difficult conversations as you need to.

Unconditional love also does not

mean people pleasing or trying

to be everything to other people.

So, how can we practice

being unconditionally loving?

How do we practice unconditional love?

Well, the first key kind of

insight to loving unconditionally

is really, really simple.

Think of unconditional love as a practice.


A teacher once pointed out to me

a really simple but empowering

truth that I never ever forgot.

He said, love is a verb.

It's a doing word.

So instead of thinking of unconditional

love as some kind of permanent state or

something that you, you just kind of it's

all or nothing, you either have it or

you don't, think of it as a practice that

you can pick up and choose at any time.

Or we can choose to practice unconditional

love as a way of relating to ourselves,

relating to the world around us,

and a way of relating to each other.

And whatever you practice grows stronger.

So if you practice unconditional

love a lot, it eventually becomes

second nature and can even move from

being a state that you practice to

a trait that's just a part of you.

So here's three ways that you

can start to practice being

more unconditionally loving.

The first is to lay aside

your attachment to judgements.

So judgements are often what gets in

the way of our ability to be really

loving and accepting of each other.

So there's a story or an analogy

that spiritual teacher Ram Dass often

uses and I think it's really, it's

really, really beautiful and simple.

This is what he says.

He says, you know, when you go out

into the woods and you look at trees

and you see all these different trees

and some of them are bent and some

of them are straight and some of them

have kind of twisted around the other

trees to try and get to the light.

Some of them are evergreens and you

know, all kinds of different trees.

So when you look at the

tree, you simply allow it.

You appreciate it, even if

it's all twisted and bent.

You see why it's the way it is.

You kind of understand that one

tree maybe didn't get enough light.

So it twisted that way or that way.

And you don't get all

emotional or reactive about it.

You just allow it.

You appreciate the tree just as it is.

But he also notes that the minute

we get me a human's, near each

other, we often lose all of that.


We're like the judging mind comes

in and it's saying you're too this

and you're too that, and you need

to do this and need to do that.

So he says what he practices now is

turning people into trees, which means

appreciating them just the way they are.

And I love this analogy.

Because it invites us all to remember

and to appreciate, and to remember to

appreciate each other, to be kind to

each other, to honor our differences

and to really see past the judgements,

opinions, and preconceived notions

we often have about each other.

What a wonderful practice of

unconditional love this is.

You know, by turning people into trees,

we lay aside our judgments and we're more

able to give others what we all most want,

love and acceptance, just how we are.

So I invite you to try this practice

of turning people into trees and also

to, you know, as you do that, to really

ponder and hold close these words so

eloquently spoken by His Holiness, the

Dalai Lama, who said, "What is love?

Love is the absence of judgment."

So the second thing that we can do to be

unconditionally loving is really simple.

The second thing is to be truly present

for people, to let them be seen and heard.

You know, one really simple practice

to be more present with people is

the practice of mindful listening.

Because here's the thing, when we're

often with other human beings, we, you

know, when we're kind of communicating

with another person, we're often there

in body, but we're not fully present.

You know, very often when not

truly listening to people.

We're caught up in our own mind chatter,

judging what they're saying, mentally

agreeing or disagreeing, or just waiting

until it's our turn to speak next.

You know, often we're just

not really interested.

We're not really there at all.

And sometimes we even interrupt

and become impatient, or we assert

our opinions instead of really

listening to understand them.

And the people we often do this with the

most are the people closest to us, the

ones who probably want out love the most.

So one of the most simple and powerful

practices I know of unconditional

love is mindful listening.


We, human beings are

really social creatures.

We're always communicating

with each other.

So we have a lot of

opportunities to practice this.

So here's the invitation, hey.

The next time you're with a loved one

or a coworker, try using this time

as an exercise in mindful listening.

See if you can give them your undivided

attention, you're full presence.

Really listen to what they're saying.

Give them a space to be seen and heard.

And just like in meditation practice,

if you find your mind wandering or

judging what they're saying or waiting

for your turn, just gently bring

your focus back to the listening.

The one thing you're really going

to notice if you do this practice

is that people deeply appreciate

when you truly listen to them.

And you're also going to find very likely,

it was much more likely that when it's

your turn to speak, they'll listen to

you and receive you in the same way.

Now, and of course, besides mindful

listening, there's just this general

practice of really showing up for people,

being there fully when you're with them.

Be fully present with them.

The nonverbal message that we send when

we're fully present with people is this.

You matter.

I care.

I'm here.

I love you.

So you know, the greatest gift

you can give the people in your

life is probably your attention.

And in a world where there's so much

disconnection and distraction, being

present in that way gives you back

the possibility of genuine connection,

authenticity, and love in your life.

So the third thing that you can practice

is something called loving kindness.

So if we think about unconditional love

as, you know, the expression of our

kindest self, you know, it's active,

it's something we can do regardless,

actually, of whether a person is right

in front of us or we're all alone.

It's something we can

choose to do in any moment.

And this cultivating of our kindness

self can be done through a practice,

a meditation practice, traditionally

known as Metta or loving kindness.

So in this meditation, we bring

to mind, usually a person.

And we orient our mind towards

sending them love, well-wishing,

support and kindness.

And, and we often do this in the

form of mental mantras, or you

might call them pres or wishes.

We mentally repeat phrases

that sound like this.

May you be happy.

May you be free from suffering.

May your heart be filled with peace.

So during the meditation, we use

these kinds of mental mantras

as a support to orienting our

mind towards love and kindness.

So we can, not only hold somebody that

we know that we like, like a friend in

awareness in this way, but you can also

practice with just strangers on the

street that we've seen or the shopkeeper

down the road, our enemies, even.

And in this practice, there's a

possibility of this is a very guided

meditation, usually where we hold, you

know, even our community or even the

whole world, or all living beings in

this loving, kindness, this energy.

We bathe ourselves and the world

in this energy of loving kindness.

But what it's really doing is it's

flooding our own mind and our own being

with this energy of loving kindness.

It's hardwiring our mind to be kinder.

So this is something that we can,

not only doing these meditation, so

by the way, this Metta meditation,

this loving kindness, meditation is

in the Mindfulness.com app library.

So you can find it there to practice

with, but this is also something

we can do in daily life, too.

One of the deepest habitual patterns

of the human mind is that we

often have this feeling that the

present moment is not good enough.

You know, sometimes it's

that we are not good enough.

Our partners are not good enough.

Others are not good enough.

Our boss is not good enough life.

Isn't good enough.

So this practice of unconditional

love dissolves this pattern.

By actively sending loving kindness

to others, ourselves and the world,

you prime your mind to embody

this way of being more and more.

So next time you find yourself

criticizing, judging, or being negative

about someone in your head, try pausing

just for a moment, maybe five seconds,

and dissolving that negativity by

sending them love and good wishes.

Now this can be done using those

mentally repeated phrases like above.

Like, you know, may you

be free from suffering.

May you be happy.

Or you can make up your own,

whatever suits you, but you can

also mentally repeat these phrases.

Or you can visualize, if you're a

visual person, you can visualize

sending them light and love.

You can also feel.

Some people are really feeling people.

So you can just feel that you're sending

like radiating love to this person.

Now you can also try just sending loving

kindness to a stranger on the street

passing by, the shopkeeper, your boss.

As you walk by them, you can just

take a three to five second kind

of mental pause and just send

them your love and blessings.

We can also practice this for ourselves.

You know, many of us are really kind to

others, but not so much with ourselves.

We're often really harsh

and critical on ourselves.

So we can practice this unconditional

love for ourselves in the same way.

If you find yourself being self-critical,

being really hard on yourself,

try changing the time to kindness.

Again, three to five seconds, just to

mentally say to yourself, may I be happy.

May I be safe and protected.

May my heartbeat filled with peace.

May I feel love and joy.

And whatever phrases

that make sense to you.

So today and this week, see if you

can practice loving someone just

as they are without any need to

change anything about them at all.

See if you can lay aside

judgments, give your attention

and practice loving kindness.

And practice doing it for

yourself and the world.

Instead of rejecting the present

moment or trying to rush through it

or wishing it was different, we can

practice showing up with our whole

selves and being really alive to it all.

If we can be whole heartedly present

in this way for life, accepting

and befriending, whatever arises

moment by moment, we truly can start

to fall in love with life again.

So remember, what we all

want most in this world is

unconditional love and acceptance.

And by practicing giving this kind of

love, you might just become someone's

next chance or maybe their only chance

or their last chance to be welcomed,

seen, understood, and accepted.

And your unconditional love may

just create the conditions needed

for them to flourish, thrive, and

be a force for good in the world.

And of course, in the process, you

yourself become filled with the

energy of love that you always wanted.

Maybe this is one of the reasons

it's so often said that the

secret to living is giving.

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