How many of us seek out a relationship, want to find companionship with someone because we are afraid of loneliness? How many of us think that we could be with anyone we want but are, in moments of doubt, afraid that no one will love us?
How many women fear the image of one day being old, alone, and with nine cats - being known as that "old cat lady"? However silly this notion is, the root of it is actually very important to look into. What is the cause of this fear?
The most beautiful women with the most amazing personality and intellectual curiosity, depth for learning, and interesting hobbies - this most capable and wonderful woman may truly be able to find any man or women she wants to share her life with, and still she is afraid in some moments of not being loved. She questions, doubts, asks: "What if I am a bitch? What if I am secretly unlovable, and just don't see it?"
This is a very common fear - it is common to women and men. We may have had our heart broken by someone we loved, many times perhaps. We may not feel truly loved in our present relationship, and we take all this as evidence that perhaps it is me - that I am not lovable.
But here's the thing: it's not about us. Our inherent lovableness or unlovableness has nothing to do with us.
I once looked into the eyes of a young women who was at the moment troubled by this fear, and all I could see was the most beautiful being - in spirit, in mind - on every level. I thought, "How could anyone not love this person?" Is there any reason, on some intrinsic level, that a healthy, sane, conscious person could not love her? And the voice inside my head responded, "There is none." She was completely and utterly lovable just as is. Her boyfriend would love her ten times over if he had the eyes to see it. But most men and women do not have these eyes. An ordinary person might look at this same woman and see nothing remarkable about her (if in my description I have conjured in your mind the image of some idealistic beauty). No, many people might account that her beauty is very ordinary. If you were busy walking down the street you might not notice her.
And yet, a great beauty is there, for those who have the eyes to see it, for those whose eyes and hearts have not been so wounded by the deep malaise of our society.
It may be difficult to see this, I am not sure. Our society has been so deeply wounded by the insensitivity and brutality of our modern life. It has many wounds, accumulated through centuries of war and conflict. We have built so many walls between nations, religions, the sexes and races, even our sports teams embitter zealous conflict. All of these walls necessitate building even harder psychological walls to protect ourselves from all of this inherited cultural suffering.
And all of this, ultimately, has severely limited peoples' capacity to love.
This is true for men and women alike. That a man or a woman does not love you says nothing about you. It says more so something great about our society. The man who cannot love his girlfriend, the woman who cannot love her boyfriend - it is a symptom of our society's illness.
Love, I have found, is a choice of the will. Sometimes we have the sensation that "we just fall in love" or, "it just happens." But this is usually because we are simply not aware of the complex number of subconscious decisions we are making, the preferences and social conditioning that all influence why we choose to love one person and not another. It is still a choice, even if we are led by a subconscious drive more than a conscious one.
Many times, after the passion of the "honey-moon" phase has worn off, the euphoric feelings that we experienced are no longer enough to make the relationship feel "effortless." True love, as we come to find, is a choice of the will, and building a healthy relationship over the course of many years does take a concerted effort no matter how compatible you are. To love someone deeply for a long time, to make a commitment to one person, and to be there for them through the good and the bad, to support them and care for them even when it means you must make personal sacrifice, that is all a choice.
What is our internal experience of love, if it is not the will to take kind actions and support someone and do all of those things that we associate with a long-term committed relationship? What is the vow of marriage, if not the decision you've made to love the other for the rest of your life? To treat them as your own family?
When we realize it is a choice to make that kind of commitment to someone, we also realize it is a choice we make to not love others.
Usually this decision is made for good reason. The world is full of uncaring people who would jump at the chance to thoughtlessly take advantage of such a loving person and then disappear as soon as it becomes inconvenient to reciprocate or the feelings wear off. We get hurt when we love someone and we are not loved back, and so we become very careful that the people we love will not hurt us. We become cautious and do not lower our bridges to just anyone. We do this to protect ourselves. We put up walls so that we will be insulated from the possibility that our partner will betray our trust.
If we don't love our partner as much as they love us, we will be safe, we think. It is a prisoners dilemma. Both could benefit greatly if they both chose to lovingly cooperate, and a relationship will fail completely if both betray each other and refuse to open their heart and love. But the middle way is the safest bet - coax your partner into loving you more than you love them (or secretly remain distant) so that you get all the benefit but do not risk yourself getting hurt.
It is an unfortunate emotional game that we play, most likely subconsciously. This tactic is simply a culturally-conditioned defense mechanism that we have adapted so that we can survive in a society that is so scarce on love and support. If real emotional intimacy and connection was in abundance in our society, we would not need to guard the love that we have to give so carefully. If people did not have so many karmic wounds that perpetuate the cycle of getting hurt and subsequently passing on that hurt on to future relationships, we would not need to put up so many walls to protect us. We would not need "six months" to a year to love someone. We wouldn't even need a few weeks to open our heart to someone. We could bring them into our inner world and consider them the same as family in very little time.
We could become capable of loving someone instantly. Just as I looked into the eyes of this person mentioned before, there would be nothing to keep me from caring for her. There would be no need for a culturally conditioned wall to be put up that says, "You're a stranger, I don't know you. You're just a friend. I've only known you a couple weeks." None of that matters.
There they are. Right there in front of you. A complete manifestation of everything that is common to you and the whole of humanity. Your dreams, desires, loneliness, suffering, hopes, fears, passions, striving - all are within her. All are within you and everyone you see in every moment.
The capacity to love is right there when you're looking into his eyes, into her eyes.
We've all been in shitty relationships that have more than likely conditioned our personality in negative ways, and so we all walk around with these wounds of the heart, but everyone deserves love. Everyone deserves love. The cycle has got to stop at some point.
The cycle of hurting others because you've been hurt by others - it's a cycle that constantly perpetuates itself. But someone's got to incur the last blow and just let it go - start afresh and love as if you've never had your heart broken.
And until everyone in the world has read Teachings On Love, we can't expect that person to be the other. It's got to start with us.