Solving the Myth of Unconditional Love
Does unconditional love exist?
Last week I hosted a first heart-to-heart dinner talk at Lentils as anything in the Abbotsford Convent (a pay-as-you-wish restaurant in Melbourne). It’s an event that encourages people to speak out about big issues in life in a non-judgmental and loving environment. Issues that we often want to talk about but too scared to talk about may be due to social conditioning and the fear of other people’s judgements.
The topic we discussed about last week was of course the universal topic of love. I did not prepare a topic beforehand but it was suggested by an attendee and he asked how do you feel about love and does unconditional love really exist?
Interestingly I have just finished the book ‘The Forty rules of Love’ by the bestselling Turkish author Elif Şafak. So it seems like an auspicious timing to write about this topic, a topic that I absolutely adore to write and discuss about.
[just a side note: I cannot help but singing praises to the acclaimed Elif Şafak, who is now my new Goddess! She writes novels in both English and Turkish, and what’s more, she is also a Sufi mystic and often writes about mysticism, spirituality and Sufism! I knew we must be related somehow (I was a Sufi mystic in my past life and so is this life and an aspiring author who wants to write in both English and Chinese) If you haven’t read the Forty Rules of Love I will highly highly recommend it!]
1. What is Love?
Although love has been a universal topic since God knows when, there does not seem to be an agreed universal definition. So before I delve deeper into how I feel about it, let me first offer you my perception or understanding on love.
My understanding on love has of course evolved over my 28 years of existence. Before my spiritual awakening experience at the age of 25, I always equated love with some sort of attachment. I viewed love as an external object that I had to seek –seeking for the perfect partner who will make me feel complete or wait for the right person to give me love so I can give in return (like a business)!
After my spiritual awakening I started to view love through a different lens and starting to embracing the idea that love perhaps has more of an internal nature than external. I also read quite a few spiritual books on the subject of love, such as Love, Freedom & Aloneness by Osho.
Slowly I grow in understanding of how love is simply a state of being. Love has nothing to do with the other object, love is in fact a flowing energy that is within you, you either allow this loving energy to flow freely from you to other people/objects or you are blocking it, it’s simple as that.
‘I love, because my love is not dependent on the object of love.
My love is dependent on my state of being.
So whether the other person changes, becomes different,
friend turns into a foe, does not matter,
because my love was never dependent on the other person.
My love is my state of being.
I simply love.'
So this is my evolved understanding of love – love is a state of being. I am love, you are love, we are all love! Love is within us.
2. Does Unconditional Love Really Exist?
Not only I strongly believe that unconditional love exists, I see it manifests all the time everywhere, in all sorts of forms.
I would also like to tell you about my own personal experience of unconditional love with a partner, despite briefly. This happened when I was living in Shanghai. I fell in love with a Frenchman, whom was my lover. He had a girlfriend and due to various reasons, we could not be together. He probably didn’t even love me but was seeing me perhaps due to he was unhappy in his then relationship.
At first my egoistic mind of course wanted more, creating all the illusionary expectations that could not be fulfilled. My ego was hurting badly until the point that it fell on the floor. I was heartbroken and fell into a place of darkness…
‘The wound is where the light enters you.’
I basically locked myself in a room for an entire week, kept reading Osho and meditating on Love, trying to understand all the self-created suffering (on the surface it might seem that my suffering had to do with the other person, but deep down almost all miseries in life are in fact self-inflicted).
There came my second spiritual awakening experience where I finally not just understand what true love is intellectually, but actually experiencing it. And all of a sudden I experienced this indescribable joy of love flowing through me (when I stopped the blockage of this love within me and allow it to flow).
When I transcend my egoistic mind, my jealousy and fear, I could finally understand that love is indeed a state of being and true love is in fact unconditional, it has nothing to do with attachment and expectations, in fact, it also doesn’t have anything to do with the object. After that there is no more suffering, no more pain and no more heartbreaks.
Of course even if I had the experience of unconditional love, it does not mean that I could keep it 24/7 and it does not mean that I do not hold expectations at all. After all, I'm still on the path. But being aware of that, I could certainly say that my heart has been opened up to another level and I have more capacity to give love without expectations.
‘You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.’
That was my first encounter of unconditional love with a romantic partner. I also realise that the more you love yourself, the more you can give out love, and naturally the more love you will receive in return (natural law). After all, love is within us. When you are filled with love within yourself, of course you can give out more love naturally. But when you are filled with hatred, the capacity for you to give out love is quite limited. Again, we create our own limits.
‘You are not a drop in Ocean,
but an Ocean in a drop.’
I also experience unconditional love from my mother, whom always give me tremendous support, care and freedom for me to do whatever I like without asking for anything in return. Of course before I was ‘blind’ so I could not see, now I could see it clearly.
Also Mother Nature gives us unconditional love all the time. The Sun rises every day without asking us for anything in return, so is the Moon. If that is not unconditional love, then what is?
Even the restaurant, ‘Lentil-as-anything’, where we host the heart-to-heart talk event, is another living proof of unconditional love –it offers free meals without expecting people to pay (you only pay-as-you-wish).
Also I recently learned that there is a golden temple in Punjab called Sri Harmandir Sahibi, the holiest Gurdwara (a place of worship) of Sikhism. It is also home to the world's largest free kitchen! It can serve free food for up to 100,000- 300,000 people every day! Vegetarian food is served to all visitors regardless of faith, religion or background. Again if that is not unconditional love, then what is it?
The potential to give out unconditional love is actually within everybody. It’s not only Saints like Buddha, Jesus, Mother Teresa that can give out unconditional love. As human beings, we all have the potential to cultivate unconditional love, of course, no one says it is an easy path, as we have first to transcend our egoistic mind, drop all the attachments, jealousy, greed and negativity. It certainly is one of the most difficult thing on earth!
However, I firmly believe that we can all get there, one day, step by step.
I would like to end this article with Rule Number Forty from Forty Rule of Love:
‘A life without love is of no account.
Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western …
Divisions only lead to more divisions.
Love has no labels, no definitions.
It is what it is, pure and simple.’
‘Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire!
The Universe turns differently when fire loves water.”
-Shams of Tabriz