Yesterday I was practicing mindfulness with a group of fellow meditators. At a certain point during the session, the facilitator began to guide us on a compassion / loving-kindness meditation (also known as metta), a very simple practice of mentally directing well-wishes and expressions of love towards your own self and others.
Well, during the meditation the instructor directed us to look back at our lives and remember occasions when we felt abundantly loved. She said, “Go back in time. Remember how loved you were when you were a child.”
To my amazement, I couldn’t easily remember occasions when I received lots of love. I looked back at my life and I could not clearly remember being immersed in a sea of affection, being hugged, caressed, kissed, praised, and loved. Actually, I can’t remember my parents showering me with an outpouring of affection. I am sure those moments existed. I am sure not only my parents, but also my relatives and friends bestowed affection in great quantities, but although I am sure those moments existed, honestly, I can’t clearly remember them. I also can’t remember being copiously and munificently loved by any of the women in my life. Actually, I can’t remember anyone being wastefully generous in giving me love, or doing things that made me feel unconditionally loved, with maybe one exception: I have a vague memory of my maternal grandmother holding me in her arms when I was a little child, dancing around, smiling, kissing me, and letting me know how much she loved me, and how happy she was to have me in her life.
Well, all those insights were surprising and shocking, and I began to ask myself: “Why can’t I remember receiving love? Have I blocked those memories? If so, why?”
But I also have learned that for many people, showing love is not an easy thing. I, then, asked myself, “Why so many people refrain from showing affection? Could it be because they have not learned how to do it, or have not experienced it themselves? Could this be the case with my parents? Or could it be that they didn’t show affection because they were taught that showing it is a sign of weakness?”
Immediately, other questions came to my mind: “Why do people measure and ration the love they give? Why do some people think that a person who receives love will become dependent and demanding and therefore, in order to avoid such a situation, love should be given parsimoniously? Why don’t people love wastefully?”
I began to raise doubts about the existence of unconditional love: “Does unconditional love really exist? Or is all love conditional? ” And it became more personal when I started to investigate my own motivation, “Do I crave to be loved? Do I crave to be the recipient of affection? What does this tell me?”
Finally, bigger and more important questions emerged: “Am I able to be satisfied with all the love I have received throughout my life, and the love I still receive, without wanting more? Can I calmly accept my past and present life situation without longing for it to be different?”
Well, one of the requirements of the mindfulness journey I am in is to be aware of my cravings and aversions and practice equanimity. Yesterday’s metta meditation brought to the surface some buried feelings. I felt deprived. I felt a craving for a kind of love and affection that I don’t remember receiving. I saw myself as a needy being, a type of person that I don’t want to be because I believe that such an unbalanced individual is not a magnet for love. On the contrary, I believe that those who are more easily loved are the ones who feel whole and complete. Those who are loved are the ones who are able to freely give lots of love, not the ones who desperately desire to receive it.
After a more calm, lengthy, and thorough reflection I realized that things have changed and are different these days. I sincerely feel generously loved these days by my father, my sister, my aunt, by all my relatives, especially by my sons, who, by the way, are the ones who receive, more than any other people in my life, my expressions of love. I constantly remind them of how much they mean to me and how much I love them. I realized that I have changed. With the passing of time, I became a less self-centered individual, and, therefore, better able to give love and affection.
What comes to my mind is a line in the Prayer of Saint Francis that reads, “It is in giving that we receive.” So, from now on, I will make sure that I become more generous in my love-giving. I will give love and affection freely, abundantly, profusely, wastefully. And I will also make sure that I will remain wide open to receive in the same dosage I give. From now on, I will give myself the love I don’t remember receiving, and I will remind myself that I am loved. From now on, I will let everybody know that they are loved.
Know that you are loved.
Receive my love.
Give love generously, and continue to give, even if some go to waste.
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– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”
– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”
– “Silent Peace Walk”