Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

The Cosmic Joke About Love

Love image for Valentine's DaySo many of our problems stem from making a distinction between friends and enemies.

Relationships fall apart when we feel betrayed by a good friend, who now suddenly becomes an enemy. Untold hours are spent plotting how to conquer, cope with, or avoid an enemy. The world is torn by wars due to the concept of friend and enemy.

Yet another line is drawn in the sand when a select few are considered our “loved” ones.  Our full-on love is reserved for this special inner circle.  Everyone else is second best.

Why is this so?

What would happen if the idea of “special ones” turned out to be a delusion?  What if our beloved ones were actually devils in disguise?

Are you open to looking at the idea of friends and enemies, loved ones and second best from a different angle in order to stir up a bigger pot of love?

It’s All About Karmic Debts

According to the Buddhist view, our “loved ones”  appear in our life due to “karmic” debts.

“At present, we are closely linked with our parents and our children.  We feel great affection for them and have incredible aspirations for them.  When they suffer, or anything undesirable happens to them, we are more upset than we would be if such things had happened to us personally.  All this is simply the repayment of debts for the harm we have done each other in past lives.”

-from The Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche

The strong attraction and affection we feel for a few is not limited to parents and children.  It also extends to partners and other members of our closest circle.

This is the big cosmic joke: the person you love the most in this moment, may be someone you despised in the past.  And, they may become your worst enemy in the future.

It’s an endless cycle of attachment and aversion that eventually causes suffering for everyone involved.

When you take a moment to investigate, the notion of friend and enemy, loved ones and second best, has no reliability whatsoever.  Even if you don’t believe in past lives, you can easily see in this life how someone’s greatest love becomes their worst enemy in a divorce.  You can observe how children turn against their parents.  You can see how someone you initially dislike ends up being a close friend.

Reflection:  Why Do You Love Only Your Love?

The reflection this week involves taking a moment to consider why we reserve our love for our “loved ones” alone?  Is there any logic to it?  Love is often based on a magnetic attraction.  Where does that come from?  What does it really mean?  When the attraction ends, why does our love stop?

Instead of this endless dance of attraction and aversion, what if we loved everyone equally?

Here’s a quotation to stimulate your thinking.

“…there is no guarantee that those we consider adversaries today will not be our children in future ives, or that our present friends will not be reborn as our enemies, and so on.  It is only because we take these fleeting perceptions of “friend” and “enemy” as real that we accumulate negative actions through attachment and hatred.  Why do we hold onto this millstone which will drag up down…?

-from The Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche

The solution isn’t to stop loving your loved ones with all your heart.  The solution is to love everyone equally.  The answer is to cultivate boundless love.  Boundless love has the power to heal you and all those around you.  Boundless love has the power to heal and transform the entire world.

What’s the magic formula for growing boundless love? Growing our love involves a gradual step-by-step training.  You begin by consciously expressing your love to your special ones.  Often, we neglect this too.  Then you extend your love a little further to friends and acquaintances.  Then you widen the circle to include those to whom you feel neutral.  Eventually, you extend it to those who annoy and irritate you.  Eventually, you extend it even to those who stimulate anger and hatred within you.  Ultimately, you extended boundless love to the whole world.

This February 14th, make the whole world your special Valentine.  Then aspire and train in keeping up the boundless love habit everyday of your life.

What do you think?  Why do we reserve our love for our loved ones alone?

Image:   ©Susan Alexander, Inspired Type

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this entry, please spread the word by using the share buttons below.  And, I would love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks!  I appreciate your support.  Sandra

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39 Comments

  1. OMG, Sandra, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I needed to hear this today, seriously words cannot cannot do justice to how I’m feeling right now and how impactful those words are. Seriously, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    • Amit,

      You’re welcome! I’m delighted this article touched you so strongly. Thanks for telling me. And thanks for the beautiful humor you bring to the world.

  2. Thoughtful, and deep topic Sandra. I love my wife, Mary Beth exclusively (from a romantic perspective) because she has seen everything that lives inside my soul, the good and the bad, and she has never blinked.

    Alex

    • Hi Alex,

      From reading your blog, I can tell you have a stunning relationship with Mary Beth because you love fully and consciously. How amazing it would be if everyone loved consciously as you do and then extended that love to everyone in the world!

  3. The nature, origin, power and proper understanding of love are all topics of importance, and you’ve presented an interesting alternate view, Sandra.

    I’m still learning what love is, what it stems from, and its proper place in my life. I must admit to being still in the process of divesting myself of previous delusions, because upon examination they don’t work. Part of the problem is the limitations of the English language, the one I first learned to think in. The word LOVE is used as if the bond between spouses, parents and children, siblings, friends, pets, and our attraction to ideas or music all stem from the same thing – and each of those has different qualities, boundaries, intensity, causes and duration. In Greek and Latin for example, each variety of love is labeled with a different word, which helps maintain focus and understanding.

    I haven’t really had the experience of former allies becoming enemies, or of those once loved becoming hated, though I guess you are right that it happens. I’ve had former friends and former lovers whose level of contact varies in intimacy, sometimes falling away entirely, but it seems to be based on my shifting needs and theirs. My “enemies” are attitudes, concepts and behaviors that cause anyone (self included) to be less free, forgiving, adaptive and generous. My “friend” is whatever empowers us all. Therefore my enemies are ignorance, poverty, fundamentalism, orthodoxy and disease – the health aspects in religion, politics, music, philosophy, finance or any other area. My friends are humor, grace, harmony, forgiveness, compassion and attention.

    No power in life or beyond it forbids absolutely the undertaking of evil actions, because to do so would violate the absolute love which brings spirit into physical form. But whether explained by karma or by western psychology, right and wrong actions have consequences that shape our growth, and the world we inhabit. We forge the chains in life we will carry after death. Love is a key unlocking them.

    • Mike,

      I so much appreciate the starting point of your thoughts today: that you are still learning what love is. It’s that kind of openness of mind that allows us to learn to love more fully. Because love is a learning process indeed. I’m so glad you add that perspective.

      I also take your point about the limitations of English language. “Boundless love” doesn’t necessarily apply to liking our possessions! 🙂

      This is an intriguing and useful definition of friend and enemy. It boils down to what brings happiness and what brings suffering for our self and others and is a good measure by which to live one’s life.

      This is an amazing insight: “We forge the chains in life we will carry after death. Love is a key unlocking them.”

      I always love your contributions.

  4. “When we have conquered the enemy within, there are no enemies left to conquer.”

    Great post, Sandra!

    • When asked, “what is the meaning of life,” the Dalai Lama replied simply: ”To be happy and to make others happy.”

      If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~ The Dalai Lama

    • Nancy,

      That’s an interesting quote! I think we can understand this on many levels. On one level we can see that our negative emotions are the true enemies indeed. On another level, when we understand the true nature of everything, there are no enemies within or outside. Thanks for sharing this quotation.

      Thank you for the other Dalai Lama quotations as well. All the best to you.

  5. This is so beautifully expressed! I especially appreciate this — “Boundless love has the power to heal you and all those around you. Boundless love has the power to heal and transform the entire world.” I am working on reaching out to others with more loving actions, and your thought of making boundless love a habit everyday is perfect.

    My heartfelt thanks for using my artwork here. I am thrilled that it is paired with such inspiring words.

    Love Your Love :~)

    • Sue,

      Thank you for your appreciative words. Your artwork is all about spreading good thoughts so I think you are a step ahead when it comes to reaching out to others with more loving actions. I’m delighted to be able to use your artwork and be part of spreading good thoughts!

      Thanks for the beauty you create. And thanks for taking a moment to leave a comment.

  6. Sandra – thank you so dearly and deeply for saying and sharing this message. It is one I often have on my mind and have not yet found the right words to share it with in an article. You have done it beautifully!

    And so I say, yes, yes and yes to all that you say above! I have witnessed in my life from various family members this sort of clinging love that is nothing short of suffocating, and so exclusive.

    May we each open our hearts just a little further this Valentine’s day and every day, to expand our love equally to all those who share this Earth and Universe with us!

    • Hello Evita,

      Thank you so much for your kinds words! It’s not a message that is necessarily easily expressed and many people with probably find it odd. But maybe it will get them thinking a bit.

      Thank you for this beautiful aspiration: “May we each open our hearts just a little further this Valentine’s day and every day, to expand our love equally to all those who share this Earth and Universe with us!”

  7. Hi Sandra,

    The Tao Te Ching says:

    “If you overly esteem talented individuals,
    people will become overly competitive.
    If you overvalue possessions,
    people will begin to steal.”

    Similarly, if we value a select few over others, problems will arise.

    I fully agree that people we love today we can come to hate tomorrow. And today’s enemy can become our friend in the future. There is indeed no reliability whatsoever in the labels of friend and enemy. And in any case, how well do we really know someone in this day and age? Has the relationship been really tested? It is easy to be great friends in good times, but it is bad times and adversity that reveals your true friends. This can easily apply to family and close friends for whom we have a blind spot.

    Placing all our eggs in one basket can be dangerous. Such selective love can be a double-edged sword; our greatest strength and weakness. In any case, it is unwise to expect our significant other to fulfil all our needs. This can place undue stress on a otherwise healthy relationship. But if we cultivate boundless love in the way you suggest, our relationships can become healthier overall.

    Thank you for sharing such profound thoughts! 🙂

    Irving the Vizier

    • Irving,

      It’s interesting to see the I-Ching consistently point to a middle way. Extremes of any sort always seem to get us in trouble.

      This is an excellent question > “Has the relationship been really tested?”

      It’s also a very wise point to consider that expecting our significant other to meet all our needs will always fail.

      Thank you for your wonderful insights.

  8. Love is what makes the world go round. Lets start now…great post Sandra.

  9. Thank you for this post. Very insightful and thought provoking. Has me thinking.

    I have the perfect example of this in my life. I was married for 18 years. My now ex-husband harasses me continuously legally even now though we have been divorced for 8 years.

    Although many would consider him an “enemy,” I do not. I consider him my best teacher and often feel overwhelming gratitude and appreciation for him. Without his interaction in my life, I would not be the person I am today.

    I will admit that I do not always feel this and hope that one day I will “get” the lesson and graduate.

    • Debbie,

      You have an enlightened view of the idea of “enemy.” Of course, it’s not easy to sustain this view all the time. But the fact that you have it to begin with is remarkable indeed. I really admire your perspective. When we see difficult people as our teachers, we are the one to grow! In that way, they can sometimes be “kinder” than people we perceive as friends.

      Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.

  10. Someone once told me that my autistic son had been a powerful person in several previous lifetimes. However, he abused his power so this time his spirit incarnated with autism so that he would have to depend on others. In one of those previous lifetimes he saved my life, so my spirit agreed in this lifetime to be his mother. Interesting!

    • Galen,

      It is interesting to consider the possibility. We may not believe in past or future lives, but what if it were true? It was even a part of Christianity until it was removed from the books so to speak. Thanks for sharing your own experience with entertaining this idea.

  11. Hi Sandra,
    Happy Valentines Day to the world. I love this and every night before I fall asleep I wrap the world in my love and I specifically send it to those who I’m struggling with. Count me on board.

  12. Hi Sandra,
    This just reached right into my gut. The quote by Patrul Rinpoche made me loose my breath. I’ve made many mistakes and I’ve hurt people by my pettiness in the past. We reserve love for only our loved ones out of selfishness I suppose. Our insequrities get the best of us and we throw up our walls. If someone has love for our loved ones we become threatened by it, even when we know they have room to love everyone and ourselves. We underestimate love. Thanks for this lesson Sandra! You’ve given me alot to think about today!

    • Dandy,

      Your comments always touch me so much. I really take your point about insecurities! It’s something I’ve had to work with in my life. I appreciate your point that we, “underestimate love.” Be well!

  13. It’s funny how it can seem so binary, where somebody is for you or against you, and it’s either a spiral up, or a spiral down.

    > When the attraction ends, why does our love stop?
    My favorite saying on true love is that it’s falling in love with the same person, over and over.

  14. I’m so glad you chose to share this Buddhist perspective from Patrul Rinpoche, which I as a fellow Buddhist likewise share.

    My truth is that I have learned many life lessons about myself from those who I once considered to be “enemies”. Hence I no longer attempt to avoid difficult people although I do limit the time I spend with them depending on my energy level.

    Oscar Wilde said, “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” Without doubt it’s egotistical to become angry or upset with any other person for just being who they are, even when they’re they are not on their best behavior. All of us are motivated to do what we feel is best for us, and in most cases that means moving toward pleasure or away from suffering.

    I’m currently struggling with my attachments and aversions when it comes to my siblings. I am attached to them remaining in my life and I am adverse to them passing away before I do. The realty that this may indeed happen is one I must face head on and consciously. What I’m focused on now is making the transition required so I can treat them with empathy without “clinging” to any specific outcomes.

    I’m practicing mindfulness and choosing activities that help me stay centered and calm in the present moment. I am practicing being the observer of my feelings, thoughts and the situation, so I can separate myself from the emotions that arise. When I find myself feeling fearful and identifying with angry “it’s not fair!” emotions and thoughts, I’m bringing my focus back to my breath. When I do this my fear and pain subside and love grows. We are all terminal.

    “When a Buddhist applies the idea of constant change to the self and the soul, he gains an insight that other religions lack. What we call a mind (or a self, or a soul) is actually something that changes so much and is so uncertain, that our terms for it do not find meaning. The Buddhist word for self is anatta and it means ‘no self.’ It is used to refer to oneself, while cleverly reminding the user of the word that there is such thing.” — David Weisman, M.D.

    May all beings be well,
    May all beings be happy,
    Peace, peace peace

    TiTi

    • timethief,

      I appreciate walking the spiritual path with you and the way you go beyond the superficial in order to see clearly.

      Your balanced approach is smart ~ not to necessarily avoid negative people but to be mindful of the impact of spending too much time with them.

      The way you are working with your own attachment and aversion in response to the illnesses of your siblings is remarkable. This is the medicine that heals all. We can’t escape pain entirely, but we can watch as it gently subsides.

      Thank you for sharing your practice here. May it inspire many others!

  15. Hi Sandra,
    As always a thought provoking blog. I think in many relationships love is an overly simplistic, fuzzy explanation of why the relationship works or exists. I don’t mean that caring is lacking it’s just so hard to define love. Steven Sondhiem’s broadway musical PASSION addresses this issue perfectly. Love is way too complex to accurately define.
    Riley

  16. Oh, Sandra — you probably couldn’t pose a harder challenge to me if you tried. I have spent my whole life as a reserved, closed off, indifferent sort of person. I have trouble even expressing love to the people who are closest to me and who try the hardest to get inside my brain and my heart. To love everyone? I think I’d better start with just liking everyone first!

    • Don’t worry! We’re all far from perfect. We’re working on it together. And as Marianne wisely points out in the next comment, we just begin with baby steps. With your mind, I think you could definitely go at this from a logical perspective. 🙂

  17. Wonderful post – I’m so grateful for the baby steps offered to us in metta and other practices because otherwise this would often feel like a leap too wide to take!

  18. Sandra,

    As I make more room for boundless love and boundless love makes more room for me I delight in how my love for my near and dear becomes so much more rich and connects me fully to a love for all sentient beings.

    Thank you so much for offering this post to the Love Sparks Blogging Festival. It is lovely to meet and discover your site.

    Jasmine

    • Thank you for highlighting this wonderfully self-perpetuating aspect of boundless love. And thank you for organizing the Love Sparks Blogging Festival. It was so uplifting to go to the Love Sparks Blogging Festival page and see all these brilliant spirits speaking about love.

  19. Boundless love has potential to be quite powerful. When we take time to appreciate something in everyone the notion of ‘enemy’ seems to diminish. As you mentioned, boundless love definitely has the power to heal and transform the world. However people are not ready to live such a life. Many people are ruled by negativity, consciously or subconsciously. If more people took time to evaluate the love they share with others, and the lack of, the world just might be a better place.
    I’m new to this! But please check out my blog. 🙂

  20. Welcome to my blog and welcome to the blogosphere. Your blog looks great! Naturally, I love your focus on inspiration. It’s true ~ most people aren’t ready for boundless love. But with our little army of inspiration perhaps we can nudge them in that direction!

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I look forward to seeing what you cook up on your blog. Be well!

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