(Note: I am reposting some blog posts that are included in my newest book, Everything Is Included. More info and links to purchase the book are here.)
Q: You talk about loving what is here, now. However, I have found I have become addicted to doing things I like and totally avoidant to doing things I don’t like. I tried letting go of desire, but that hasn’t worked because I still want the thing I am after. I am finding it really hard to love what is when I don’t like it. I'm getting stuck and spinning in my head! I have not been able to let go of wanting a relationship, so the pain worsens. I am confused and wondering if you could shed some light.
A: Your confusion is natural and not uncommon. And yet, it is possible to love something you don’t like. Certain things can make that easier to do:
First, remember that loving something you don’t like doesn’t in any way take away your ability to choose something different. If you don’t like your job, you can look for another one. If you want a satisfying relationship, you can take actions to find someone and also to learn how to be healthier and happier in your relationships. Loving what is doesn’t mean you become a doormat to unpleasant people or experiences or that you cannot move towards what you want in life. Loving what is just means that you don’t need to suffer or experience a lack of love when you aren’t getting what you want. It is part of life that sometimes we get what we want and sometimes we don't. So why not be filled with love even when you aren’t getting what you want?
Second, it can help to simplify your definition of love to its most fundamental components. We may equate love with a feeling of attraction, affection, or appreciation, and yet the core of love is simply awareness and space. The simplest way to love something or someone is to give them lots of attention, curiosity, and awareness. Just touch them with your awareness and give them lots of space and acceptance. Giving space is simply a matter of recognizing that they are the way they are right now and letting them be that way. You don’t have to like or feel good about the way they are, just be present to things as they are and let them be.
This is the essence of love, and it is the most satisfying way to be with the things you like and the things you don't like. You can give love in this way simply because it feels good to give spacious attention and acceptance to things, not because you want or need anything from them. You may still want something to be different or not like something, but in the meantime, why not allow yourself to be filled with a sense of fullness and love? Why wait for things to change to start giving this open attention to your experiences? It doesn’t cost you anything, and you will never run out of awareness, so why not experiment with just giving love away freely? You may find you enjoy being curious and accepting for its own sake, even when you aren’t getting what you want.
Last, but not least, the most helpful key to loving what is, is to include yourself in the equation, and especially to include your dislikes and dissatisfactions in this spacious awareness. If you don’t like something, the easiest way to love what is, is to give attention and acceptance to the feeling of not liking it. That is part of what is, so why leave that out? If you don’t like the feeling of not liking something, then start with giving space to not liking the feeling of not liking something! (continue reading)