It is no secret that most people, in whatever activity they find themselves, simply want to be loved. In infinite and apparently unrelated ways, we are all looking for love, we are looking for ways to be loved.
Now, one way to express the finality of real yoga, or the finality of a real spiritual way, is the realization that we don’t need love because we are love itself. Enlightenment (the end result of a spiritual way) is the realization that we are independent of the need for love because love is already in our hearts. It is the realization that what we think we need form the outside—from another person or from the world—is already in us. This is also called freedom.
In order to arrive to that understanding—to that freedom, in order to prepare the ground for this to happen, we need to practice love.1 Which simply means to start to love, to intentionally love. Of course when I use the word love I don’t mean romantic love. Romantic love is what comes to mind for most people when the word love is mentioned, but romantic love is only an expression of what love really is. One way to define love is the acceptance, the embracement, the deep affection of what is, as it is, because it is. It is the seen, the deep understanding that this precise moment—with all that this implies: myself, the other people and the environment where myself and the other people appear—cannot be different form what it is; and because of this, it needs to be accepted, embraced, loved… as it is, because it is.
And the practice of love is to love whatever appears in front of us, starting with ourselves.
It is a wonderful practice, but it is also a very difficult one. It is very difficult because what we want is not ‘to love’, but ‘to change’… to change ourselves, other people, the world; we want to change the moment, the circumstances of our life, our past… whatever! We want things to be different from what they are. Even when we come to a yoga class, for example, it seems that the aim of the class is to make us different, to make us better people. But a real yoga practice IS the practice of love.
This practice of love has to happen now; it can only happen now. And the first thing that appears at any moment is me, myself. I appear in this moment as I am. And the main practice in this practice of love is to love myself—in this moment—as I am—because I am.2 It does not mean that I may not value change. In the Yogilates classes, for example, because we do a lot of gym, if we are consistent with it, the body will change. But independent of what may or may not change, in this moment, in this precise moment, right now, I need to learn to love myself. To honestly, deeply love and appreciate myself.
As I experience myself in this moment, what also appears right now is the moment, whatever that is. Love the moment as it is. Of course if it happens that you don’t want to be where you are at the moment, you may decide to leave. In that case, the moment is the decision to leave. Love that. But if for whatever reason you cannot leave and you have to stay in a place you don’t like, love what is.3 Find the way to love whatever is in front of your eyes, in front of your perception, starting with yourself. That is the practice.
But as I said before, this is not easy and if you really start to practice many questions will arise. Questions like: how can I love myself if I am not what I want to be? This is a very valid question. Or: how can I love this person after what he/she did to me? Another good question. There are thousands of questions that may arise, that is why it is a very difficult practice. (It is actually a much more difficult practice than twisting our bodies in all those extremes ways that we sometimes see in magazines or videos.)
There are answers to all of those questions, if one takes the time to find them. Finding the answers IS the practice of love.
But for those questions to appear, we need to practice, we need to really put our hearts into it. The questions are good! They should happen! The questions should happen because this practice goes against our whole idea of how we are supposed to experience our lives.4
But every time we manage to love something, every time we do, we know that loving is the right thing to do. In the moment, when we are dealing with the difficult situations, loving goes against our whole conditioning, our ideas, feelings, sensations. But if we manage to do it, if we manage to love what is, we know we are going in the right direction because, as I said in the very beginning, the end of this work is the realization that we are love itself. And so, every time we manage to love, we are closer to what we actually are; we reconnect back to ourselves and we see that to love feels right. To love, to accept, to embrace is like returning home.
In the Yogilates classes, we do the ‘yoga’ (which is the fundamental thing) while we do the gym. The movements by themselves are not yoga, even if that is what is usually believed. What this means is that, as we do the gym, it does not really matter if we think we are good or bad, if we think we are doing well or not so well. All we have to do—all we can do—is our best. What is our best at any moment is not up to us, so we don’t care about it. While we do the gym, we need to love ourselves (do the yoga) as we are, because we are.
So, we practice in the class which, because of the environment, makes it a little bit easier. And then later—this is up to you—you take this practice with you and you do it in your office, you do it at home… you do it in your everyday life. You can do yoga all day long or, better said, as long as your desire for truth and freedom stays in your mind.
In the end, it always comes back to one basic principle: what do you really want in your life?
- As long as there is not love, there will be disharmony, conflict… distraction. All our energy will be taken away by the problems and difficulties. We need to learn to love ourselves as we are; this is the beginning of the practice. But there is more. Once the harmony is reestablished, the next step is to ‘forget’ ourselves and to see and discover that the self we learned to love, the self that needs love, is not the real self. What we really are is the awareness that sees ‘myself’. I am not what I can see, I am the seer. The seer does not need love; the seer is love.
- See also this note about ‘loving oneself’.
- See also this note about ‘loving what is’.
- One of the difficulties of loving is the fear that may be expressed like: if I love what is, if I love what I am, how am I going to grow, improve, change, evolve? To respond to this, we can simply think of a baby that is learning to walk. Even if the baby does not know, there is an immense amount of love in the action of learning; love towards himself and love towards the activity itself. There is absolutely no judgment in the baby. He/she does not care a bit that it is falling a hundred times. He/she loves the process. He/she stands up, falls and gets up again, over and over and over. No judgement, no problem. Only love. Loving ourselves exactly as we are and doing what needs to be done are not incompatible at all. They are not contradictory.