I’ve decided to write a little “how to” guide on how to do and be love…and also power. Maybe because it’s Christmas and I’m supposed to be loving my neighbours, maybe because there’s new romance in my life or maybe because love is all that’s really worth writing about anyhow.
“Love” is a word used and misused in many ways – sometimes people are talking about a human need or a feeling, sometimes an abstract idea, sometimes why they beat their wife. It can mean different things depending on the context and upon our cultural background. We may “love” our children, chocolate and partner in very different ways for example. In this blog I take the perspective of love as physical state that makes our actions more effective and more compassionate, and will show you how to do it. This is a bit radical so let me break it down. One way of viewing love is as an embodied way of being. We “do” love as an action in our bodies with our posture and movement, as well as with our minds with our attention and intention. Love in this sense is something we can choose to do or not do. It can be described and taught – this is the “how” of loving thy neighbours, enemies and anyone else who happens not to trigger the state accidentally. Sadly the world is not full of my nieces, hot Mediterranean women or raw chocolate in my case, so I need a practical method to employ to literally be more loving by choice and not just with the few people who accidentally trigger my most ethical and useful state.
The next point here – and this goes against almost every message you’ll see in mainstream media and the dominant cultural discourse of at least the last hundred years – is that love and power are the same thing. In many places they have been artificially separated and we have been led to believe we can be either powerful or loving, either effective or compassionate. In an embodied sense at least this is not the case. The bodymind both works better and is more ethically inclined when in a single state – that state we can call “love”, “loving power” “compassionate action” or anything else that takes your fancy. Writers such as Adam Kahane have written about power and love but it was the aikido teacher and bodyworker Paul Linden who first described it to me in embodied terms.
How to Love
Normally when we want to be loving we change our actions to ones we think are more loving, and this can work. Behaviour can change state and some might say it’s only compassionate behaviour that matters anyway. However, there are some problems with this, the first is that we may think our way into all kinds of ugly behaviour which dos not really embody love (“I hit her because I love her” for example) and it is hard to sustain such behaviour if our “heart is not really in it”. Going straight to the body can also just be quicker and more effective in many cases. Sometimes therefore it’s better to work state to behaviour, rather than the other way around though both are valid.
The Nuts and Bolts of Loving Power
OK, enough foreplay, how do you actually love? While there are some individual and cultural differences, I have seen the following spontaneous occurring accidentally and have taught it consciously all around the world, and believe it’s near universal. Essentially there are five things that make all of us work/care well – relaxation, balance, structure, energy for movement and responsiveness. These are the basic features of life in fact. A detailed description of, and ways to develop these “five pillars” can be found here but the basics are that you need to relax your core have a balanced and well structured posture, be able to move and be able to respond to your environment. This is what love, done in the body is – relaxed yet not floppy, and alive and able to respond and interact relationally. Note that either of our lop-sided cultural archetypes are only half the picture. The excessive yin of a limp, powerless “gooey” state that is often called “love” and found on greeting cards and in unhealthy co-dependent relationships, is not love (no structure or movement). Neither is the hard, violent, rushed, stiff and excessive yang abomination that rules the modern workplace and international relations really power (it lacks relaxation so is unsustainable and responsiveness so is ill-directed).
The videos below are a good place to start in developing some of the five components of loving power:
The body and mind are interrelated and all that I have described above applies to the mind too. Because “mind” is a somewhat abstract and illusive term I often work with attention, intention and imagery. Creating a state of loving power involved balancing the attention “field” around. This is not as esoteric as it sounds, you could start bringing some attention to the rest of the room other than your computer now for example – notice what this does to your body and your state. Intentionally “reaching out” in all directions is also part of the embodied state of love. While, harder to teach on a blog you have had the experience of reaching out intentionally whether you want something or go to shake someone’s hand. Feels this again in one direction, now do it all around you. Intention also applies to the well-wishing for others such as is common in the Buddhist tradition. Using imagery such as imagining light shining our from your heart area can also be used to develop a loving state. Bringing the mental image of someone you habitually love to mind will support you getting into a loving state too. Note what you do with you body when you think of someone ”who makes your heart smile” as one of my teachers’s says. Grandparents and grandchildren are good for this, though anyone or anything that you feel unconditional uncomplicated love for will do (parents and partners are often a bit ambiguous). Gratitude and acceptance practices also produce states close to loving power. More on loving kindness meditation here from a Buddhist perspective.
So there you are, how to love. It could be considered presumptuous to write an article on how to love, and I want to make it very clear that this is something I am currently doing imperfectly and not all of the time, but am practicing. What is important to me is that with these things I describe I now have a way to practice and be more loving more of the time and life of course is still a challenge. I hope very much that practising being more loving becomes a common thing in the world. Working with both “nice” (read lame) charities and social-actions groups and tough (read brutal) businesses in 2012 I hope to help them put the other wheel on their cart so that they work and love well again. This is my last blog of the year so I wish you all a loving and powerful 2012.
NB: This article has been strongly influenced by the work of Dr Paul Linden whom I love very much. Happy Chanukkah.