My mother-in-law passed away a few years ago. I was very close to her. In the last few weeks of her life, she stayed with us as she received treatment for her brain tumour. It was an emotional time for the family. We felt terribly sad, disturbed and helpless. We also experienced a deep sense of love – amongst all the family members, as we supported each other in lovingly taking care of her and sending her healing energy.
I personally also experienced an unusual insight. In her dying moments, as I looked into her eyes, she seemed to have only one question – “Did I love enough?” While her answer for this question must have been resoundingly positive, I wondered what my response would be for myself. In the busyness of life, how attentive am I to being loving? As a life partner, parent, son and friend, what proportion of my thoughts and actions emanate from a place of love and what from fear, ego and insecurity?
As I search for greater inner growth, I have started to realise that spiritual growth is nothing but our ability to unconditionally love. It has to begin with learning to love and accept ourselves fully. Only then can we unconditionally love our family and friends; and eventually be equipped to love all beings. Here are some thoughts on what comes in the way of practising this and what can help.
First, it’s our judgmental nature. We grow up feeling judged by our parents, teachers and peers. If our home, school or work environment constantly judges, praises and dismisses others, for certain traits, it creates a mental map for our judgmental perceptions. If success, self-confidence and extroversion are revered in our ecosystem, we constantly judge ourselves against those traits. We use the same measures to judge others, too.
Second, it’s our individualistic self-centredness. In our society where we perceive progress to be primarily correlated to individual skills and efforts, we can easily become self-absorbed. In our pursuit of goals, whether linked to professional progress or our children’s future, we lose sight of the people involved. Business leaders become hard charging, parents become demanding and controlling and personal success supersedes quality of marriage.
Further, it’s our ego. We have a fixed way of looking at life and wish everyone around us to be like us. When that doesn’t happen, we feel frustrated, angry and blame others for our unhappiness. In the process, the true love that might have been at the foundation of our closest relationships gets buried in other negative emotions – of disrespect, impatience, anger and blame. Worse, we hold on to our grudges and fail to forgive.
The fundamental reason why we struggle to love others and ourselves more fully is our
sense of separateness. As we are so attached to our physical form, we are unable to comprehend our true spiritual nature. As we see our individual self as a separate entity, we want to protect it at any cost. That’s what creates ego, judgmental nature and self-absorption.
We need to realise that we are all part of an omnipotent spiritual fabric. We are individually complete and whole as we are. And we are interwoven into the same larger whole. That our inner being is not lacking in anything, irrespective of what our social network might have us believe. Once we can connect to these insights, we can relate to everyone else from that perspective as well. We can see the completeness in others too and are able to love them for who they are.
The writer is a contributor to the Times of India. [Courtesy: ToI]