Giving Up Conditional Love: Don Miguel Luiz on The One You Feed

I have been listening to a podcast called The One You Feed after a friend recommended it to me. In a recent episode, the host, Eric Zimmer (one of the podcast founders who also lives in Columbus, Ohio), interviewed Don Miguel Ruiz, most well known as the writer of the book Four Agreements.

Four Agreements jpeg
While listening to the conversation, I was incredibly struck with a statement about love from Miguel Ruiz that rang true in my own human experience.  It is as follows:

“We learn to love the same way that everybody else loves… the way they love us is with conditions. We can say that with 99.999 percent of humans, they love with conditions… And that’s how we love everybody, but everybody also loves us the same way. They love us if we do what they want us to do. It’s the reason we want to please everybody in the world.”

How often does one encounter truly unconditional love? Love that is never questioned by either party? It is more often true in my own experience that when I love the most, I most fear the loss of that person, the loss of our affection for one another, the loss of the relationship. In addition, I may even subconsciously have an action plan to stop loving when, inevitably, the person disappoints me.

It is too painful to love unconditionally.  It might mean that I get abandoned. The shame of loving without returned affection is barely manageable in imagination- let alone in reality. Miguel Ruiz goes on,

“The worst part is that we learn to love ourselves exactly the same way.  I love myself if I can be the way I should be according to everybody else’s opinion and according to my own opinion.”

Wow.  So true.  I do love myself conditionally- when I am good enough to deserve love or when I have done the right thing.

When I am not, I punish myself, ruminating on my negative behaviors and characteristics. I tell myself terrible things framed in the context that I am unworthy.

How could you…

Why did you…

How could you think that…

My personal favorite, Who do you think you are?  

From Miguel Ruiz’s perspective, we cannot control the actions of others or how we are loved by them; we can only control our own actions and how we choose to love- both others and ourselves.

Both Miguel Ruiz and some Buddhists whom I have studied agree that the root for unconditional love for others begins with unconditional love for self. An example of this is the loving-kindness meditation rooted in the Buddhist tradition. The practice often begins with wishing happiness and wholeness to one’s self before wishing it to others, and then to all sentient beings.

Unconditional love is an ideal for which I will continue striving- not to have others love me unconditionally, but to love unconditionally myself. To me, this is about open-heartedness: the willingness to accept whatever comes my way without ever closing myself off, without numbing the sensations in an effort to shield myself from whatever pain may arise.

In Pema Chodron’s book Living Beautifully with Change and Uncertainty, she outlines Three Commitments to the path of awakening, and the second of these is the Bodhisattva Vow, or a vow to, “move consciously into the pain of the world in order to alleviate it.  It is, in essence, a vow to take care of one another, even if it means not liking how that feels.”

This is how one loves unconditionally: by accepting the pain that will result with an open heart, loving, no matter what.

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5 responses to Giving Up Conditional Love: Don Miguel Luiz on The One You Feed

  1. Zeus Yiamouyiannis

    I think the thing to remember if you want to love yourself and other unconditionally is to remember that you (and your ability to love) were created in unconditional love and that such love, therefore, is at core and foundation of your being. The Creator is unconditional. Having been created in the imaginative forge of Uncondition, we too inherit this likeness, but we have to agree to it. Conditions are useful as expressive mediums of the spirit. They are the canvas, but not the painter nor the painter’s inspiration. To love in art is to give yourself unconditionally to the creative spirit so that you may emerge amid the conditions of paint and brush to bring Uncondition (a kind of heaven) into the Condition (the world).

    I think much of the problem we have in refusing or avoiding unconditional love has to do with a confusion we have. We seek permission, like children, a sign, to love unconditionally. But such a sign or permission is itself a condition. We cannot wait for a signal. Nor is it a “leap” for us to love unconditionally (though it may feel that way emotionally). It is our very nature to share what has been shared with us and out of which we are created (unconditional love, the highest form of creativity). We just need recognition and practice in doing what we are made of to bring eternity and uncondition into our conditions. We don’t really have another project. We are made this way. We live this way. And we die back into this way. The only question is: Are we ready to create? Are we ready to love unconditionally (which is the only real kind of love)? Are we ready to really live?

    • Learning Labs Consulting Post Author

      Zeus, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love what you said about unconditional love being our “only project.” I have certainly made it the project of my own life. I think it is really beautiful and interesting how love can be expressed in so many different ways and forms, so it is a project of never-ending interest. While I do agree unconditional love is in some ways “natural” to us, I think it also requires a lot of work in clarifying one’s intentions in actions and getting out of our habitual responses to the world in order to share that love with others in ways that are life giving. This part… not always so natural- or easy- at least for me. ; )

      • citizenzeus

        Yes, unconditional love is the most natural thing in the world, but SHARING it and expressing it require quite a bit of a work in a world based in constant training in conditions as you pointed out in your observations. I agree that the training and awareness to express what we deeply are (unconditional love) is considerable and long-term in a world permeated by condition, but I am also asking us to get in tune with, trust, and invite that creative force to show us how to unleash unconditionality despite all our training! I make the point that any program to become “unconditional” is itself a condition. Therefore, one needs to start with a passionate, compassionate, and loving awareness (even amid imperfection and naivete) invited into the self, and THEN work your tail-end off to eliminate the barriers, transform your self-doubt, and come into connection with others. The work is not in gaining unconditional love, but making a place for it in our hearts and then our actions. We are already made out of it, so we cannot gain it, but we can express it from the deepest uniqueness that we are, that point of light, and even laugh at the apparent contradiction of this endless, limitless love find its way through all the limitations (and possibilities) of the world. This is the movement of beauty.

      • Learning Labs Consulting Post Author

        “The work is not in gaining unconditional love, but making a place for it in our hearts and then our actions. We are already made out of it, so we cannot gain it, but we can express it from the deepest uniqueness that we are.” I like this! I think this adds some clarity to the idea. Again, with Alan Watts, he was randomly on Sounds True this week, and was saying something similar- about the universe, not love, but it seems to fit in the same way:
        http://www.soundstrue.com/store/weeklywisdom?page=single&category=AGM&episode=11081&utm_source=bronto&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Image+-+Learn+More&utm_content=Simple+Strategies+for+Relieving+Stress&utm_campaign=Weekly+Wisdom+151113&_bta_tid=3.RM0.A777fw.BB8f.a-7C..AMGCtg.b..l.ATe7.n…pgoRlA&_bta_c=7d29q44aavjk6kuy53kur1pjvtmam

  2. citizenzeus

    On the naturalness and reality of unconditional love

    I think the thing to remember if you want to love yourself and others unconditionally is to remember that you (and your ability to love) were created in unconditional love and that such love, therefore, is at core and foundation of your being. The Creator is unconditional. Having been created in the imaginative forge of Uncondition, we too inherit this likeness, but we have to agree to it. Conditions are useful as expressive mediums of the spirit. They are the canvas, but not the painter nor the painter’s inspiration. To love in art is to give yourself unconditionally to the creative spirit so that you may emerge amid the conditions of paint and brush to bring Uncondition (a kind of heaven) into the Condition (the world).

    I think much of the problem we have in refusing or avoiding unconditional love has to do with a confusion we have. We seek permission, like children, a sign, to love unconditionally. But such a sign or permission is itself a condition. We cannot wait for a signal. Nor is it a “leap” for us to love unconditionally (though it may feel that way emotionally). It is our very nature to share what has been shared with us and out of which we are created (unconditional love, the highest form of creativity). We just need recognition and practice in doing what we are made of to bring eternity and uncondition into our conditions. We don’t really have another project. We are made this way. We live this way. And we die back into this way. The only question is: Are we ready to create? Are we ready to love unconditionally (which is the only real kind of love)? Are we ready to really live?

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