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.
“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.