A few years ago, I stumbled into a little blue paperback called “The Rules of Life” at a sidewalk garage sale.
With its textured cover (a big thing for me with books), intoxicating chapter titles, and bargain price of 50 cents, it seemed like more than a sound investment.
Flipping through the pages on my way home, I read a few rules. Let go when it’s time to let go. Be the last to raise your voice. Give generously. Each rule was accompanied by a short, funny description.
It was the first self-help book I ever owned. I thought it was brilliant.
At the time, I’d recently been through a breakdown, shortly followed by a spiritual transformation (the structure, I’ve found, of a typical breakdown). In my awakening, I came to understand the importance of loving myself and everyone else.
Since I hadn’t been doing anything of the sort for the previous two decades, I thought it would be best to sweep my years of cynicism, addiction, resentment and self-loathing under the carpet. Now that I was normal, no one had to know how messed up I’d been.
Anyway, the book. The rules of life. This little book ended up, at the end of the day, in my bathroom. I mean, where would you put a book with two page long chapters?
Over time, I’d consume one rule at a time at my own leisure. It was fun, harmless, and the advice had the air of tongue-in-cheek common sense. Sometimes, I’d think about the rules quite a bit and sometimes I’d forget them. All in all, I never suspected that my textured investment would hold in it the seeds of epiphany.
It all came together on the day I reached the final few pages of the book. There, I came across four words that struck me so deeply, I was rendered immobile. On first pass, I felt a knot in my chest. On second pass, my body flooded with warm discomfort. On third pass, my eyes opened.
In describing his rules, the author says “I’ve tried to avoid the pedestrian (Time is a great healer) and the humorous (Never tip anyone who isn’t looking) and the impractical (Love everyone)…”
I read the latter part over and over. Loving everyone is impractical. Love everyone—impractical?
There’s a quote by Khalil Gibran that I absolutely adore, one that keeps returning to me every time someone makes me immobile. He says “Every innovator is a reformer. If he is right, he leads the people to the right path. If he is wrong, the fanaticism he rouses in them heartens them to stand for their right.”
I’m pretty sure Richard Templar is the reason I became a spiritual teacher.
You see, what I found out as I was crawling out of the deep, dark hole of hating myself and other people, is that there’s no difference in how we view ourselves and how we view others.
I judged other people as much as I judged myself. No more, no less. When it all came down, when I finally realized that I was beautiful and worthy of love, the rest of humanity was suddenly beautiful and worthy too. I only lived in a world of villains when I thought myself a villain.
Maybe the reason that loving everyone seems so impractical is people’s tendency to mix up love and passion. Passion is a bag of all the sex-related, never-let-go, sticky, yearning tricks. Love is something quite different.
When asked to define it, most people will describe love as whatever they felt during their most memorable experience of connection. That’s because love is connection—it’s the ultimate connection.
It’s the unity that binds us all to one another. It’s a spiritual interdependence. It’s life itself.
If there’s one thing I know for sure from writing, teaching and speaking about love for these last few years, it’s this: loving everyone is not impractical. It’s absolutely necessary.
To love absolutely anyone, including yourself, you must love everyone. You must love the powerful, eternal life energy within.
Luckily, the act of loving someone isn’t picking them flowers or giving them compliments. It’s an act of perception. It’s an act of acceptance. It’s just something you do in your head.
And thank goodness for that.
Because it would be really hard to pick everyone in the world flowers.
Assistant Ed: Karissa Ostheimer/Ed: Bryonie Wise