“I had rediscovered people in my past and come to terms with my feelings towards them. I had learnt what love was. That love wanted the best possible for those you cared for even if that excluded yourself. That before, I had wanted to possess people without loving them, and now I could love them and wish them the best without needing them.” ~ Robyn Davidson
I experienced unconditional love last year during my travels in India.
I stayed for one month with a family in Ladakh, and luckily, I’ve developed close ties with the mother who taught me what unconditional love is. She took care of me when I burned my leg and couldn’t walk. She made me breakfast and taught me how to cook Indian food. She entertained me when I felt alone and comforted me when I felt unsafe.
Shockingly enough, I would debate with her for hours if I ever bought her a gift or tried to help her with something. She always said to me that she wants nothing from me—all that matters to her is that I’m enjoying my stay with them and sharing quality time with her. When I left, all she asked from me was to keep writing to her and telling her my updates.
When I returned home, I contemplated my views on love and wondered why unconditional love seems hard for us to practice with the people who permeate our days—and with the people who no longer do, in particular.
To start off, unconditional love is wishing happiness, peace and comfort for one another without expecting any benefits for ourselves. It is the kind of love that knows no conditions, no limits, no boundaries and asks for nothing in return—to put it better, it is not our own happiness that matters during the process, it’s the other person’s.
Unconditional love appears to be difficult to practice as we are conditioned by nature. We are simply used to loving each other with ego involvement, rather than without it. We have become accustomed to always taking something back from the people we love. We judge them if we feel they did wrong. We lack understanding. We fight with them if something goes awry. All of these things are brought to light, because in a way or another, our needs weren’t met and their actions didn’t match our expectations.
To unconditionally love someone who is present in our lives is hard. However, to unconditionally love them when they’re no longer present is even harder.
We are prone to losing people in our lives—a family member, a coworker, a friend, a partner. But once we lose them, we seem incapable of loving them unconditionally as we hold on even tighter to them. We don’t really mourn their loss—we mourn because we no longer “own” them. Our love for them consists of them being forever present in our days. We insist on keeping them, or we try to win them back because subconsciously, our happiness depends on their presence.
For me, I’ve come to realize that loving someone unconditionally when they’re gone is more essential than unconditionally loving them when they’re present. The reason is because we will release so much tension residing within us. We will set them free and be free ourselves—and at the same time, cultivate a sense of oneness and selflessness. When we unconditionally love the people who no longer permeate our days, we automatically transcend love.
We realize that love is beyond any boundaries, needs or possessiveness.
With time, I have ascertained that I truly love someone when I know that they’re comfortable and happy, even if this means that I won’t be present in their lives. I know how hard it is to let go of a person who feels like a part of us—but at the same time, I have realized that if this person is truly a part of me, then I shouldn’t fear losing him as he forever abides within me.
Throughout the years, I have found these tips helpful with the process of unconditionally loving the people who are no longer present in my life:
1. Start with yourself. I’m learning to love myself unconditionally and not expect anything from “me.” Also, I am cultivating self-love toward myself, so I won’t be asking it from others who aren’t capable of giving it to me—because sometimes, our unconditional love for others can be false. Sometimes, we give a lot so we can get a lot.
2. Know that you never “owned” that person. That person who left my life wasn’t mine to begin with. I always remember when I first met them—how free we both were. I ask myself, “Why would I want to hold on to someone who wasn’t in my life anyway?”
3. Don’t think about what you’re getting in return. I don’t think anymore about what I expect or want from that person. Instead I think of their happiness and not mine.
4. Forgive and forget. I’ve realized that sometimes we need people to be in our lives because we unconsciously want them to pay their dues. In other words, we want them to make up for the wrong they did, or we want them present again so we can prove ourselves right. Once I forgive and forget, I will automatically love that person unconditionally, because I no longer want him neither to pay me back nor to prove myself right.
5. Trust that they’re fine without you. I have to believe that the person who left my life is responsible enough to make his own decisions. I’m learning to think that this person knows what he or she is doing and can actually survive without my presence in their lives. To unconditionally love someone means allowing them to have their own experiences that don’t include us.
6. Start with the small things. In order to love someone unconditionally in big situations, we need to practice this kind of love in the small situations first. Every day, I do something that requires nothing in return from others. This habit will eventually grow, and I’ll become accustomed to giving without waiting for something back.
Let’s remember what love truly is: Love wants nothing, needs nothing and expects nothing. It’s an act, not a feeling.
Love just “is.”
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/David Bleasdale