Now there’s an interesting word. It gets thrown around like tequila shots at a bachelor’s party and can often have the same effect on people: a severe lack of judgement.
“I LOVE YOU, BRO, hahahaha!”
“Wow dude, I love this spread, you really went all out…”
"Oh my gosh, darling! I love those shoes..."
The word ‘love’ seems to be very… dynamic; adaptable. Almost to the point of being abused. Like a highly-skilled, conscientious employee who soon gets lumped with everybody else’s work.
Not almost, but beyond the point of being abused, I’d say.
I feel a bit sorry for it. It works very hard. It’s called upon to present its happy face in so many different contexts, unlike other words, that are only used when the context is right.
It must get very tired.
What is Love
Sorry for putting that ‘90s song in your head, I couldn’t think of an alternative heading.
Now let’s take some time to focus on the word ‘love.’ Do we actually understand it? We think we do. OK, define it now, in your mind, what is love?
Most people would agree, love is a feeling. Is it?
Some would say it’s a spark, a ‘chemical reaction’ between people. Others would say it’s a commitment, a promise to look out for a person’s best interests.
It could be an attachment, an attraction, or a passion. OK, now we’re moving a bit further off the mark.
I would say love is none of these. These things can be a consequence of love, but they're not love.
Love is not a thought or a feeling or an action. These can be expressions of love, but they're not love.
Some say love is a positive emotion, the opposite of hate. There's a fine line between love and hate.
This is incorrect, because if you hate something or someone, then you have never, ever loved it. You think you have, but you haven’t. Not true love, anyway. True love never dies.
How to Recognize Love
Love isn't difficult to recognize. It's all around us. It can be found everywhere. We only have to look without judgment.
It's evident in acts of kindness, caring, giving, trust, loyalty, faith, hope, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, and peace.
It's also easily recognizable in the opposites: cruelty, hatred, vengeance, jealousy, indifference, abuse, and so on. It often takes the oppressive presence of the darkness to motivate us to seek the light.
Love works her magic in mysterious ways.
Ultimately, our purpose is love. Nothing else. Many people sweat their whole lives looking for their purpose. If only they could realize that they were born with it, an abundance of it, within themselves. All they had to do was give it out.
But life is not that simple, unfortunately. Many people are born into fear, they often imbibe it in the womb. But the unmistakable truth is that the majority of those who come from fear, shame, anger, even the cruelest and vile abuse, eventually end up seeking love.
Love is very powerful because the nature of life is love. The direction of evolution is love. Love is growth, expansion, we've discussed this earlier. The universe is in a growth phase, it is expanding, not diminishing, so love is what it needs.
Speak to me again when the universe has reached its diminishing phase...
Love is interesting because when you share it, you get more of it. Things don’t usually work that way. If you share your food, your money, whatever you have, your portion is diminished.
It must be noted though, that the same goes for fear. The more you share it, the more you get. But this is only natural because love and fear are two sides of the same coin.
Principle 5 of Shamanism
This principle is a very simple one. It says ‘love is to be in joy with something/someone.’
If something or someone brings joy into our lives, then we begin to fall in love with it.
IN love. We don’t feel love, we move into a state of love. Related emotions we feel, but love is a state of being. Same as fear.
It's not to say that if you feel joy for something then you have reached the pinnacle of love. Joy is sometimes fleeting and can disappear.
Joy is the spark that lights the fire of love. We have to maintain that fire, feed it, so that it burns bright and long, like a star. If we don’t, the fire will die, and the experience will have been one of fleeting joy, a taste of love.
You often see people in joy with something, for example, when a child receives a toy they have been wanting for a long time. Often this joy fades when other, better toys come along. We can say the child experienced a love for that toy, but only a taste of it.
The same goes for people. Love, at first sight, is not love. It could be mind-blowing amazement, sheer, but pleasant disbelief, lust or a wanting, coveting or desire. These emotions can come from many places, some not so good, like the need to control and the need to boost one’s ego.
Usually, the healthier emotions at this point develop quickly into joy and happiness, contentment. Unhealthy emotions can develop into lies and deceit, need, using, manipulation, controlling, and general abuse.
Love is Growth
If joy manifests then it provides the perfect conditions for love to grow. It can develop into happiness, caring, kindness, and generosity. These represent the sunlight for your garden of love.
As these grow then loyalty, trust, empathy, understanding, and compassion flourish: the water needed for growth in your garden.
Reaping the rewards of growth is fulfillment and unwavering commitment. And most often one of the hardest aspects of love appears in your garden: forgiveness. This is when the most beautiful, fragrant, long-awaited flower blossoms.
Underpinning all of these is gratitude. Gratitude for the blessings you have received in life, as well as gratitude for the opportunity to bless people/things. Gratitude is the soil of your garden of love.
Love can't grow where desire or need are prominent. It may seem that love can grow from these, but it can’t. The joy, caring and generosity will soon fall prey to the more complicated emotions and conditions such as over-reliance, dependency, manipulation, resentment, control, and will more than likely result in abuse.
Need is a lack, the Universe will answer it appropriately.
One has to be fairly whole in order to grow the kind of love that is rooted in gratitude.
Whole!? What the golly gosh does that mean?
Basically, what I’m getting at is a special kind of love.
“Whoooaa! give us a heads up when you’re going to hit us with something like that!” you blurt.
Sorry…I know you don’t really want to face this one, it's…complicated; awkward.
Watch Frankie Cote as he talks about his own journey to self-love.
But sooner or later we all have to. This is where all of our comfortable, addictive habits have to take a ride into the sunset:
being the victim
constantly putting the needs of others first
wallowing in your depression
being a people-pleaser
...there’s more, you probably know them…
What we have to try and do is focus on our blessings. We all have them. Start to practice gratitude.
“What?!?! you say…
For Rod’s sake, if you have nothing else to be grateful for, show gratitude for the hot shower you had this morning, the soft bed you slept on last night, the baked beans you had for lunch, I don’t know, the fact that that bothersome rat didn't swipe your stash during the night…anything!
OK, seriously. Gratitude is the foundation of self-love. Many of us have to learn to love ourselves because convention, and life in general, have taught us many bad habits.
Life experiences very often cause us to start doubting ourselves, affecting our self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-perspective. Things such as guilt, shame, inadequacy, attention-seeking and not being good enough become the norm for you.
Many people express these emotions to the world in the form of anger, bad behavior, bullying, and even crime, because they are dealing with trauma. Yes, the path that leads on from self-doubt is frightening and traumatic.
Other people, empaths, in particular, will express these emotions inwardly: withdrawal, self-hurt, self-hate, etc.
Both will start suffering from mental and emotional conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, personality disorders, even PTSD.
This is when unhealthy coping mechanisms start coming in: drugs, alcohol, sleeping around, compulsive buying, and so on.
OK, hold on…we’ve gone a bit off track here. I’m not a professional counselor or psychologist, so let’s get back to gratitude. I am, however, a gratitudologist (don't try looking that word up. You won't find it anywhere!)…sometimes.
Blessings are our gifts. Everything we have been given in our lives, the shaman sees as a gift, a blessing.
The presents you get for your birthday, the affection and smile of a loved one, the roof over your head, the kind gesture from a stranger or friend, the opportunity to render a kind gesture, the raise you got at work, the mugging you received in the park last year…
“Say what the duck?!?! Are you smoking something?”
As a matter of fact, no.
I’m being serious. The shaman sees every experience as a gift. It's kind of like the saying, “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I’m sure you’ve heard that before, or one of the variations.
On a shamanic level, everything that happens to you is an opportunity to grow love. And if we make the choice to grow love from it, then we have to find joy in it.
“Yeah right, being held up for five hours in my kitchen by drug-fuelled, trigger happy thugs was really joyful…you know what, the best part was being pistol whipped and watching my wife being sexually harassed…”
“If that’s shamanism please take it and burn it. I want nothing to do with it.”
I understand your anger, your pain, the trauma…OK probably not, but I can see where its coming from.
It’s not a joyful experience. It’s far from joy; It’s horrific.
But sooner or later, one has to deal with this kind of experience, and shamanism prescribes facing it, processing it, forgiving it (and yourself) and healing from it. This can take years, and unfortunately often never happens.
But if facilitated right, this process can result in a love for the experience. Especially as one comes to embrace the learning and realizations that result from it.
Such traumatic events teach you a lot about yourself, your priorities, and your purpose. They can humble you and bring about self-love. If you let them.
You have to be open to healing and think on a shamanic level. I guarantee you'll heal from any trauma if you can do this.
You often realize that your worst experiences become your most precious times of growth. This is when you can be at peace with the experience and forgive the perpetrators, so you're no longer burdened with their fear.
And you can find joy in the benefits of the growth and love for the experience.
I can really recommend Victor Frankl’s book, "Man’s Search for Meaning" if you wish to learn more about the concept of finding joy and love during your most challenging experiences. It's truly an inspirational read.
At this point, you have true power. Nothing can touch you. You're unmovable in your truth, integrity, love, and compassion. You'll be a nice person to be around.
Thank you for reading this, I appreciate your interest.
Self-love or self-care is a very important issue that many people are grappling with on a day to day basis. If you are struggling with it, you might want to check out the "Self Love Workbook: A Life Changing Guide to Boost your Self-esteem, Recognize your Self-worth and Find Genuine Happiness", by Shainna Ali
Please join me for Part 7 of this article, coming soon.
NB! Thanks and gratitude to Serge Kahili King for sharing the principles of shamanism far and wide so we may all learn from his wisdom and love as a shaman.
This post was originally published on January 29th, 2021 and updated on February 21st, 2022.
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