Sunday, April 29, 2012

Understanding the Difference Between Self Love and Ego Love

I seem to be in a groove writing about love lately, and I see no reason to stop now. It's such a vital thing for living life. Who doesn't want to live their lives in love? Only the cynical would say that they would, and truly, the cynic is the most idealistic of idealists who is simply denying what they truly want and perhaps needing love more than anyone else.

Some time ago, I connected with a beautiful spiritual path-walker, who has recently re-started her blogging efforts (check her out here: http://georgiasimone.com/), and I really enjoyed her Love Manifesto that she wrote way back when. Here's a quote from it to give you a flavor:

"You are love
Love is the heart of who you are. This is not some nice idea to fill you with comfort or inspire your self-esteem.
This is a very real, very powerful, and very sober REALITY.
Yet from this reality we run, from this reality we hide, and this reality we deny. Because our whole
sense of self, the false identity we've invested a life-time into, is at massive and catastrophic risk of irreversible
damage.
In fact, if you truly embrace this Truth, then who you think you are - who you believe yourself to
be - is at risk of TOTAL annihilation." -- Georgia Simone

Embracing True Love and Important Definitions
It's a great quote, is it not? Annihilation of the ego is why we're so scared, but there's truly nothing to fear. All that we'll be left with is us. Tear down the walls and thrown out the sink. You won't be alone because the walls are now gone. You can now connect to everything. Isn't that worth having the courage to fall in love with yourself and everyone else?

But before I delve too deeply into love, I know that I have to help you understand love. Because the great big problem in this discussion is that no one is using love in quite the same way, and most people have absolutely zero idea of what love is. I like to compare love to water because water can come to us in many states and conditions. Consider the swamp water that's been infused with toxic waste. That is, in fact, still water. Would you drink that? I sure would hope not. Then consider the origin of that swamp water way up in a spring or on a mountain top from snow melt. The water coming down the mountain is alive and moving--not stagnant and spawning God knows what. It's super clear and pure. Who wouldn't want to drink that?

Such are the many states of love. Many people have been drinking from the toxic swamp water, so when you think about love, you may not even believe it exists because it's been so toxic in your family relationships and your romances. While not everyone has had such a hard life, much of the rest of love has been contaminated with expectations, desires, fears, and attachments. This water makes you choke a little to drink it, but if you drink enough of it, you acclimate. It's kinda like drinking alcohol--most people don't really enjoy it at first, but if you swill enough of it down the ole gullet, you think you do like it. Then, you expect that this is simply how love tastes until one day you get a taste of the pure water from the spring. A couple things may happen:
  1. You spit it out, saying it doesn't taste good. You're simply not used to it.
  2. You're overjoyed and hooked. You can't get enough of it.
  3. You won't even try it because it doesn't smell or look like what you're used to.
  4. You don't pay much attention to it when drinking it, and otherwise ignore it.
There are other reactions. But you get the point. For some of you, just think about when that really amazing partner showed up in your life and you couldn't appreciate them. That's kind of like what's going on here, although not exactly.

True Love and Ego Love
But to get a little closer to the topic at hand, true love is love without conditions. Ego love is "love" with conditions, which isn't love at all. However, so many people consider ego love to be "love" that I'll keep the terms together for now. Here's an example:
  • He loves her when she puts out/has sex with him.
  • She loves him when he buys her stuff.
  • He loves her when she cooks dinner.
  • She loves him when he listens to her.
  • He loves her when she holds him.
  • She loves him when he's funny.
  • He loves her when she just sits still and hangs out with him.
I put some pretty benign things at the end because I want to make the point about how many expectations we laden on relationships and others. And of course, the biggest distinction of true love is that it doesn't require an external person or situation. It simply is. But the ego is always looking to send its love elsewhere. So if the ego doesn't have a relationship, it doesn't allow itself to be in love. Much like in my last blog post, I want to reiterate that being in love is simply a state of awareness. Ultimately, everything blends, and the lines blur together. The self and the other disappear, and there is simply love. But for now in this post, I  want to bring your attention to true self-love and how important it is to learn how to truly love yourself because from that space will spring the right love to share with others.

Self-Love: Letting Go of Your Personal Expectations
The self improvement world has done a pretty good job of turning personal work into a major economic industry. That's not an all bad thing. There are, however, always ways to improve ourselves. The self improvement path is not the spiritual path--at least it isn't any more so the spiritual path than any other path because ultimately all paths are the spiritual path. However, in this world of duality, it can be easy to get lost in trying to constantly improve yourself or become something else. There's this imaginary goal of somehow being perfect, perfectly enlightened, or above all reproach and difficulty in life. That's just so false it makes my teeth ache. On the spiritual path, you can't really learn how to love yourself more. Because the very conditions you've set up around how lovable you are or when it'll be okay to fully love yourself are the problem. There are ways to have even less noise in your mind and to exude more peace and kindness in your energy, but that's not what this is about. There's always another layer to peel away, but that's not what this is about. This is about fully loving yourself simply because you are.

It's a hard one, isn't it. Not because love is hard, but we've created so many systems of the mind and our culture that run counter to it. Could you imagine how useless a lot of advertising would be if we are already complete and whole in ourselves? Could you imagine how unresponsive we'd be to getting the latest gadget, coolest clothes, or whatever? Because advertising is one of many mechanisms that depend on making you think that you're missing something and that you'll be happier or better off or more worthy of your own love and others' love because of this thing you can buy. Jewelry ads are probably the worst as they most directly equate love with a thing. I can't imagine how much money that industry makes off of delusion.

Breaking Down the Walls to Your Heart
Every now and then, someone uses the term "heart-break" in a way that resonates for me. I like thinking of it as a reason to break through the callousness and get to your feelings. Of course, not all feelings are going to be enjoyable. That's part of life, and loving all feelings within you is an important step on the path to true self-love. Ego-love will say, "I enjoy being happy, excited, and pleasured, but not angry, scared, or hurt." Self-love will say, "I enjoy being in whatever state I am." Now, I'm not saying that you are really having fun at a funeral. That's not it at all. I am simply nudging towards the practice of noticing all the judgments you have within yourself and about yourself. Look at all the expectations, and look at all the ways those expectations built off of fears and desires are making you try to manipulate yourself.

I think one of the most repulsive things in society are the men and women caught up in being "pick-up artists." A pick up artist tries to seduce another (it's usually men doing this to women, but not always) person into doing what they want--usually having sex with them. They are trying to manipulate the situation to get a favorable experience. This isn't even in the realm of ego-love, but to the pick-up artist, sex is their favorite variety of love no matter how putrid the water has become. What they don't understand is that they're totally a victim of their expectations, and they're manipulating themselves to act and be a way to try and manipulate another and manipulate a situation into what they want.

Are you as nauseated as I am?

But it gets worse because if you extend this metaphor out, you'll see how you're manipulating yourself and others all the time to get what you think you want. And when you get that, then you can be happy or feel some variety of love. With all this effort, breaking down the walls to your own heart really does seem a lot simpler, does it not?

Clarifying Love a Little Bit More
I don't typically make the distinction of spiritual love versus other kinds of love. Spirituality runs throughout. It's even there in the most rancid of ego-love situations. But as I said, the clearer and purer the love, the more the innate spirituality of the moment sparkles. We really are doing an uncovery job here. We're uncovering what you've already got. Or to go back to the water metaphor, we're filtering out all the impurities. You've already got all the love that you could ever need right within your own heart. You don't need another person to help you feel it. You don't even need a reason to feel it. It's right there.

And it's not going to stay the same.

Love is fluid and ever-shifting. Much like the spring coming down the mountain, there are smooth and easy moments of love, and there there are rapid and rocky moments with love. It's all love, and it all needs to be embraced. Because if you don't, you're starting to dam the river, and in damming it, it will divert to some place else that isn't as healthy or true to you. Or you just start to feel so much pressure that you want to explode--also potentially in another unhealthy manner. Self-love is so brain-teasingly easy that you probably don't know what to do with yourself, so let's talk a little bit about ways to practice true self-love, which ultimately is just love of all things since you are not separate from anything or anyone.

Three Quick Tips for Practicing True Self Love
I'm going to keep this really easy.
  1. Look in a mirror and tell yourself that you love you 3 times a day.
  2. Do something you love to do and practice having no expectations about how it will feel (If you love dancing, then go dancing, but let go of any expectations of what it should feel like, what the music should sound like, what partners you'll have, etc.).
  3. Give someone a loving compliment without expecting anything back (This can be really fun to do with strangers whom you'll never see again).
There are so many more ways, and the last suggestion really is an acknowledgment that when you truly love another, you truly love yourself. When you truly love yourself, you are also truly loving everyone else. This is the beauty and simplicity of love, and if you feel like you've gone through most of your life never having tasted the fresh, crystal clear waters of true love, then be encouraged: you already have all the love you'll ever need within you if you just stop and accept yourself fully as you are.
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