And I will tell you.
I also know a whole bunch of my regular readers thought in their heads, "Oh, no! It's a trap. I know a Jim Tolles trap when I see one."
And you are right. This is a trick question.
The process of finding your true love has nothing to do with finding the "right" person in the external world. Because your true love is within you. All the love you could ever want to experience is right in your own heart. It doesn't feel this way because you've been taught differently. You've been outright lied to, and since so many people believe the lie, the liars don't even know they're lying. They're your mother, your father, your friends, you last lover, your siblings, and so forth. Because they were taught that your true love is some other mythical person who makes everything rainbows and sunshine all the time for you, they've passed that on.
That's why it's so shocking for most of you to read the words "your true love is within you." Which is usually followed up quickly by the thoughts, "If I already am my love, why can't I feel it?"
Taking a Step Back Before Diving in
Let's be honest here. For most of people, they have no perspective on themselves or on what love is. If you've always lived in a swamp, you can't really imagine much less believe in a green meadow. You've been up to your chest in muck your whole life, so the idea of a green meadow is as mythical as a unicorn. Similarly, this is the current perspective that most people have about love. They've only been in the swamp of obligations, attachments, neediness, anger, fear, and desire. So the pristine, unattached, completely accepting, warmly radiant meadow seems like a pipe dream. What's worse (and this relates to my recent blog about being unable to feel love), if you thrust someone from the swamp into the meadow, they have no idea what to do with it. They think it's a trick or somehow a hawk will swoop down and kill them. They much prefer the snap turtles and alligators in the swamp because at least those dangers were familiar, which somehow relates to a feeling of safety to the ego.
So what to do here? Get out the journal. Start to take stock of what love means to you. Who do you see as the most loving people in your life right now? What traits do they possess? What are the relationships like? What relationships don't feel loving? What traits do you notice there?
Then go a few more steps to look at how you act and respond in these relationships because you are co-creating these connections. People like to forget and generally ignore that how they act in life has repercussions in regards to how others respond back. On the spiritual path, we learn to look at ourselves first. In so doing, we can get the much needed perspective on ourselves and how we're adding muck to the swamp of our life.
Dusting Ourselves OffAs we gain perspective, most of us want to clean out the muck. This can be the sorrow and grief we've long held over a lost loved one or relationship. This can be the pain of a past trauma. It can be anything that is gunking up our hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits. In so doing, we begin to feel ourselves again and perhaps for the first time. It's probably a strange thing for many of you to read, but most people do not know what they feel like. In the depths of a spiritual awakening, what people are most overwhelmed by is their own love. They are feeling themselves--ALL of themselves (or at least as much as their spirit deems they're ready for). It's not God exploding people for fun. We are coming alive into the aliveness that is already within us.
With this aliveness, we discover that we are love, but since most of you are not in such sacred depths and are not ready to meet all of your love, the journal and meditation are helpful steps towards building a tolerance for yourself--both the light and the dark.
Letting Go of Past Relationships and PainMuch of what gets in the way of people opening their heart are attachments. Some of the primary ones are attachments to old relationships and painful experiences that the person wishes to avoid. But we can't make life safe. What makes relationships more joyful is when we embrace the ever-changing nature of life. That means we learn to say, "Yes" when a relationship is ending. In letting it go, we make space for another connection to arise. But if you'll notice, the person in this example is already married to their true love. Because that inner space of love is what is most real, the outer world can continue to change and shift, and the person isn't lost in upset emotions because life has proverbially moved her cheese again (to reference a popular book title). A person can become a lover or friend for a little while and then leave, and this is okay. The world will soon offer a new version of love. Maybe it's a wonderful new job opportunity. Maybe it's something or someone else. Love has many expressions, and to embrace the fullness of your true love means to embrace the many expressions of love--not just the romantic, sexual fantasies you've been taught.
Deprogramming and Deleting False FantasiesI really, really, REALLY encourage you to see stories and ideas about soulmates, twin flames, and other romantic ideals as false or very rarely useful descriptions. They just don't help that much. For the most part, they narrow someone's idea about what love should look like. In narrowing your perspective, suddenly you can't see as much. The people who fit within that view are fewer and fewer. If you add in your socially taught preferences about what a person should sound like, act like, and look like, the view gets even smaller. This is all ego. Now, keep in mind that in the depths of your true love, you can be very discerning about who you want in your life and who you don't want in your life. But that arises from a much more natural, relaxed, and easy places of knowing. It's not reactive. The ego is very reactive. It's always worried about protecting something, and it chooses to fault others rather than to look at it's own issues. Here's a simple way to show it dialogue.
"Oh that guy is just not right for me. He totally doesn't have his act together. Doesn't know where he is going. He can't meet my needs. He's such a loser." -- ego
"I don't feel moved to connect with this person right now." -- true love discernment
As a result of fantasies, people often keep themselves out of potentially healthy relationships because these other people don't fit into the romantic ideals. As such many, many people continue to perpetuate the unhealthy mythology in their own minds that they can't find love, don't feel love, and so forth, which makes them feel miserable.
The Arising of Love WithinYou know I spend a lot of time telling people that I love them. This is in truth an expression more closely tied to how I feel about me. I know that I am love. I know that we are one. So if I am residing in love where there is no "me" or "you" than how could I not feel love for all of you. This is a practice for all of us, however, as we find new ego tricks and barriers to love. So, it is my practice to dissolve my barriers of love where I find them.
For my students, it probably is more than a little shocking to feel such love radiating from another. This then often shifts into surprise about how much inner gunk and resistance can get churned up from a little love. But who is really churning up stuff? It's the student's own love come alive in the sunlight of another. This, in many ways, is one of the truest ways that I can express how my work is offered. It is offered through true love, and that love helps to ignite the love that is already within my students (in some cases, it also fans the already burning flames).
And make no mistake about it, your true love is power; you are powerful. That's why you've needed so much gunk and fear and attachments to hold it all down. Just imagine how much stuff you'd have to pile onto a hot air balloon to hold it under water. Just take a little of the ballast away, and you'll start rocketing upwards.
Love simply wants to move, and the more you strip away your judgments, the more your whole life starts to shift.
But I Want to Find my Romantic Partner NOW...I know. This is a very deep cultural program. It's also a biological program to get the species to continue procreating through heterosexual relationships. Anyone who is attracted to those of the same sex may have run up against the cultural program that got built onto the biological program to procreate. The more you can identify these ego stories that are trying to tell you how to life, the more you can expand your awareness to make conscious decisions about pretty much everything.
For example, you don't have to find one romantic partner to raise children and live together until one of you dies. There are all kinds of wonderful ways you can experience romance, family, and so forth beyond the main culture ideas that you've been taught. Don't let cultural programming dictate to you how and when you experience love. It's made up, and it's time to un-make it. You believed it, so you also can let go of that belief.
Because surprisingly enough, the more you let go of old beliefs that do not serve you, you start melting more into your love. Don't be too quick to create a new belief system or grab onto a new set of ideas if this begins to arise. Instead, just let yourself melt away. Melt inwards to that deeper space of love. It'll feel vulnerable. It'll feel new. This is okay. Just breathe into it, and pretty soon, you may feel the embrace of your own true love that has been waiting locked inside you all this time.
The opened flower photo on this spirituality blog post is a gift from Becky Stiller. You can see more of her work on her Flickr account.