This post was inspired by one of the lessons I practiced this week from A Course in Miracles (ACIM). For those of you who aren’t familiar with ACIM, I highly recommend it. It’s essentially a course designed to remind us of our essence or our True Self.  So one of the lessons this week was “Heaven is the decision I must make.”  Here’s my translation: “Love is the decision I must make,” meaning that there actually isn’t really a choice because love is all there is, it is infinite and all encompassing. That said, this idea of having a choice and consciously choosing love is the bridge from the world our conditioned self sees to the world our true nature knows.  So this week I’ve been sitting with the what’s and the how’s of choosing love in each moment.

In effort to better understand what it means to choose love, I first decided to gather some information on what love is. Here’s what the dictionary says Love (n): An intense feeling of deep affection. Surprisingly, I actually love this description–it’s so simple and really speaks to the state itself.  But I wanted more. So I reached out to my facebook community to get their input–and I’m so grateful for and deeply moved by the wisdom and thoughtfulness in their responses.  Here is what they shared about love:

  • Love is the fundamental building block of the Universe. From it’s emergence as light, to the diversity of life , to the bonds between us to the ever increasing desire to evolve …it’s one impulse.
  • Love-when the happiness of someone else is essential to your own.
  • The bio-behavioral synchrony between two sentient beings who are sharing positive emotions.
  • The ability to uplift and enliven even in the face of disillusion and negativity. The acceptance of all that is as good, true, and beautiful in this moment.
  • To me, love is the most resilient energy on this planet. Love is the reason I exist. The ability to love and be loved, is what allows me to know I am alive. Love is the light in the world.
  • Love is forgiving.
  • Allowing yourself to be vulnerably seen…by self and others.
  • Love is encouraging and wishing well those you know.
  • For me, love is a verb. It is an action that we decide to take part in. It is forgiving, being kind, caring, helping, seeing, sharing, giving, listening, being together in shared space and the holding of the light for another. I acknowledge the feeling of being “in love” but to me, that feeling is just stuck within us unless we intentionally do something about it.
  • Love is truly seeing and being seen. Love is seeking and feeling understood. It’s an embodied feeling and it’s the source. Love is our true essence, our truest self. Love is who we are and our reason for being.
  • Love isn’t a fairytale or a storybook and it always doesn’t come easy. Love is overcoming obstacles, facing challenges, fighting to be together, holding on and never letting go. It is a short word, easy to spell, difficult to define and impossible to live without. Love is work, but most of all, love is realizing that every hour, every minute, every second of it was worth it because you did it together.
  • I think of love in terms of a Mother & Grandmother at this point in my life – it’s a love like no other! It starts the moment you hold that precious child in your arms; it’s pure, unconditional & lasts for eternity! Just when you think you can’t love them anymore they do or say something that swells your heart to the edge of bursting and then you know God has blessed you with a Love that only grows & sustains your soul for a lifetime!
  • Love is a wish for others to be happy – without judgement, expectation, or exception.
  • Love is having a sense of profound safety with another human being. Love is feeling “enough”, feeling accepted and respected by oneself and another person. Love is authentic kindness. Love is sharing a tender part of yourself with yourself or another person and trusting that it won’t be stomped on. Love is the capacity to hold space for yourself and others.
  • The will to extend One’s self to nurture the spiritual growth of another and one’s self – Scott Peck
  • Love is the way we feel when we are with the right people. Love is the peace we feel when we do what makes us happy. And love is knowing that we have people we can lean on.
  • Love is slowing down. Love is treating mother nature with kindness and respect, for we are not separate.

Doesn’t that feel amazing to read? (if you didn’t take it in, read through it again–maybe even aloud!) I love that there’s so much diversity here–and yet there seems to be a common thread. Here’s what I gather: Love is a state of deep affection, which can be towards another person, an animal, ourselves, the divine beloved–and that this state is our true nature. It is easiest to access this state when we feel safe, seen, affirmed, connected. And it is harder to access when we don’t feel the above–but it is accessible, always, because it is our true nature and the foundation of everything.  So here’s my challenge for you (and for myself) this month: Choose love.

We’ve all had those moments when we’re really angry with someone and convinced of how we’re seeing the situation and then all of a sudden, something shifts, and we can see the situation in a completely different way.  Like the clouds part and the sun comes out, and we’re like “Ohhhhh, I see now.”  Nothing has changed, except for the fact that we’ve dropped the illusion and are connecting again to this felt sense of love, our true nature.  Brene Brown has a great story about asking her husband if he thinks that people are doing the best they can.  And he says, “I don’t know if they are or not, but when I assume people are, it makes my life better.”  I love this story!  In it you can see then that choosing love is in some ways an inherently a selfish act because the first life you change is your own.  And ACIM would say something along the lines of, in changing your own life, you’re also changing the lives of others because we are not separate.  And in loving others, you’re loving yourself.

So how do we get back to this place of feeling deep affection when we get knocked out?  How do we choose love?  Here’s what I’m experimenting with this month: I’m noticing, tracking, taking in my experience of love when I notice it. So you might first have to think of a time where you really felt connected to love (again, doesn’t have to be about another person), imagine taking that experience in with all your senses, notice how you feel in your body. The more we can start to be aware of when we’re connected with love and when we’re not, the easier it becomes to make conscious choices.  So focus on looking for these love moments–in what you see around you, in images, in nature, in your own experiences.  I’m also paying attention to moments where I’m not in ‘love’ and am trying to get curious about my options. As I mentioned earlier, one of the teachings of ACIM is that love, the truth of our existence, is always available to us.  So I’ve been asking myself, ‘What would love do in this situation?’ ‘What would love say?’ ‘How would love perceive this situation?’ In other words, if I were in a state of deep affection how would I be perceiving this differently?  How would I perceive myself?  How would I perceive others?

Of course, all of this is easier said than done–otherwise, we’d all be in love states all the time. But remember, as difficult as it may be, love is available to us in every situation and every moment. When we can remember this, how could we not choose to look for it?  So often, though, we are caught up in the trance of trying to defend ourselves, prove ourselves right or worthy, feeling afraid that we truly are not good enough or okay. What would it look like to choose love in these situations?

Sometimes the most loving thing is letting go of the idea of needing to make the right decision. The most loving thing might be reminding ourselves that in fact, we cannot possibly choose otherwise and that it is all okay. Love might mean taking the pressure off and allowing ourselves to let go of being perfect. Choosing love might mean, choosing to believe that this person who has triggered you so much is doing the very best that he can. Sometimes it may be that we need space or time away or have to do something completely different to connect to this love space and then come back to the original situation. Choosing love might mean giving ourselves permission to watch Netflix or it might mean allowing ourselves to go to bed early so we can wake up and meditate.  Choosing love might mean changing our plans or saying no because all of a sudden we know we’d rather stay in.  Or it might mean going anyway and loving ourselves through it.

All of this is to say, love is not the choice itself.  Love is a state of being and it is always available to us, in each moment, in each second, no matter what is going on in an around us.  And the more we practice choosing love, the easier and more automatic it becomes.  One last reminder, choosing love is a practice, not a destination. So celebrate when you take in a moment or notice that felt shift from contraction to love. These are the  precious moments when we catch a glimpse of our true nature, our purpose, and our destiny.  Lastly, I want to send out a huge thank you to all of the folks who contributed to this exploration of love.

Challenge: Take time this month to look for and ‘take in’ love moments. In situations when you’re not in this love state, ask yourself, how would love respond? How can I choose love in this moment? And when this is difficult, choose love in that moment by choosing compassion and love towards yourself (vs. feeling frustrated or critical).

Affirmation: Today I choose love.