Extending Love


Bambi Friend, by Paulo Brandão
Bambi Friend, by Paulo Brandão

We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present. ~Marianne Williamson

There are many parts of the psyche that don’t trust love, and perhaps even fear love. These parts have all sorts of reasons why we shouldn’t love another, ourselves, or even the world as it is. This fear of loving keeps us separate. To these parts, this separation is safety. To love, this separation is painful.

Separation is only an illusion, yet to the psyche it feels very real.

As I move deeper into awakening to the true nature of things, and to the divine essence that breathes and expresses through this female body, the realization that I keep myself separate is growing more keen. The ways in which I don’t extend love are becoming painfully clear to me.

Withholding love is painful. Feeling separate from others is painful. Feeling separate from the world is too painful to continue to once it has become a conscious strategy, rather than something I do out of habit.

I feel so much love in my heart for the world, yet somewhere inside there is still a part that fears extending this love. My favorite Mary Oliver quote, I mean my absolute most favorite quote of hers, is this:

I walk in the world to love it.

Yet still, there are places where my heart retracts.

In my last post, I Bow Down to Love, I wrote of the power of love:

“This quiet, yet insistent voice within doesn’t bargain with me. There is no bargaining with it. It only shares one step at a time. It asks us to trust in something greater than ourselves. It asks us to trust in love.”

We are being asked to trust in love, and I sense we are being asked to go into those places where we learned not to trust in love, for those are the places that hold us back, those places where we didn’t receive love. It’s not about rehashing these stories, for I know all too well that the story stays alive as long as we keep breathing life into it.

It’s about feeling. Feeling those old places in our bodies where we stuffed the pain of not receiving love, and perhaps even developed a strategy that feels vindictive, a strategy that says I won’t love because I wasn’t loved. Being with these painful places, as we would be with a small child that is in pain, a child that wants to be held and loved, so she can know that place within herself.

But it’s also about trusting in love, trusting enough in love itself to extend it. Not the juicy romantic kind of love, but the love that is the basis of all of existence, the love that is the basis of life. It is love that calls to us. It is love that is at the heart of the divine mystery in things. It is love that is at the heart of the divine mystery in you. It is not ours to hoard.

Love all of Creation:

When you love all of existence, you discover that mystery within you. I am learning this. Slowly.

I came across this piece from Dostoyevsky, and something became clear.

Love all of Creation

The whole of it and every grain of sand

Love every leaf

Every ray of God’s light

Love the animals

Love the plants

Love everything

If you love everything

You will perceive

The divine mystery in things

And once you have perceived it

You will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly

More and more everyday

And you will at last come to love the whole world

With an abiding universal love.

~Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I can see that love begins with something true. There are things we truly love. For me, these are my children and grandchildren, my partner Jeff, my family, my dear close friends, my clients, my work. I also love the wind in my face. I love redwood trees, roses, peonies, dogs, cats, make that any animal (except snakes and lizards, which I’m working on). I love painting and writing. I love exploring new places. These are things I feel great love for.

And after reading Dostoyevsky’s passage, I can see that the love within me, the love that I extend in places, but not in others, is not because of those people and things I love, it is the very source of life that moves through me. Sometimes it is easy to think we love someone a great deal because of who they are; rather, the capacity to love comes from within us, and can be extended to all of life. In doing so, we come to know the mystery in all things, that mystery that is no different in the other than it is in me.

A recipe for extending love:

Begin with something small. Begin in the places where we know what it is to love, to extend ourselves. Love the light. Love your child. Love your dog. Love the way the leaves turn riotous colors. Love the way your beloved’s face shines when you listen, truly and deeply. Love the way you feel when you give without needing to get. Love the way your soul moves when you hear that one song that gets you every time. Love the way you laugh. Let yourself love those things you already love, without question. Feel the naturalness of it, the immediacy of that love within you.

Just begin. Notice loving. How it just happens, naturally. In its own way, through you. And when you notice it,  allow it to spread to something else. Love the thing that lights you up. Then the next. As your love spreads, as you see how much love is inside you, and as you share it with those things that naturally light you up, you will begin to see it everywhere. Ceaselessly. It doesn’t matter where you begin. Just begin. You see, all of creation is the mystery. We can begin anywhere, and from that place it can spread to new places, if we’re willing to trust in love.

I’m going to follow this recipe over the next few months, consciously dining on the fruits of the extension of love to see what happens, for this extending love brings more love in return.

I invite you to join me, and to share with me here what you find.

image courtesy of Paulo Brandão on Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0

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15 Replies to “Extending Love”

  1. “Withholding love is painful.” mmm So true! Delighting in the truth of your words..
    The illusion is that we lose something by extending love but love is inexhaustible!! The more we give the more our well gets filled!! Let’s nurture the young parts of ourselves that crave this love. When we are so filled with love, we can’t help but extend it to the whole world.
    Thanks for the depth of your love Julie, I can feel it reaching far.

  2. love does beget love. just the other night, i had a magical string of moments with my daughter. it was, in no small part, due to the question i kept asking: “how can i love you better?” i only asked that of me, silently, but the way it opened first me, then both of us up to new conversational paths and a night for the memory books, well it’s a keyper question – and maybe one i’ll eventually ask her.

  3. This is the second blog post I found this morning, just so perfectly placed here for me in my reader, in sequence. I love it when this happens. Just time to read the words of others properly and let them touch my heart. To feel it growing and hopeful that it will soon be fully open and spilling out all of that love and wonder so that others can share it. That they can also see you for who you really are and you can see them.
    Thank you for the quote from Marianne Williamson and the poem and especially for the recipe. I am going to read this every day until the noticing becomes easier. xx

    1. Jan,
      It’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome. I’m glad this post spoke to you. I’m wondering how it’s going? It’s wonderful recipe to share with others, yes?

  4. Dear Julie
    Aaaaahhhhh, deep sigh, of relief and re-cognition.
    I love what you wrote here, it all resonates, the quotes, and your writing, all of it.
    “… and perhaps even developed a strategy that feels vindictive, a strategy that says I won’t love because I wasn’t loved” yes, I often feel that way, and it is more painful than anything!
    and I love your recipe:
    “Begin with something small. Begin in the places where we know what it is to love”…I love that, begin where you are and don’t expect to climb the Himalaya straight away!
    “for this extending love brings more love in return.” absolutely. Saw this on You Tube , the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, a woman of 107! A piano player, it’s a must see and she too says : Only Love begets Love!

    Lastly Julie, I saw a beautiful movie, which I reviewed on my site, called ” My Afternoon’s With Margueritte” a French film that is pure love. Also a must, and so so inspiring, I wept at the end of it.

    Much Love to you and thanks for this beautiful post.

    1. Yael,
      You are such a dear. I just watched the video of Alive, the 107 year old beautiful woman. She is amazing, and such an example of how to love life fully. I’m going to have to go see the film, now that you so highly recommend it.
      Sending love back to you, dear,

    1. Renae,
      I believe it would change us, that’s for sure. I imagine it would change others, as we interact with them, too. Let’s try!

  5. Thank you Julie. I love reading your writings and get inspired by them. Learning to love to LOVE is a most delicious and at times tearful path.

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