Real Love

We really have to understand the person we want to love. If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love. If we only think of ourselves, if we know only our own needs and ignore the needs of the other person, we cannot love. We must look deeply in order to see and understand the needs, aspirations, and suffering of the person we love. This is the ground of real love. You cannot resist loving another person when you really understand him or her.

From time to time, sit close to the one you love, hold his or her hand, and ask, 'Darling, do I understand you enough? Or am I making you suffer? Please tell me so that I can learn to love you properly. I don't want to make you suffer, and if I do so because of my ignorance, please tell me so that I can love you better, so that you can be happy." If you say this in a voice that communicates your real openness to understand, the other person may cry.

That is a good sign, because it means the door of understanding is opening and everything will be possible again. 

Maybe a father does not have time or is not brave enough to ask his son such a question. Then the love between them will not be as full as it could be. We need courage to ask these questions, but if we don't ask, the more we love, the more we may destroy the people we are trying to love. True love needs understanding. With understanding, the one we love will certainly flower.

from 'Peace is Every Step' - Thich Nhat Hanh (page 80, 81)

3. Recognizing the Presence of the Other

I would now like to present a second mantra to you. When you are really there, you have the ability to recognize the presence of the other. To be there is the first step, and recognizing the presence of the other is the second step. To love is to recognize; to be loved is to be recognized by the other. If you love someone and you continue to ignore his or her presence, this is not true love. Perhaps your intention is not to ignore this person, but the way you act, look, and speak does not manifest the desire to recognize the presence of the other. When we are loved, we wish the other to recognize our presence, and this is a very important practice. You must do whatever is necessary to be able to do this: recognize the presence of the person  you love several times each day.

To attain this goal, it is also necessary to practice oneness of body and mind. Practice an inbreath and an outbreath three times, five times, seven times; then you approach this person, you look at him or her mindfully, with a smile, and you begin to say the second mantra: "Dear one, I know that you are here, and it makes me very happy." If you practice in this way, with a lot of concentration and mindfulness, you will see that this person will open immediately, like a flower blossoming. To be loved is to be recognized, and you can do that several times a day. It is not difficult at all, and it is a true meditation.

Whatever you do mindfully is meditation. When you touch a flower, you can touch it with your fingers, but better yet, you can touch it mindfully, with your fill awareness. "Breathing in - I know that the flower is there; breathing out - I smile at the flower." While you are practicing in this way, you are really there and at the same time, the flower is really there. If you are not really there, nothing is there. The sunset is something marvelous and so is the full moon, but since you are not really there, the sunset is not for you. From time to time, I let myself look at the full moon; I take a deep breath in and a deep breath out, and I practice: " I know you are there, and I am very glad about it." I practice that with the full moon, with the cherry blossoms...We are surrounded by miracles, but we have to recognize them; otherwise there is no life.

The Buddha told us this: "The past is no longer there, the future is not here yet; there is only one moment in which life is available and that is the present moment." To meditate is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.

Albert Camus wrote a novel, 'The Stranger', in which his character, Meursault, is condemned to death. Three days before his execution, he is able for the first time in his life to touch the blue sky. He is in his cell, he is looking at the ceiling. He discovers a square of blue sky appearing through the skylight. Strangely enough, a man forty years of age is able to see the blue sky for the first time. Of course, he had looked at the stars and the blue sky more than once before, but this time it was for real. We might not know how to touch the blue sky in such a profound way. The moment of awareness Camus describes is mindfulness: Suddenly you are able to touch life.

(to be continued)