A journey toward a new understanding of love

By Sarah Van Aken, president of Joy Network

Early last year, my relationship came to an end. I was devastated. Crushed. I felt empty. I’m sure you can relate. Feeling “heartbroken” isn’t exactly joyful. As I began to deepen my personal and spiritual journey through the practice of mindfulness, I decided to change the way I look at love and how I associated pain with it. I quickly realized that it wasn’t the actual ending of this relationship that left me suffering — I knew that this was right for me — it was the realization that I had placed so many expectations on the outcome… on what I had hoped this relationship would bring me. This is when my understanding of love shifted. I now know what love is not. And it’s something that has totally transformed my relationships in my personal and professional life.

Love is NOT a lot of things…

Love is not an outcome like getting married or having children. Love shouldn’t be hard. Love is not suffering. It is not desire. Love isn’t something to be acquired. Once I was able to let these desires, negative emotions and expectations all go, I was able to SEE what love actually is.

Love is the ACT OF BEING

In finding my center, a sense of stillness enabled me to connect to this state of being within. What I mean by this is that through bringing the practices of mindfulness into my daily life, I was able to keep my mind from running constantly on thoughts of what had been or where I wanted to be. I became present. In that present moment, I was able to tap into the vital energy — in yoga it is called prana — that is the being or essence of life. We all share this; each of us has vitality. It is hard to build the practice of catching your mind when it is running but one quick tip is that I would set my alarm on my phone for every two hours throughout the day. When the alarm went off, I would spend five minutes, quiet with my eyes closed, taking notice of my inner state — my thoughts, feelings, how my body felt — and work to calm my mind. To find stillness.

Developing the ability to tap into my stillness has transformed how I show up in the world, especially in relationships. Now, in a new, healthy and happy relationship I find that having let go of desired outcomes I am able to be more present in each moment I spend with my boyfriend, experiencing the richness of connection. I have greater empathy because I am not holding him to arbitrary standards and expectations. Because I have become in touch with the state of being love, I don’t hold a “need” for our relationship; it doesn’t fill a void I can’t fill and instead I am grateful for each day. This ability to detach from the outcome offers more possibility for happiness and a sense of security knowing there is always love. I know that whatever the future holds, I am, and will always be able to experience, love.

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