Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Learning To Love

One of the many spiritual “truths” folks like to throw around is: “You can’t love others any more than you love yourself.” While there is usually some truth in these kinds of statements I like to hold them up against real life experience and ask: Is that true? Is that always true?

I have seen myself and others extend love- compassion, understanding, non-judgemental assistance- to others, even when we are harsh and judgemental with ourselves. In fact, sometimes, we can learn how to love ourselves by considering or watching what we offer to others who are in need. If I am frightened or in pain I can sometimes move to a place of gentle mercy with myself by considering how I would respond to one of my sons if he were feeling as I am or facing the particular challenge I am at the moment. Feeling my love for another I can bring this tenderness to myself.

So, sometimes, we learn how to love ourselves by seeing how we love others. And this wisdom in turn is honed by our experience of what is needed and helpful when we are in pain, which allows us to love others more fully. It’s not as linear as the platitude above suggests. It’s not like we go off and learn how to love ourselves completely so we can come back and do it “perfectly” with others. It’s more of a spiralling process, circular and ever-deepening, this learning to love, this opening of our hearts. It’s not a project. It’s a process. It’s life.


  1. Great post. Love is just too great to generalise about. It's power is unpredictable. More love is always better though, hey!

    I love your writing. 'The Invitation' was on my wall for a long time, in a time when I needed it the most. Thank you.

  2. This is one of the truest things I have come to know and understand through the years. I too use to think that loving began with self. I was never encouraged to do so as I was growing up but I knew how to express it toward others. It just came flowing out of my heart without explanation or effort. It is so true that it is a process, perhaps it is the bases for everything meaningful in our lives.
    Thank you so much for this beautiful and lovingly expressed insight.

  3. I have been pondering this same topic, and I agree. The word and concept of "love" remind me of "God" because that word has so many variations and meanings to different people and cultures. Both seem to have a lot of baggage, yet provide genuine meaning and purpose. For me,compassion is born from our ability to bear witness. I think love asks us to be open; bearing witness and compassion ask us to be fully present with pain and suffering. The dance of awakening seems to be a process of spiraling internally and externally as we embrace our individuality and humanity. They are interconnected and feed each other.


  4. Oriah ~~ I just discovered your blog. I love the pictures you create and the emotions you express through your writing.

    I relate to your thoughts about love and find I open myself up just that bit more when expressing love for others, I'm still learning. ~ Chime

  5. Oriah, I'm so glad you shared this perspective. I'd like to add that it is my experience that I AM love, that this love is the foundational element of my embodiment and the true nature of spirit. Love is what is.

    That said, it seems our embodied experiences here are an exercise in remembering the love that we are. We practice this remembering by loving others and loving self. It does not really matter in what order that occurs. Both are equally important.

    However, in our current culture, it is often emphasized that loving others first is the right way. The counter-thought to that in "New Age" circles is that we need to love ourselves first before we can truly love others, and that this is the right way. Who's right? Well, perhaps both and more.

    Again, my understanding and experience is that we are ALL love, whether we recognize it or not, give it or not, receive it or not.

    Here is a song I wrote that speaks of this love:

  6. Jennifer, lovely song and beautiful images. Thank you! Oriah

  7. Hi Oriah,

    Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa.

    I always get such inspiration from your wise words, that i thought i'd invite you to read a short story about my 11 yr old daughter, who diagnosed with Spinal cancer earlier this year.

    You have inspired me so much, perhaps there is some inspiration for you too from Natalie's journey.

    We are currently still trying to raise funds for her treatment, so if you wish to share the link with your readers, that would be much appreciated.

    Wishing you love and many blessings,


  8. Thank you for this. I have wondered about that statement too but never made room for the possibility that I could love others well and still be learning about how to love myself. I needed this gentle way to see myself on my own journey with love.