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Learning to Receive Love

There might not be a more powerful way to transform your life right now than by learning to receive love. Especially in these days of quarantine, when we are confined not only with our intimate others, but even more so with ourselves.

All of our tricks of distraction and avoidance are no longer available in this present. The secret we have guarded so well, that has been buried so long, is now butting its head through the cracks that this new COVID-19 reality has generated. Deep down we all have to admit to what may be the most painful universal wound of all: the belief that underneath it all we don’t deserve the love we say we want.

No worries – it's not just you. For the vast majority of humans, our capacity to give love far exceeds our ability to take it in. Think of how many times and in how many ways we refuse love by degrading the form it is delivered in. We mistakenly believe that we can choose how, when, and where we want love delivered. And we turn away, refusing the love we so long for when it doesn’t look the way we want.

We want to hold onto our idea of the “perfect love” more than we are willing to let go and accept the love that is right in front of us.

Here are some of the ways we do this: 

  • We hang onto our ideal while we hurt the people who are actively trying to love us in all the humanly flawed ways that we are able to love.
  • We hold tight to the blame for what our lovers are not, instead of embracing all they are.
  • We spend years justifying how the love coming towards us is unworthy.
  • We wrap it in narratives of anger, fear and guilt that become our truth, so that we can’t remember the glimmers of the love that it began with.

Learning how to let go of our ideas and let in the love that is constantly around us – coming towards us, yielding to our asking hearts – could be the greatest gift that comes of this strange time.

Lao Tzu once wrote “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Receiving is the foundational capacity of love that can only really be felt when we surrender to it.

One way to feel it is to conjure up the visceral feeling of being held up, buoyed by an ocean wave, or sinking back into the steamy heat of a deep tub. That sensation of being surrounded and held in water is a good metaphor for what it feels like to surrender to the love surrounding us.

We become our better selves as we practice this letting go in all of the small daily acts of forgiveness that relationships demand. The more that we let go, the more trustworthy love becomes. Letting people be who they are brings them closer because it offers them the freedom to follow their own heart without fear of abandoning someone else or being abandoned.

Becoming dedicated to increasing our capacity for letting go everywhere not only leaves space for the deep intimacy we all crave, but also offers a gentle space to befriend ourselves. Release teaches us that there is a more powerful force than our constant trying. Effort and aspiration can only be balanced with the courage and insight to let go.

Aspiring towards letting go is one of the foundational aspects of most every spiritual discipline. The practice of faith is fundamentally a practice of letting go and trusting that love will hold us, especially at our times of greatest uncertainty and doubt. Prayer is the practice of focusing our attention and expanding our willingness to surrender. Through spiritual practice we learn to lean into reality as it is, and truly experience the moment we are in.

How to Practice This Today

One of my favorite meditations to teach this process is imagining your body as a worthy container of love.

  1. To start, close your eyes and imagine a slow drip of warm honey coming in through the top of the head.
  2. Slowly, sense with your mind’s eye all the dark spaces that could be filled with the radiant loving warmth of this honey flow.
  3. Breath in and lovingly fill in all that cracks, the old wounds that keep you from holding onto the essence of our own loveablity.

This is one visceral practice that can help you to discover how innately capable we are of receiving and transmuting the love that comes towards us.