February is a month that celebrates love in all its manifestations, including romance, intimacy, acceptance, passion, forgiveness, friendship, joy, ecstasy, and communion. This is also the second month of the new year, and as Valentine’s Day approaches, you may be reflecting on some of the intentions you have set to expand your experience of love, happiness, and connection in 2013.
In my work as a matchmaker and dating and relationship coach, I’ve noticed that this time of year tends to bring up many emotions, ranging from anticipation and excitement to anxiety and dread. For many single people, Valentine’s Day, and the accompanying media focus on romantic relationships, can magnify feelings of loneliness and lack. Those who are in a relationship may feel stress about planning a special evening out or finding the ideal gift. If you are experiencing emotional pain stemming from your thoughts about your relationships, it can be helpful to recall the timeless wisdom taught by of many of the world’s great spiritual traditions:
Your essential nature is pure love and pure happiness.
Although we are often deluded into searching outside of ourselves for these qualities, in reality, everything we are seeking is within. Conditioned beliefs may obscure our experience of our essential nature, yet we can rediscover our innate state of love and happiness by taking small and intentional steps.
In honor of one of my all-time favorite books (and required reading for my clients!), The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, I created a list of seven simple steps you can take to inspire more love in your life and in turn, more love in the world.
1. Practice Gratitude
Give thanks for all the things that are going right in your life. We often dwell on the things that are going wrong for us. We take too little time bringing into our awareness all that is awesome − like our health, the roof over our head, the warm and comfy bed we sleep in, our friends, family, and pets.
Make a list of everything you are grateful for. If you have a partner, share your list with him or her. Let your loved ones feel your positive energy. It is infectious and puts everyone in a good mood. Invite them to share with you what they are grateful for as well. The more you are grateful for your blessings, the more blessings you will receive in response to your vibration of gratitude. This is how the universe works. Being happy doesn’t always make us grateful, yet being grateful will always make us happy. Give thanks for the relationships that didn’t work out, embrace the lessons you learned, be thankful for the personal growth, and know in your heart that you are always being prepared for the most supportive, loving relationships to enter your life.
The greatest gift you can give to people you love is to sincerely express your appreciation for the things that they have given you, including the most valuable gifts of attention, appreciation, acceptance, and affection. This week choose one person you feel grateful for and write him or her a letter expressing your gratitude. Be specific – the more detail the better. What do you truly love and appreciate about this individual? The recipient of your letter will cherish your words forever and think about it often.
2. Embrace Forgiveness and Appreciate Your Past
Mother Teresa once said, “If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.” If someone has hurt you, betrayed you, or broken your heart, find a way to begin the forgiveness process, for this person has helped you learn about trust and the importance of being more discerning about the people you open your heart to. The physical benefits of forgiveness are undeniable. As researchers have found, while holding onto resentment contributes to increased heart disease and weakened immunity, letting go of old grudges reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. People who forgive tend to have better relationships, feel happier and more optimistic, and enjoy greater psychological wellbeing.
It is easy to be negative about past mistakes, unhappiness, and those we feel have wronged us. However, it is much more healing to look at ourselves and our past in the light of experience, acceptance, and growth. Some of us have emerged from the most painful circumstances with strong insights about who we are and what we want. If we look deeply, we will see that our mistakes have been absolutely necessary. Our frustrations, failures, and stumbling attempts to grow have been necessary, too. Each step of the way, we learned. We went through exactly the experiences we needed to become who we are today. Our past is not a mistake. The only mistake we can make is not learning from our mistakes. You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one. If what you are doing or the way you are being right now no longer serves you, you can wipe the slate clean and start again. It’s never too late.
As a big fan of the healing power of mantras, I often recommend using the simple mantra I thank you. I bless you. I release you. You can repeat this mantra silently to yourself, bringing into your mind an image of the person you are seeking to forgive. If you’re having difficulty forgiving someone, I recommend reading this recent Chopra Center blog post called Healing the Heart: The Gifts of Forgiveness, which offers further encouragement and practical guidance on the forgiveness process.
3. Focus on Doing Things That Make You Feel Good
What activities fill you with happiness and pleasure? Do you like to walk your dog, go to the gym, watch football, practice yoga, or go for a hike and be in awe of Mother Nature? Keep it simple: do what you love! If you meet a new friend or romantic partner when you’re enjoying your favorite things, it’s an added benefit.
Make a list of things you love to do and activities you’ve done in the past that made you happy. This week, choose one activity from your list and schedule time to do it. Even better, do one of these activities every day. If you are in a relationship, you can also make a list of the activities that you and your partner enjoy doing together and choose one to do this week.
4. Spend Time with People who Inspire and Support You
We are all influenced by the people we spend the most time with, including our family, friends, and co-workers. If they tend to be optimistic, loving, and supportive, we will benefit from their energy. On the other hand, if we spend a lot of time with people who are negative, critical, or draining, it will be much more difficult to remain balanced and happy. In the recent Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge: Creating Abundance, my favorite meditation was from Day 5, which highlighted the importance of making conscious choices to nourish our subconscious mind. These words from the introduction to the meditation ring so true:
“You are known by the company you keep. We inherit the beliefs of those we spend the most time with. These philosophies become part of our subconscious mind. Research shows we function largely with subconscious minds that have been programed by others, yet we have the amazing ability to change past conditioning, by releasing negativity, interacting with like-minded conscious people, enjoying inspirational sights and sounds, and engaging in uplifting activities. . . . What we place our attention on expands in our lives. Harnessing this power of attention and intention, you can change your life to reflect exactly what you envision.”
I encourage you to surround yourself with those who believe in your potential. Ask yourself: Will spending time with this person drag me down or lift me up? Will he or she make me want to be a better person? A happier person? A more successful person? Will he or she make me achieve my most important goals? Anyone who inspires you to make your half-hearted attempts more whole-hearted through passion and love is an adored friend and teacher to be cherished.
This week, make an inventory of the people you surround yourself with and the experiences you are engaging in. Which relationships and activities are nourishing you and which are draining you? Are there any changes you need to make? Are there any conversations you need to have? Choose one small step that will help you fill your life with more loving relationships and experiences and schedule a time to do it within the next two days.
5. Commit to Positive Changes
Everyone has some part of their life they want to improve . . . the “gaps” that exist between who they are and what they want to be. Some of us focus on it regularly, yet for others, it may not be a priority. When you commit to positive change, big or small, your self-love and acceptance will grow, which in turn provides you with more love to give the world. It is never too late for you to make positive changes and to live the life you envision for yourself.
Do one thing right now that you’ve been procrastinating or resisting doing. If you’re single and want to meet new people and potential partners, consider joining an online dating website. Or as a smaller step, start collecting some fabulous photos of yourself so that when you are ready, you will have some amazing pictures to choose from. For those who want to make new friends who share an interest in a particular activity, meetup.com is a wonderful resource for finding a group or even starting one of your own.
If you want to nurture your relationship with a spouse or partner, consider how you can be more loving and giving. What lights your partner up? If you don’t know for sure, ask. It’s an easy question: “What makes you happy?” And in turn, share what brings you happiness. Take the pressure off your partner by sharing what you like and making it easy for him or her to love you. Also find out what your partner finds romantic or intimate – and share what you like, too. If one person goes to great efforts to prepare something that the other doesn’t even enjoy, the end result can often be disappointment. So talk about it ahead of time. Offer ideas and be open to receiving them. Get excited! It will get you both in the mood for romance and will set the stage for success if you are both on the same page. Remember that we don’t find a relationship that is extraordinary; we create it. Our power lies in our small daily choices, one after another.
6. Create Momentum
We can expand love in our life through the power of momentum, taking small steps that build our energy and enthusiasm. Once we set it in motion, momentum can be an amazing and abundant force for change in our life. How do we get the momentum we need for change that lasts, that inspires and that infuses every day with purpose? We begin today.
Things don’t just happen all at once, they happen gradually. And they progress at an increasing rate as we continue to take steps in the direction of our goals and dreams. We build momentum, and that momentum ultimately takes on a life of its own. It is easier to move if you are already in motion than if you are standing still. Even if you discover that you’re going in the wrong direction, it’s easier to shift course and redirect your flow of energy than to start from scratch. Also remember that it doesn’t matter where you start; all that matters is that you start.
What can you do to get some momentum started today? Music is one of the easiest ways to shift your energy quickly, so put on your favorite music and move. Get physically active. Start by setting small, achievable goals. Commit to doing something every day for ten minutes that gets your energy flowing and inspires you. Everyone on this planet can find ten extra minutes, so no excuses! Spend your energy cultivating your own happiness and love. Your inner light will inspire others.
7. Help Others
In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, the Law of Giving and Receiving teaches us that our body, mind, and the universe are in constant, dynamic exchange, simultaneously giving and receiving in every moment. At the deepest level, giving and receiving are the same thing – different expressions of the same flow of energy in the universe. As Deepak Chopra writes, “The more you give, the more you will receive, because you will keep the abundance of the universe circulating in your life. In fact, anything that is of value in life only multiplies when it is given. So if you want joy, give joy to others. If love is what you seek, offer love.”
Helping others and applying the Law of Giving and Receiving is an uplifting, joyful experience. There are countless ways to be a friend, and make a difference. As Deepak suggests, you can give a small gift to everyone you encounter, whether a smile, a heartfelt compliment, a flower, or a silent blessing. When you do something to make someone happy, you immediately feel more happiness yourself.
Today set your intention to give generously and receive with gratitude. Do something that encourages someone else to smile and have a brighter day. The happiness of life is made up of little things – a smile, a helping hand, a caring heart, a word of praise, a moment of shared laughter. Take time to care and truly listen with your heart. Last month while I was in line at the Starbucks drive-through, the person in the car in front of me paid for my order, which absolutely made my day. It also inspired me to pay for the person behind me. I thought about that good deed from a stranger for weeks. I shared the story with others, and that simple gesture made other people smile and contemplate what they could do to bring joy to someone else. Giving doesn’t have to be difficult or cost any money. Try this simple tip: when you notice something positive about other people, tell them! Notice their reaction to your compliment. When they feel happy, that will in turn make you happy. This is a great habit to develop. The opportunities to give are infinite, and your touch, your thoughtfulness, and your love really can work wonders in the lives of others.
Opening to love is an unfolding journey. At times we will feel completely present to the love that is our own nature. We will feel embraced by loving kindness and have the sense that everything is right in the universe. At other times love can feel a million miles away as we experience feelings of loneliness, fear, or separation. In these difficult moments, be gentle with yourself and be skeptical if your inner dialogue is telling you that you are unlovable and undeserving of love and happiness. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you make and know that you are always infinitely loved and infinitely lovable.
Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Love can heal. Love can create abundance. Love is the path to living an inspired life. Love shows up in what we do for others. Love forgives faults and imperfections. Love says “You can do it. Let me tell you how amazing you are.” Love allows for differences of opinions. Love sees what’s great and recognizes what we have in common. Love listens. Love inspires. Love is who we really are.