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What do you take for granted that you’d miss if you lost it?

What do you take for granted which you’d miss if it or they weren’t there? We live large chunks of our lives in a “knee-jerk” way. We get on with it, carry out our daily chores, converse with others, get from A to B, earn our daily bread, complete tasks, make connections, and more. All this makes up the necessities and desirables of life. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of all that are you consciously paying attention to? And what gets left out, that you value if you thought about it, and that you’re not noticing? What would you miss if it wasn’t there?

NLP teaches that the mind can only pay attention to 7 to 8 bits of information out of the millions of bits of data that comes to us. A lot is outside of our awareness, in the background, submerged by all that stuff going on that I’ve just referred to. More importantly though can be those things or people that we deem important but don’t habitually pay attention to.

It’s worth reflecting on those things that you take for granted, but you’d really notice if they were taken away, or you couldn’t access. This could be because it or they go, or you lose the capacity to access them yourself. It goes both ways. They go – or you do. At some level.

Examples are many: the view outside your bedroom window, being able to go up and downstairs quickly and easily, seeing a friendly for regular get-togethers, hearing beautiful music, reading a favourite book, a call from a son or daughter, your parent calling you to ask you how you are, dropping in to your favourite café, your annual or bi-annual holiday. People often say that it’s the really simple things that matter, rather than anything complex or big-sounding, a smile on someone’s face, the sound of a child’s laughter, how they sat in a chair, seeing the arrival of the spring blossom on the trees, the sound of the wind, a walk along a favourite path.

When people go

At a very deeply personal level, I’ve heard many people speak of those who have died whom they never completed with, never talked through an ongoing or old issue and resolved it, never addressed a family problem, never said how important they were to them or, perfectly simply, told them how much they loved them.

And how could it have been different if you’d have given it or them the attention they deserved? Really noticed it, taken it in, taken the satisfaction of the experience – like it was even your last.

Try this one. Each morning, if you’re going out, say goodbye to your loved one, or if you are on your own, to a pet or simply to your room or home. Or when you go to bed. When you come back, really greet them, like you’re really glad to see them. Honour their part in your life. Express gratitude for that part.

And as you do that, connect with your heart centre, feel the connection there, and feel the love.

Love knows no limit. But we shut it out through our constant busyness.

And then we only notice it when it’s gone, and we’re left with regrets.

What does it cost to be present with it instead?

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Hope springs eternal even in the darkest of days

Winter can drag on, cold days, wet or frozen, windy, long nights, seemingly endless. It’s the time of year that people can feel really depressed, devoid of optimism and hope. We can get caught up in a cycle of depressed, moody days, and it can be hard to shift the mood. What’s the point of even trying since nothing changes. It just goes on and on. Some of us even wonder if we can go on and on.

Here it’s been very wet for days, windy but mild, the days dark, the valley shrouded in mist, people looking sad. The weather gets locked into its pattern. “When will this end?” one wonders. It can be very hard to have hope when things keep going on the same way and nothing seems to change.

We can lose sight of how things change. Nothing stays the same, although it doesn’t seem like it. Everything is in motion. The seasons change, slowly but inexorably. Winter is replaced by spring. Even as I write, the snowdrops are coming up. I brought them from England and put them in a little damp spot under a stone wall and they’ve survived the hot, dry summers and are peeping out of the ground, white tips appearing in the grey, auguries of approaching spring. The camellia,

Camellia perfection
Camellia perfection

battered by winds, is nevertheless likewise a mass of buds opening into pink heaven. Primroses on the lawn are showing buds, readying to flower soon, a carpet under the also-budding cherry tree. The seasonal cycle of nature calls us to remember, that warmer, sunnier weather is coming. Change brings new hope, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

The human spirit has hope. Without it, we wouldn’t do things in adversity. Life has faith, hope and trust built into it. We just need to attend to it.

I always think of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “…these three things remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians, 13:13).

It’s a powerful process, to re-member. We have this awareness within us, but it needs will and determination to shift our awareness within to the candle of love that burns constantly inside each of us. It might be a small, faint flicker, but it is there nonetheless.

Just before the dawn is the greatest darkness. It can even be our “dark night of the soul” as St John of the Cross recognised. The darkness can be black, gloomy and despairing, and it can contain the inner secrets of our salvation. We need to regularly revisit that space, not allowing the darkness to overwhelm us. For this, we need to exercise our will. “This too shall pass”, and the dawn will break once again. Nothing stays the same.

Always have hope, and know that this love is always within.


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Is the love-hate relationship between peoples out of control today?

Am I imagining it or is the love-hate balance tipping too far towards hate? Are you feeling uncomfortable about the seeming rise in antagonism towards minorities? Where’s the love and peace? We seem to be in the middle of one of those phases in public life where there’s a desire to blame the ills of life on scapegoats, be they Muslims, benefit claimants, Roma gypsies, immigrants, another religion, another nationality or whoever. Equally we have extremists who have fundamentalist outlooks and see themselves engaged in some climatic struggle against the forces of evil. So, how do we respond from a mindful perspective?

Just recently Muslim fundamentalists in Paris killed a number of journalists for publishing cartoons of the Prophet and attacked a Kosher supermarket. Around the world there’s been protests: “Je suis Charlie”, banners proclaimed, as many asserted the right to free speech. Others insisted on the right to offend, while many Muslims protested against the insults to their religion. All this of course is great recruiting material for extremism, Muslim, Neo-fascist or whatever. You might get the passions aroused, the mutual indignation, and sense of righteousness.

So what might God think of this? Righteous too on one side or the other, or bemused? I remember some words of a teacher of mine, “the benign indifference of the universe”. Taking “sides” doesn’t really fit from this perspective. S/he might simply be reflecting on how humans experience themselves and s/he too through them.

It’s not so easy to see our own shadow at work, that we too can be like this at times. How often have you flipped from respect to antagonism towards another? It’s hard to acknowledge that we humans have this inside us, that we have both the polarities of love and hate at the ego level. Yet this kind of awareness and humility can be helpful, since change starts with ourselves and releasing hate within us. Then we can more truthfully love. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, and he campaigned through non-violence.

There’s also a clue here, about our state of being. If you breathe, step back and witness all this, what are you aware of? I don’t know, but there might be you being aware of having just taken a breath and paused, and then a remembrance of all those thoughts about humans in the world of duality, of being polarised, and love and hate, and all that stuff. And here’s you, being more present and aware.

So, that stuff is not all of you. There’s also you, being present. So you can change your state of being, just like that.

So, there’s all that love-hate stuff “out there”, and “in here”, now here, not nowhere, there’s another sense of who you are.

You could explore “now here”, mindfully, and not be caught up in “out there”. The world of duality, the world of illusion, is how we experience life at the level of ego. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The more we live “now here” the more connected to love we are likely to feel. Then we can manifest “as That” when we make contact with those “out there” who might still be caught up in ego. We can feel God within, whatever our belief system and however we understand it, and we can also see God in each other too.

Then we can be at peace, which by the way is one meaning of the word “Islam”.

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Do you feel dumped upon emotionally by other people?

Do you often find that you’re dumped upon by someone? Like it’s their stuff but somehow you’ve got the problem, particularly if they have the knack of making it look like it’s your problem, or you have a way of taking it on board and thinking it is your problem. It’s easy to feel the victim in such circumstances but not so easy to hand the problem back to the other person, especially if you are not so assertive. Then if we try to hand it back, it comes back at us big time!

It helps if we can pause and see what’s really happening.

Feeling at fault

You might for example be one who easily feels “at fault” in situations and blames yourself. You might too readily take the blame. You might not feel so good in yourself and so when another directs anger or upset at you and implies that you are the “cause”, you might quickly act as if it is really you and your problem that has made this happen. You might too readily say “sorry” and apologise, to reinforce the other person’s sense of righteousness. They may act as the innocent party.

You might want to please the other person so as to preserve a good atmosphere and avoid conflict and angry exchanges. You might be afraid of their anger and thus give way too easily or endure their anger and moods to get a quiet life.

It’s not so easy in all this to take a step back and see what’s really going on. Yet this is what we need to do, be the witness.

So, let’s pause.

Pause…breathe in deep…breathe out long…and do that again…and let go…and allow the truth to be present.


Problems in relationship, whether at work or at home, are co-created. We together make it happen, although it feels like it is the other person or us ourselves. Angry, aggressive, critical, irritable people tend to get together with people in the opposite polarity, more non-assertive, more passive, quieter, more peaceable-seeming. Some grab the power, others give it away, and one gets together with the other. Yet, we’re both doing it.

To break the cycle, one of us needs to step outside of the racket, see it, stop it, and let go of it.


We also need to see that each is a projection of the other, our shadow. Yes, we may take on board others’ stuff too easily, but we don’t find it so easy to see that we can be like that too, but tend to disown it and project it on to others. The key is to take back our power, be more assertive, but also acknowledge that the stuff we experience from others is also our own. “There I go too”.

This point may seem abstruse to the point of obscurity, but is very often the case. What we experience in others belongs to us too. There is usually a grain of truth. It can take a lot to see it, and it may not be the same as what we find in others but it can contain an element that is important to us. When we find it and express it more authentically it can be a great breakthrough, a blessing even. It may not be nasty and it can be simply be a power that others appreciate and find good.

We also need to recognise that we are taking on board other people’s stuff too, and of course hand it back. The art is to get off the “blame game” racket.

When we find truth in a situation, there is calm and peace. All is OK, because we feel OK. We have re-claimed ourselves, and know who we are. Then we can more easily love one another.

I give coaching in handling relationships, both at work and personally. To contact me, click here.

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Do you let loneliness get to you or choose to change?

After all the activity of Christmas comes the loneliness of January, in the depths of winter, with cold, grey, sunless days and long nights. What was all that festivity about if life is really like this? There are those who feel lonely in relationship and want a change, but there are very many today who aren’t in one and feel the lack of company very much at this time of year.

Statistics abound about the rise in the number of people in the UK living alone, around 16% in recent surveys, and in the US it is over 50%. Of course it will depend on what kind of singledom we are talking about, single parents, elderly retirees, professionals being consciously single, unmarried couples, young people, divorcees, etc. Yet, with this rise also comes increasing evidence of how loneliness is impacting people’s health and wellbeing. Such people are more likely to suffer from depression and other “mental health” problems, as well as poorer physical health and lower life expectation. As one writer states, it is the new, silent killer.

Curiously, we are social beings, having evolved over millenia in groups, the family, tribes, villages, friendships, etc. You can see how it works by observing human behaviour. When one person laughs in the room, others automatically smile. Equally one person’s upset triggers responses in others around them. We feel for others. People seek out partners in order to build the nest and have children. It is a biological driver. It is described by psychologists as a human need, to bond, connect and love. Much of a human’s difficulties in life can be put down to disconnects and breakdowns in those primal relationships early in life.

No wonder therefore that we feel the absence of such connection. We can avert our attention through distractions that abound in our current materialistically-driven society and yet it creeps up on us at some point, such as after Christmas. Some live with it, some make a virtue of it, some have given in to the reality of it reluctantly, and for some it is an ongoing pain.

Yet we can turn pain into a driver to action. This is why we have emotions after all, to draw our attention to what is perhaps out of balance. We don’t have to remain in resigned helplessness in relationship to how things seem. We can feel like we’re the only one having this experience, when in fact there’s countless numbers in the same situation. We have to find a way through what can seem like an impasse and shift our state and our attitude to one where we are motivating ourselves to reach out and make connections with others in some way. It is our own impulse to change that is the key driver for things to happen, rather than allowing ourselves to be the victim in relation to life.

It can be very hard when lonely to see where we are at. The great advantage of mindfulness is the ability to take a metacognitive approach, like the helicopter view, and observe what is happening to us and how we are thinking. We don’t always see how we are boxing ourselves in and not seeing where we have options and choices. Like the choice to connect. It is us who have to reach out, or to allow others in. It is us ourselves who change, in our minds. We can live in isolation, at the lonely end of the polarity, and then we can also live in connectedness, as One. It’s our choice.

I give life coaching to help people develop or change their relationships in some way, and create new direction. To read more, click here, and to contact me, click here.

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Do you feel depressed after Christmas?

Many of us feel depressed after Christmas. When the festivities are passed, we’ve welcomed in the New Year, or watched others do so, and the tinsel is put away, we’re left with ourselves and what is unfulfilled or not working in our lives.  It’s the post-Christmas let-down for some, while others may not really enter into the spirit of the occasion in the first place.

It can be a hard time. It’s like a massive bump back to earth, back to seeming reality. We get caught up in the pre-Christmas rush to buy presents, get in the food (“Get ready for Christmas”, people say), attend parties, maybe some of us sing carols, and generally get affected by this enormous rise in expectation. Then afterwards, when people have gone, or they seem to have had a good time and you haven’t, or you’ve spent time on your own, you’re left with your life and how it is. It’s like there can be a massive mismatch between hope and expectation on one side, and the seeming emptiness or futility or pointlessness or unfulfillment on the other side, and we flip from the first back to the second.

Traditionally Christians celebrate a new birth, the arrival of the Messiah, new hope and possibility. This lingers on in the Western psyche. then on the other side you’ve still got that life that in one area or another isn’t working as you’d want. It might be that we need to bring over the sense of spiritual wholeness from one side to infuse the other, but don’t know how we can bring hope and possibility and positivity into our lives to make it work for us, to find our own “heaven”. You don’t have to be a Christian to experience this dilemma. You just have it in the face with our culture and with the challenges you might face in life. It’s at this time that you get it in sharp relief.

I remember as a teenager crying buckets at this time, just after Christmas and having just finished a novel that had a sad ending, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. In the novel both the hero’s girlfriend and her baby die in childbirth. “Was there nobody there for me?” was my question. It was very existential: life seemed meaningless and all I wanted to have love in my life. There seemed to be this gap between me and love. Love was “out there” and I wasn’t getting it.

There’s this gap between how the world seems “out there” and how we are feeling inside. People have just been having a great time (or so it seems – many aren’t really) and the ego has just been having a wonderful time indulging itself in desire, in wanting. So we’ve been feeding our ego tendency till we’re totally absorbed in it, either in enjoying it or being aware of the want of it, of its lack. So we experience a very sharp polarity.

There’s a clue in the word “love” and our desire for more of it. The challenge is to bring our awareness inside, so that we can go within and feel the love that is there. It’s not gone away, but we may need to find it and connect with it. And find new purpose, direction and meaning.

I give coaching to people who are depressed at this time and are looking to bring joy, contentment and fulfillment back into their lives, whether it be in their work, their career, their relationships or their life in general. Read more here and you can contact me here.

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Do you blame yourself too much?

Do you find that when things don’t go well you blame yourself? It’s like we can have an omni-present scanner that detects incoming signals and filters them for where we can make ourselves wrong. Someone makes a negative comment and we think it is us that has the problem, even if it really belongs to another. We have difficulty with a project at work and blame ourselves for our mistakes when it could be that we haven’t had things fully explained or we haven’t been trained properly. It might be that really it is as a result of a multiplicity of things that we ended up struggling. Yet somehow we don’t see it like that and make ourselves to be “at fault”. So, why do we do this, and what can be done about it?

We have a kind of inner program which is like a knee-jerk response, unconscious, automatic. It’s very important to get highly attuned to our tendency to do this. Maybe we were scalded a lot as small children and were told that something was our “fault” or due to our misbehaviour, and so we made an association between things not being OK and what we’ve done or us ourselves. Maybe the result of what occurred when we were small was that we felt ashamed or guilty for what we did, or were punished in some way that made a strong impact on us, so that we had a strong feeling about it, such as upset, anger, guilt or shame. This might have locked itself into our bodies and at a subtle level such that when something go wrong, we immediately get the feeling that we had unconsciously locked into when small.

Sometimes it is more subtle such as the disconnect that occurred for us between us ourselves and significant others, like parents or siblings. We might have felt unloved by a parent and blamed ourselves: “Mummy doesn’t love me because I’m bad”. Or our parents were in conflict a lot and we made ourselves the cause of the problem. These things can run deep. Also we personalised the so-called failing, like thinking that we are wrong as a person, such as in the thought “I’m bad”. We even describe ourselves as such in today’s situations: “I’m no good at…” whatever it is we struggle with, in effect saying to ourselves “I’m no good!”

Others might pick it up of course today. The kinder ones feed it back to us: “You’ve just put yourself down”. Others less so disposed might take advantage of it, and sense that since you think you are the one “at fault” they can go ahead, press home the advantage and get more of their way in situations.

What is very important is to develop your self-awareness, to become very aware of your tendency to find fault with yourself, to “put yourself down”, etc.. Then it is important to challenge it. Is this really true? Is there another interpretation of the situation, since there are often many other perceptions of what has occurred? Are you playing your old record here, your knee-jerk response? Finally, work to change the program. This is the vital bit, to develop new ways of viewing ourselves such that we learn to value ourselves. Rather than seeing ourselves as bad or at fault or whatever other way we think of ourselves, instead have positive, affirmative beliefs about ourselves, such as “I’m good…I’m a good person…I love, value and respect myself…I’m worth it” (Thanks, Oreal) and so on. Learn to let go of negative beliefs. And keep on at this such that it doesn’t continue to mess up our lives.

Learn to love yourself instead.

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What keeps you going despite the odds

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away“.* What keeps you going? You might have all sorts of clever stuff, and make all sorts of efforts to look convincing to others, but what really lights you up and is your source of passion? What is your “rock of ages” that truly keeps you going and believing in yourself and putting your self out there or simply carrying on in your everyday world when the chips are down and nothing seems to be working out?

Those words from a poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer went all over the internet a few years ago, and made a powerful and striking call for authenticity of being. We can put on a pretty show of being various things but what is the truth underlying that? When you are faced with adversity, that’s one time when you can really know it – or notice it’s missing.

It’s that resource within us that gently or urgently nudges or pushes us into our next step even when we are feeling down and feeling depressed and discouraged, dis-couraged. Some of us might have been down for a day or for an hour or two and we just get going again. For others the knocks go deeper and last longer and we can find it harder to pick ourselves up. So for some of us, our resources of resilience need to go a lot deeper.

I suspect many would say they don’t really know what it is that sustains them. Many would affirm some religious faith or a spiritual source. Others it’s pure survival. Some might say it’s their sense of purpose, like they have a goal. Some it might be their will and determination, despite the odds. No wonder so many of us watch films and read books about survival and how people turn their fortunes around. There’s been a fabulous program on TV about penguins and their breeding instinct and utter determination despite seemingly impossible odds: I thought they were excellent mirrors of humans! (Scroll down for the video). Many a parent will no doubt attest to their instinct for their protection and nourishment of their family. If you’re wondering about what sustains you, you might get something from watching this program if you can. I was tempted to wonder if love was truly something that stretches beyond simply humans and their nearest animal relatives.

However, there is something that will sustain us, but we each need to find it for ourselves. To write it in a blog won’t do justice to this enormously important question. However, there is something beyond pure instinct and for me it connects with trust and faith, which we learn from facing these experiences, really facing them, and seeing through the terrible illusion.

I have a program coming up that helps each participant explore their own source, beyond illusion. Click here.

I am also giving talks on the subject.

*From “The Invitation“, Oriah Mountain Dreamer (Toronto, 1995)

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Feel the connection in relationship where we are as One

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there,” (Rumi). I always find this a deeply moving quote, because it holds out the possibility for a greater, deeper connection between humans, beyond our personal stuff, where we can truly meet each other and feel the connection between us as One.

Today I was forwarded this inspiring TED talk video about the Power of Connection.

[youtuber youtube=’’]

The speaker, Hedy Schleifer, says that, in line with the thinking of the philosopher Martin Buber, there is between two people a “relational space” and that space is “sacred space”. Of course many people don’t see it as such, and probably don’t sense it consciously, although I’d suggest they do subconsciously and they find it scary, such that they either get aggressive or withdraw and hide. She goes on to say that there is a bridge between us and our challenge is to leave our stuff behind and cross the bridge to meet the other in their world, to be fully present and aware and to listen with open eyes and learn each other’s landscape. Thus do we encounter one another and experience the resonance that exists between us and which we need for our own self-regulation. She says that every day we live in a survival suit but that inside is our essence and it is in truly being with each other than we experience it.

Such a wonderful expression of our potential. Out beyond our stuff there is a field where we can truly meet one another.

For me this is a great description of what is called in Gestalt the dialogic relationship and the transpersonal connection that can be experienced when we so meet one another. When you or I are being truly, authentically present and aware, we are grounded in who we really are. We’re connected with our Selves. We are sensitive to the “space between”, that subtle energy field where two souls sense one another’s presence and are tuned in to its commonality. In certain workshops it is a space between all present when awareness of the transpersonal is really there. We can sense it as love. It also vibrates very finely and feels very alive and rich.

The point here is then to be open and aware both of your own sensing but also fully aware of the other person or people. You can sense their presence too, and if they are really in touch with themselves too then you can sense their energy field. To cross the bridge is to consciously “move over” to be with the other person. It means, as the speaker says, to let go of whatever might be going on for us, so that we can be truly present. We allow ourselves to be open to their “map of the world” in NLP terms, and truly hear them. Finally, we resonate, being aware of what we have in common, and feel together, essence with essence.

What she doesn’t say and I would add, is that we feel that resonance as if we are One, and I’d suggest that’s one place where we get to experience Oneness. She also says that we need this connection with another for our own self-regulation, and I think I can hear the psychologist speaking here. I think this is an area for discussion, because we learn about ourselves from others, both parents and with loved ones in relationship. However, I would suggest we can also feel the connection within ourselves with Who we really Are.

However, this is such a fabulous description of the power of connection, which I also talk about on one of my Talks, and is a great reminder of what is possible between individual people, groups, communities, nationalities, ethnicities. religions and all the other ways in which we as humans get to experience separation in ego consciousness and can move through that to know Who we really Are as One.

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Freedom can include letting go of our illusions about love

Having just experienced another Valentine’s Day, or avoided it, I wonder if you found yourself wondering if the gloss had come off your romantic life, or reflecting in irony about it not being present for some reason. Love is a very powerful driver towards getting into relationship and yet can be a source of great pain too. As this article makes plain, part of the problem can be to do with our expectations from love in relationship, and our illusions about love.

So much of our culture is wrapped up with the notion of romantic love: “One day, my prince/princess will come”; chivalric love, “the knight in shining armour”; “the man/woman of my dreams”, etc, etc. Also our early exeriences can seem to confirm this, for example the powerfully passionate first love that seemingly sweeps us off our feet. Films and novels abound and you can probably name several that have impacted you and perhaps provided a model for how things should be. Then there’s a phase in growing up where we lust longingly after various stereotypical personalities who are flavour of the moment. Then you might be furiously, jealously aware that at some stage everybody but you are seemingly contentedly in coupledom of one kind or another.

Of course it wasn’t always like this, and in many parts of the world still isn’t, where marriages were arranged by the family, and marriage formed through a love connection has only slowly spread around the globe.

The challenge for us in relationship can include adjusting our understanding of love to the changing nature of the relationship. What can be hard to do is to see that romantic love itself is probably partly mythical and cultural, and that probably for most people it is not something that survives the ups and downs of being in relationship. Many writers and experts in relationship testify that the nature of love changes and that we come to experience love for one another in different ways, and perhaps also to learn that we experience love in different ways too as part of life.

The danger however can be that we can be so attached to a picture or belief about love that we allow that to be the judge of our relationships. Hence some may be attached to our romantic ideal and because we don’t feel that any longer we think we’re no longer “in love”. Others beliefs about love can be wrapped up with a fear of not having love, particularly of not feeling they are being loved by another another. Here we can very subtly, outside of awareness, substitute the need for love for the experience of love itself. We might not even know the difference. yet difference there is,  big time. One is the sheer experience of loving, the other is fear-based, quite different.

The fear of not being loved, the need for love, can drive some people apart and can keep others unsatisfyingly together. Neither path is fulfilling, and a source of great unhappiness.

Yet, while love is generally seen as a key component of relationship, there are those who would say it isn’t essential to a “successful” relationship, believe it or not, and also love is not necessarily something you experience around another, although it helps! Love is the core, underlying experience of being human when it isn’t caught up in ego-consciousness. As the article referred to above hints at, love has a spiritual and a holistic dimension, and it can be experienced at any time if we choose to let go and connect with who we really are. It lies at our essence.

Thus loosening and letting go of our illusions about love, and understanding what it really means for us, can give us enormous freedom if we choose to go and look, and the discovery, which each must make for themselves, can make for an utterly enriching life, whether in relationship or not.