Mono asked in a separate thread what I mean when I say "unconditional love." I am continuously learning more about this liberating truth for myself, so forgive me if my thoughts here don't make much sense.
I keep thinking of it as BIG LOVE. It's this great ocean of love that doesn't have any limitations. I honestly believe this is the love that The Universe (God? Goddess?) has for us. A love without conditions, a love that can't be earned and can never be lost. A buddy of mine in AA wears a t-shirt that says "There is Nothing You Can Do to Stop God from Loving You." I don't really use the word "God" with a capital G, but whatever. I was working the program of recovery with a guy about 4 years ago who used to say "Love IS and it's the ONLY thing going on." Now these are all very alien ideas for me! To imagine a ground of love out of which reality arises, without which there would be no consciousness and no reality at all, this is relatively new for me. In fact, back when that guy would say "Love IS and it's the ONLY thing going on," I would smile and say "yes of course" and think to myself, "wow, what a crackpot. Seems to be a busload of hate in my world."
I grew up with a punishing God. I have a cheeky little bumper sticker on my car that says "Have you threatened your children with eternal damnation today?" I still have my little religious resentments and my house-cleaning to do in that area. But this BIG LOVE has little to do with my childhood or even more recent "God concept." (I also have a bumper sticker that says "Expect Miracles!")
I mentioned in another thread how my mom used to say "I don't love the bad Peter. I love good Peter!" It sounds so...I don't know. Nakedly dysfunctional? Or does it sound reasonable? Because for a long time I bought hook, line and sinker that I had a good self constituted by a set of behaviors that were lovable and I had a bad self constituted by a set of behaviors that were not lovable. If you've read _A Little Book on the Human Shadow_ by Robert Bly you know what I'm talking about. Even if you haven't you know what I mean. We put away huge parts of ourselves to get the love we need, the love without which we are convinced we will die. (Alice Miller's books are huge on this idea). My skewed idea of monogamy comes out of the belief that monogamy is lovable and non-monogamy isn't. For example.
I definitely grew up caught in a lot of shame binds. It has often been a lot easier for me to say "I am a mistake" than "I made a mistake." The desperate fear and panic this causes is soul crushing. I learned from my surroundings and culture that I am *essentially flawed and defective* and that I have to strive to correct these *essential flaws and defects*. I am in a defective state and I need *self-improvement*. I am a bad person and I need to become a good person.
I had vaguely sensed the reality of BIG LOVE, however, on and off my whole life, but have had a series of profoundly realigning spiritual experiences lately that have brought this unconditional love into my life on a daily basis. The new basis for the approach is *I am essentially perfect. There is nothing defective about me*. Cheri Huber's book _There is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate_ is huge with this. I try a very simple self-hate barometer several times a day. I say, out loud, just like the "gosh darn it, people like me!" character on Saturday Night Live, "There is nothing wrong with me. I am essentially perfect exactly as I am." If it's hard for me to say or if it sounds like bullshit, I know the self-hate meter is pretty high.
Now obviously one lives one's life fairly differently depending on these axiomatic starting points. My experience of a life based on the axiom that I'm just fine the way I am has been incredible. Slowly, believe it or not, other people are also just fine the way they are. Not always. But a lot more often than before. So on a simple, practical level that's partly unconditional love. Looking at you, whoever you are and taking you in whole and saying a great big YES. You are absolutely fine. This has enormous ramifications. If you are absolutely fine, you can't do anything wrong. If you can't do anything wrong, it suddenly becomes entirely *my responsibility* how I feel about about your behavior.
One practical avenue into it for me is to make a list of all the behaviors I think of as deal breakers. What would I never be able to forgive a friend or lover for doing? What would hurt me deeply enough that I would send him or her away or remove myself? Is it sexual? Emotional betrayal? Physical abuse? Material destruction of money or property? Slandering my reputation? What are those things I have been so afraid of for so long. Because the opposite of love isn't hate, it's fear. And so as I begin to outgrow fear I begin to be able to access more and more of this BIG LOVE, this ocean of unconditional love out of which all of our human relationship love arises. The ground of all of our love for other people comes from this deep unlimited reality of love.
Why do I begrudge people who I love pleasure? Why do I envy their bliss? Why am I jealous of their love for others? Why do I try to take power over them and bend them to my will? Why do I blame them for shit that is entirely my responsibility? Why do I try to limit the growth, joy, pleasure, adventure, experience and spaciousness of the very people I pretend to love the most? Why am I even sometimes secretly pleased when they suffer? And why do I exert all of these forms of my self-will in the name of love and then act like the wounded victim, the one who has been wronged and ripped off, when it all goes to shit?
For me the answers are still emerging, but for certain one answer is fear. When I do not confidently reside with faith in the BIG LOVE ocean of unconditional self-acceptance and divine love, I'm acting out of fear. There is no middle ground for me these days. I want *other people* to provide this BIG LOVE and total acceptance for me, on my terms, in my time, in the ways I recognize and in the doled out amounts I judge to be suitable. I am afraid I will be abandoned, unloved, annihilated if these "little gods and goddesses" I have created (my friends and lovers) reject me. I have made other people my Higher Powers and then of course promptly resented them for it.
As I move more into completely embracing unconditional love and self-acceptance, these fears lift away and are greatly reduced or even temporarily eliminated. No one can take the true love in which we reside away from us. We are already completely, unconditionally loved and we can never lose this. It is the true gift that we did not earn and that can never be lost. We do not need to get this love from other people. We have subsisted on it as our daily bread our whole lives and it has never left us. We have never been alone. We will never be alone.
Now, I realize this is maybe pretty crazy sounding. But it is the new basis for loving relationships in my daily life. Each person is a fragment of love. What part of the wave is not 100% ocean? Each interaction is a shard of love. The ground of our breath and heartbeat is love. There isn't a person on earth powerful enough to take this away or harm it. Every person on earth is powerful enough to give it, however. And we only get to taste it by giving it away, IMO.
Does that clarify what I mean? Does it sound like utter hooey? Because I really feel crazy like Rumi with this stuff these days. And I fully acknowledge I might just have blown a gasket somewhere. :-)
"Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase 'each other'
doesn't make sense any more."