15 Aspects of the Anatomy of Love: Self-Love, Structure, Freedom

Working our way along our spiritual path of self-knowing, we gradually illuminate the many conflicts and confusions in our mind. As we continue to follow the ever-narrowing spiral movements, our issues become much more simple until, at last, we reach the center of the final nuclear point of our being. There we will find that the only issue is love.

Love is the key to everything. It is the medicine we can use to heal all our sicknesses and all our sorrows. Love permeates all that is and is always available, although we often lose sight of this due to our boneheaded thinking. We could literally discuss the topic of love for an entire lifetime—every hour of every day—and it would not be possible to cover it all. Love is that big. For now, we’ll focus on a few key aspects of love—the ones we need most at this juncture.

So just what is this love everyone speaks of? Is it a force? Is it a feeling? Short answer: Yes, it’s all that and more. But let’s get more specific and look at how love applies to the three main personality types of Reason, Will and Emotion.

First off, it’s obvious that love is a feeling. But maybe it’s not so obvious that love results from an act of will that’s kicked off by our intelligence. So love then is intelligence. If we flop this idea over and view any issue with a wide-angle lens, we will see that wherever there is hatred, there is ignorance, no matter how covered up it may be with justification. It’s a lack of intelligence.

Hatred, of course, comes in many textures and hues, many of which are not acknowledged as such; it also comes in varying degrees of intensity. When love is lacking, this may show up as separateness, hopelessness, lack of faith or depression. Love is in short supply when we’re wallowing in fear or feeling victimized; also when there’s resentment, blame, hostility and out-and-out hatred.

Love then is certainly present when there is pure intelligence and reason. When there is a deep understanding of what’s going on, our vision expands and we are closer to the truth. Then it will be less and less possible to feel hate. And the wheels of love go around.

It’s impossible to feel loving when our will is not moving us in the direction of a loving way of being. So if we don’t want to fully understand something, which is an expression of our desire to love, then let’s face it, we do not wish to love. The result: we will not love. And then we’ll scratch our heads and wonder why we don’t feel love.

Sometimes it works the other way around: the will to love may stimulate our will to fully understand. In that case, understanding grows from love. At other times, the understanding comes first and it awakens our will to love. Six of one, half-dozen of the other. Either way, love can’t make it unless it’s paired with a nice dose of intelligence. Emotion, then, follows will as well as reason and intelligence.

The long and short of this is, if we have faulty ideas buried in the back of our mind, it will affect our ability to love. For example, we may harbor the wrong conclusion—likely formed in early childhood—that to love is to lose, to be taken advantage of, or to have things taken from us. Or perhaps we’re sitting on the mistaken notion that to love means to be weak, submissive and spineless. If any of these seem true to us, then we are lacking in reason. These false conclusions reflect a lack of intelligence that’s going to hamper our will to love.

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Love is reason, will and emotion, and so much more. It’s a sensation we can experience on every level, which we can verify by paying attention to our own reactions. When we’re in love, we see things with different eyes and hear things differently. All of life has a different texture and flavor. Everything that comes to pass will be perceived in a very different way.

Without love, we hone in on the stuff we find undesirable. That’s the part we can’t justify, and whatever intelligence we bring to bear on the situation only serves to justify the reasons we want things to be different. In our own minds, when we’re unloving, we make our unloving perceptions appear to be right. That’s right—we’re totally correct. We forget that when we are in an unloving state, we’re not perceiving the whole truth. In fact, our perception at that point is so limited, it is completely unreliable. We are only perceiving an isolated fragment of the whole. That’s not the same thing as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

When we’re in love, even our bodies function differently. Our breathing and heartbeat are different. Our bloodstream even flows differently than when we’re being haters. So loving keeps us in a state of health. Although being sick may not correlate one-to-one with hating, it might be a necessary byproduct of our struggle to worm our way out of hateful and fearful states. Whether we have accepted it or not, this struggle toward love and trust is our mission.

So in the end, it’s all about love. It’s in everything, including ourselves. Self-love and our ability to love others are peas in a pod: we can’t have one without the other. If we can love ourselves, we can love others. If not, loving another is a nonstarter too. If we hate ourselves, we’re also going to be hatin’ on everybody else. This last one makes us turn a blind eye to our own self-hate, also denying our need to hate our fellowman.

It never ends, this inner struggle to love ourselves. In our dualistic state of mind, we get confused about this. And this is no small thing. Here’s the confusion: if I love myself, then do I indulge my every little whim? Do I follow the path of least resistance? Do I get to blame others instead of taking a good hard look at my Lower Self? If I love myself, do I then express the self-hate that lives in the part of me that loves to hate and deceive?

All of humanity is mired in this deep and tragic struggle. It’s a tragedy the way we hide and run from this inner dilemma, making a bigger mountain out of a molehill of pain. We prolong the agony. But it’s also a beautiful story of struggle to gain a foothold in true security. Where our security lies is in our admitting that this struggle is going on. We must become aware of it, otherwise we’ll chase after false solutions to self-love that include self-indulgence served with a topping of blame.

This is a tempting game to play. But it leaves us empty and hollow. The constant fluctuation ping-pongs between self-righteous accusations and morbid self-recrimination, layered with guilt. No one wins. Even if our accusations land a direct hit, they are never convincing because we can never be sure of anything when we’re hiding from ourselves. This makes it super hard to love ourselves. We swing from conscious hate for ourselves to hate for others. Ouch. That’s never going to feel good.

We all do this ping-ponging between hating ourselves and hating others. In our frantic attempt to hide our self-hate from ourselves, we jump to indulging ourselves, piling huge mounds of accusations and blame on others to throw everyone off the scent. This, we think, is the way to attain self-esteem.

Once we knock this crap off, we’ll be able to develop a guilt-free awareness of other’s wrongdoings, seen separately from our own inner wrongdoing. This will come as a sidelight from facing our own Lower Self head on—not in spite of what we discover, but because of it. Then we can find a way to love and honor ourselves.

As long as we resort to denial and finger pointing to avoid seeing our self-hate, we move further away from finding true self-love. We’ve got to see how out of whack our strategy is, and that we’re going down the wrong road. Admitting this will open a crack in our hearts and our minds. A little breath of truth will sail in with this kind of honesty. Just behind that will come inner guidance to inspire us and lead us to seeing how our Lower Self ensnares us in self-hate. The more clearly we see how we do this, the more we can love and respect ourselves.

Now when we go about the business of loving ourselves—without indulging our childish, demanding Lower Self—we will be able to be firm with ourselves. We’ll see that firmness can be as much an expression of love as tenderness. We can be firm and tender with ourselves at the same time. We won’t devalue ourselves nor will we behave self-destructively.

A beautiful balance will emerge. We’ll acquire self-discipline and a strict self-honesty, firmly thwarting our Lower Self and its desire to act out. This is the way to create a deep appreciation for the self; this is how we restore balance. We give up self-indulgence which masqueraded for self-love but was really a form of self-hate.

Once we face ourselves in truth, we’ll be able to tune into our underlying divinity. It’s in there, we just have to uncover it. In deep meditation, we’ll be able to shower love on all aspects of our being: every organ that we neglect, every attitude—no matter how distorted.

We’ll see how the prison walls of self-hate were suffocating us. We’ll be able to find a way out. We’ll search with our eyes wide open, something humans haven’t been able to do until recently. But be forwarned: our ability to search for enlightenment consciously is going to bring self-hate front and center. At first, this may surprise us—we may not have known that was in there. It may also escape us that we’re now poised to do something about it.

It’s easy to get confused here and think it’s the effort of walking a conscious spiritual path that is creating this growing self-hate. Of course, it’s not really growing—it’s our awareness of it that is growing. But if we’re still stuck behind those prison walls, it may seem like it’s getting bigger. This can trigger a backlash against embarking on such a path.

We’ll rage against it, preferring the old “protective” illusion that our self-rejection is caused by someone—anyone—other than us. We long for our pseudo-solutions—our hankering to use submission, aggression or withdrawal as a way to win—and hope to put our self-doubts back to sleep by reverting to a one-sided positive approach. How about we just try some more of those positive affirmations?

This is a crucial stage on the path. If we are successful in overcoming it, we will have the intelligence to see it for what it is. This awareness will lead us in the direction of freedom. But if we linger in ignorance, thinking our lack of freedom is being imposed on us from the outside, we’re stuck in Chinese finger traps. Then the harder we struggle—in vain—the tighter we’re bound.

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Now we come to another facet of the problem. We have the idea that rebelling against authority figures is the way to break free. And so we protest with great indignation against any frustration that life throws our way, believing that if there were no frustrations, we would be free at last. Any frustration—anything we believe is being done to us by some authority—sets our hair on fire.

Compare and contrast this, if you will, to our innate rebellion against structure, against having limits set, against any boundary or thing that we experience as confining. But here’s the thing, boundaries and structure are part and parcel of the loving process. They show up in every part of reality.

If we lived in a world without boundaries and laws, we’d blow apart in a puff of chaos and destruction. There are laws that hold the planets together and yet prevent them from colliding. Wise laws. They make the world go ‘round. It’s the same throughout the whole universe, on a large and small scale.

So while this may seem confining to some people, there can be no community of living beings without structure, laws and boundaries. In the real sense, they are not confining at all. Yet this fact of life makes a lot of people angry, even when they are coming from truth and love, not from hostility and a desire to bring us down.

This anger may arise from our interpretation of childhood experiences. But the deeper, truer reason is our distrust of the tyrant that lives inside us. Our own Lower Self wants to rule with a selfish and cruel fist. In our attempt to hide this, we project our impudence outward using an assumption that all rules and laws, all restrictions and boundaries, spring from a lack of love. They are out to thwart us.

We compound our confusion by confusing love with indulgence, frustration with hate. We distort reality ridiculously and then become blind to the magnificence of all creation.

Look at any loving aspect of creation, like animals, birds or ants. They live freely in nature, obeying all the traffic signals of structure. They are able to breathe, expand and move about with great freedom. We humans, on the other hand, rail against any structure we interpret as hostile to us. This is peculiar to humankind; we’re the only ones who do this. It stems from our place on the evolutionary ladder in which our rising consciousness also gives rise to Lower Self drives. We want to have our own way.

To be free and to be loving are the same thing. One more pea in the pod. When we don’t love, we aren’t free—we’re imprisoned in some kind of conflict. We chafe against our lack of freedom and having a life filled with frustrations. But these stem from our own limited thinking that results in outer limitations.

These boundaries are not a natural part of divine creation. No, they are our own personal roadblocks unwittingly put in place by none other than ourselves. They aren’t the same kind of laws that hold life together, but come from the karmic category. We react, however, as if we’re being tortured, rebelling in a misplaced and inappropriate way. This increases our frustrations along with the restrictions. What we need is a new reaction.

First, we need to sort out the different kinds of boundaries. There are the loving and meaningful ones—which could be spiritual laws or the kind generated from loving human interactions—and there are the kind we make through our misguided thinking. Once we get a grip on which is which, we’ll be better equipped to reeducate the little tyrant inside ourselves.

We’ll also be able to accept both kinds of boundaries, first in recognition of their intrinsic value, and second in recognition of our own limitations. When we see how boundaries have been self-created, we’ll use our frustration as a doorway to freedom. What looked like an infringements of our rights will be seen as an opportunity for growth. On to freedom.

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Often, what we’re rebelling against is our inner castle of false needs. Like our need to be always indulged. Pull harder and the walls get tighter. But maybe—just maybe—we could try this: relax our rebellion, open our mind, access our intuition and comprehend what our struggle’s about. Then we’ll feel what our self-made tight structures are made of.

By temporarily making peace with the tight structure we’re pent up in, we can relinquish it. It’s operated by our own inner logic and karmic effects, and these we have the power to change. Our choice.

We have tremendous freedom in how to think and respond in any situation. We often miss this point. It’s our freedom of choice that let’s us choose our stance. But we get so busy demanding that things be just so, we fail to comprehend that we could make a different choice. We are amazing creators. Usually, though, we just create more mess.

We create messes when we rebel against that which does not require rebellion, overlooking whatever inside ourselves needs a good once-over. Freedom can only come from an intelligent awareness of what’s happening. New choices need to emerge from our will to be in truth—to lovingly accept whatever structures are now in place, even if they are narrow and restricting. This is our first act of love and freedom. Alternatively, we can keep going with fearful acceptance and blind rebellion, which aren’t so much deliberate choices as autopilot reactions. In them slumber the seeds of hate, distrust, selfishness.

There will come a time when the outer constrictions will start to relax, if we stop throwing temper tantrums. We’ll see how our reactions are thoroughly misplaced. Then we’ll open our eyes to the work of honest self-searching. The searching alone will give us a measure of self-esteem that blinding self-will and furious accusations never can.

With open eyes, we’ll be able to see which rules and restrictions should apply, and which are meaningless. We’ll create new conditions and embrace only what works. Kicking and screaming will subside. We can do all this faster than we might imagine, if we are willing to stretch ourselves and make room for this possibility.

Freedom is not what the infant thinks it is. It’s not a world without boundaries, where everyone takes the lazy way every time. That is what creates the strongest enslavement we could possibly imagine because then we become dependent on something that can’t possibly be. We can cry and pitch a fit, but that’s just not the way the world works. When we become a slave to unreality, we are truly defeated.

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Here’s a small assignment that may help in our self-observations. At the end of each day, we can jot down a few words or phrases about where we found ourselves rebelling. Don’t try to explain it and don’t try to fix it. Forget about all the pros and cons for a moment. Focus on the feelings: how does it feel to feel rebellious? Is there a blind reaction? Do the considerations of others matter? What state of mind are we in?

With these questions, we can uncover whether we’re in a state of love or a state of hate. If we’re not feeling the love, we can ask ourselves this: how would I feel if I were in a state of love? Notice how that differs from the rebellious state we might have blindly walked into.

When we’re in a state of love, we’re not submitting. Submission is a chip we try to trade in for self-love bought off someone else. Or we use it to placate authority, hoping to buy a life of wide-open indulgence. For the prize of this impossible aim, we sacrifice so much: our freedom and our integrity. Then we blame the world for a bum result. We pretend we are innocent and good—our only “fault” is we haven’t yet learned to rebel and hate. Phoo.

In a state of love, which is also a state of freedom, we can choose when to bend with the wind and when to hold firm. We’ll have the discernment to choose our battles. Sometimes we need to stand up for what is right, but that has a different feel from blind rebellion. Sometimes a particular infringement isn’t a big deal. Total freedom includes the freedom to choose how we respond.

As we move on down this road, there will be less and less room for blind reactions. They’ll start to stick out like a sore thumb. What once was a habit will start to feel uncomfortable, as outdated reactions yield to more maturity. We won’t hate ourselves when we’re not perfect. We’ll be able to bear a little frustration.

By aligning with the highest spiritual forces that surrounds and support us, we can surface our self-hate. That’s got to happen if we want to find self-love. Know that doing this is going to kick up inner dust. Contractions and frightened reactions will alternate with welling up feelings of love.

We’ll need to develop some spiritual muscle if we want to endure a state of lovingness. A tiny voice of self-hate will tell us we’re not worthy. Back and forth we’ll go, helping love find a foothold inside us. We’ll slip back into dull and grey, then grope in the dark for something more. All our fears are false and they need to come out into the light of day.

Then we can go into meditation, letting ourselves know the truth: we can face everything inside ourselves and it will only increase our divinity. Once we see things straight we can set things straight. Everything surrounding us and our lives contains a lesson that we can begin to love. We can live this truth.

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