Love one another.
These need to be the first three words I write in 2020, not just as the ultimate roadmap and reminder for me, but as a passionate, personal plea to you, too: Love one another.
It’ll probably require a minor rearrangement of your New Year’s resolution list, but go ahead and do it. Push it to the top of the heap — no, fling it to the top with every last ounce of energy you have.
We need to embrace love and kindness today more than ever before. Not just the principle, but the practice. Not just the poetic plea or the fervent hope, but the fundamental act of being loving and kind. Hope alone won’t cut it anymore. Nor will all the harping and hand-wringing. Stepping into the New Year and the New Decade, love itself must become an actionable item.
Here are a couple of ways we can push the act of loving one another from a warm-and-fuzzy concept to a bold, brave act:
Be Careful with Setting Intentions: I know, I know. The setting of intentions, especially as we glide gracefully into the New Year, is itself a noble act and a necessary exercise … just don’t stay stuck in the “setting” part.
The potential problem with intention-setting is that when we fail to follow up with action, we render all of our glorious intentions inert. If I spend all of my energy setting my intention to be kind, I might well be out of wind when it comes time to actually be kind. Long story short: Don’t let intention-setting be the end goal. Let it be the bridge that carries you across into action.
The Ten-Minute (or Sixty-Second) Challenge: To love others actively and mindfully, we must step outside of ourselves, at least temporarily, and kick our own doubts, dreams, desires, and tedious, never-ending to-do lists to the curb. If we are to expand the territory of our hearts, we must get out of own heads. We must slice up these huge slivers of self-absorption by thinking about something other than ourselves for a change!
For the next seven days, devote ten minutes each day to thinking about anything other than yourself. Train your brain to engage in mental activity that has nothing to do with your own well-being. Instead of turning inward with your thoughts and deeds, try turning outward. Send positive thoughts to others. Whisper a get-well wish to a sick loved one. Engage in meaningful dialogue with a friend or a stranger without bringing yourself into the conversation. Learn to listen mindfully.
Eventually, this builds a more empathetic and, when necessary, a more sympathetic heart, and it sets the act of love and loving into forward motion. To truly love others requires a temporary shedding of one’s self. Believe me, I get it: Self-love is vital and necessary, but it can get greedy — which blurs (and narrows) our vision. Take this ten-minute challenge. If ten minutes is too difficult, start with sixty seconds and work your way up. Get out — and stay out — of your own thoughts. Use a stopwatch or a timer if you have to.
Stay focused in — and on — the act of love. The act of loving others is a task and a goal, yes, but it must also become a way of life and living. It must move from a daily duty to a comfortable pattern that should feel as rhythmic and as steady as a heartbeat. It must become instinctive rather than rehearsed.
A little while back, I attended an advanced Tai Chi Chih intensive in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that taught me several life-changing lessons, many of which I’ve already reflected on in previous blogs and columns. Here’s another that’s suitable for sharing:
During our practice, as our small group moved through each of the Tai Chi Chih poses in silent unison, the sight of the majestic mountains through the windows caught my attention and (unfortunately) held it. Suddenly and with little fanfare, our instructor closed the curtains, snatching away the miraculous view.
The very moment she closed those curtains, I was able to surrender more fully to the purity of the Tai Chi Chih movements themselves; to focus with laser-like intensity on my form and technique. This told me I’d been getting a little lost in the mountains, even though they were beautiful. I’d lost my focus.
The same is true of loving others. To love others requires constant focus, and if something threatens to blur that focus — even if as majestic as a snow-capped mountain — we must re-set our vision and try again. (Eventually, the instructor opened the curtains again and gave us back our glorious view, but by then I’d had the opportunity to recalibrate.)
That’s how it is with love. W must stay focused on it, and stay focused within it. We must certainly set the intention to love, then we must be beyond that intention, directly to the fundamental business of loving.
In 2020, hope alone will not be enough. And even though my first three words of the New Year — “love one another” –– are wonderful and well-intended, they will not be enough, either, not unless they are followed by action.
As we embrace this New Decade, let’s let love become the actionable item.
Kristin Clark Taylor is also a mindfulness practitioner and a student of Tai Chi Chih. She can be reached at [email protected]