“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,”Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh
This idea is profoundly discomfiting in the context of our cultural mythology, which continually suggests love is something that happens to us passively and by chance, something we fall into, something that strikes us arrow-like, rather than a skill attained through the same deliberate practice as any other pursuit of human excellence. Our failure to recognize this skillfulness aspect is perhaps the primary reason why love is so intertwined with frustration.
I want to show that love is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by them. I want to convince you that all our attempts for love are bound to fail, unless we try most actively to develop our total personality, total human awareness, so as to achieve a productive orientation;
I will show that satisfaction in individual love cannot be attained without the capacity to love one’s neighbour. That you cannot love one person, and hate another. Love cannot be gained without true humility, courage, faith and discipline. In a culture in which these qualities are rare, the attainment of the capacity to love will remain a rare achievement.
Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one’s capacity to love. Hence the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable.Erich Fromm
If two people who have been strangers, as all of us are, suddenly let the wall between them break down, and feel close, feel one, this moment of oneness is one of the most exhilarating, most exciting experiences in life. It is all the more wonderful and miraculous for persons who have been shut off, isolated, without love. This miracle of sudden intimacy is often facilitated if it is combined with, or initiated by, sexual attraction and consummation. However, this type of love is by its very nature not lasting. The two persons become well acquainted, their intimacy loses more and more its miraculous character, until their antagonism, their disappointments, their mutual boredom kill whatever is left of the initial excitement. They will try all manner of things to break that boredom, children, work, addiction, alcohol, affairs. But to no avail. Boredom persists. In the beginning they do not know all this: in fact, they take the intensity of the infatuation, this being “crazy” about each other, for proof of the intensity of their love, while infatuation at the beginning may only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness, to which they will fear returning.
There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love.
The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.
What are the necessary steps in learning any art? The process of learning an art can be divided conveniently into two parts: one, the mastery of the theory; the other, the mastery of the practice. If I want to learn the art of medicine, I must first know the facts about the human body, and about various diseases.
When I have all this theoretical knowledge, I am by no means competent in the art of medicine.
I shall become a master in this art only after a great deal of practice, until eventually the results of my theoretical knowledge and the results of my practice are blended into one — my intuition, the essence of the mastery of any art.
But, aside from learning the theory and practice, there is a third factor necessary to becoming a master in any art — the mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern; there must be nothing else in the world more important than the art. This holds true for music, for medicine, for carpentry — and for love.
And, maybe, here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art, in spite of their obvious failures: in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power — almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.
In my book, Sacred Love, I attempt to teach the art of love, something I have spent my entire life focussed on above all else. This is not a book for academics or for those looking to around sexual combat with another human being. It is a book about Love of all life, including self. The most important takeaway is the last chapter for all to learn: LOVE IS A LIFESTYLE…
Please download and enjoy. Feel free to print or share it with others. The book has sold over 10 reprints, been translated into Mandarin and sold over 1 million copies in China (with a different cover of course) ….