In honor of Valentine’s Day, here is a piece about Love and Enlightenment that was originally featured on the Huffington Post.
Everyone wants love: to be loved, and to be able to give love. From the moment of birth, babies need love to thrive. Research by Megan Gunnar, from the University of Minnesota, shows that babies who are loved in their first six months of life — held often and securely attached to their parents — do not show elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in subsequent stressful situations.
Bathing and nurturing children with love from a young age helps to create integrated, happy young adults who are then able to form their own healthy relationships.
Where Does Love Begin?
A child’s birth is the beginning of her journey in this world. We see children evolve through many stages of development — the terrible twos, puberty, adolescence, adulthood, and eventually old age. There are several aspects to this development: the outer physical value, the inner mental realm, and deeper spiritual aspects.
Children are naturally loving and loveable. They are born with open hearts, so they are able to receive their parents’ love fully and grow in that love.
We have probably all met well-adjusted, balanced, loving teenagers and adults throughout our lives. We have also met people who have many problems and struggle in their lives. Many of these problems stem from some lack of nourishment in childhood or impressions left from a traumatic, stressful event. Stress, which everyone experiences to some degree, can be a block to the full development of our creative potential, the flow of love, and our spiritual growth — enlightenment. If children can start practicing meditation at a young age, around 10, they may have an effective way to neutralize future stress that may restrict their full development.
Stress Blocks the Flow of Love
Once we graduate from college, or get a job, often it can seem that life closes in on us, especially if we get married and have children. We become more stressed, struggling to cope with life’s demands. We may feel that we are no longer growing as an individual, and that our capacity for love is decreasing.
Enlightenment — the development of one’s full potential — should be a main goal of education, so that by the time young adults graduate, they are balanced and well-adjusted, using their full mental and creative potential to meet the challenges of life head on with joy and innovative, intelligent solutions.
An enlightened person is fully at home with herself, with who she is as a person, and can thus enjoy life to the fullest, inner and outer, and can love and be loved with an open, receptive heart. In the state of enlightenment, a person is able to be more loving because she is not bogged down by stresses that may restrict the flow of love from the heart.
Within the silent depths of our being is an ocean of love. It is always there, we just need to tap into it. Even if we start to meditate later, as an adult, stresses that we may have accumulated during our life will begin to dissolve and our heart will open up and be more able to flow in love. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique, explains in his book Love and God that:
The fortunate one uses the instrument of deep meditation and probes deep into his heart. Then the waves of love gain the depth of the ocean, and the ocean of love flows and fills the heart and thrills every particle of being. Every wave of life then flows in the fullness of love, in the fullness of divine glory, in the fullness of grace, in bliss and peace.
Personal Love is Concentrated Universal Love
Maharishi goes on to explain that
This is how, gradually, the personal love naturally moves on, to gain the status of universal love. And, this is how universal love moves on to find its expression in the personal love.
Growth of enlightenment is the development of the purest state of love that exists, an inner state of Being that is not dependent on anything from the outside for its fulfillment. Love is also the most unifying, nourishing force of life.
Lord Buddha said: “If you truly loved yourself, you would never harm another.”
We love our self by experiencing the deepest value of our Self, the state of purest love that exists deep within us as silence and peace. Once we have gained and stabilized this state of inner love, we are able to fulfill the following dictum beautifully stated in the Bible:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Buddha also said: “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”
As the Beatles so rightfully sang, “All you need is love.”
Happy Valentine’s Day!
References for more information
Megan R. Gunnar, University of Minnesota:
Gunnar’s research finds that social relationships control cortisol levels in infants and young children. Children with secure attachments to their caregivers show stable cortisol levels, even when emotionally upset, while even minor challenges raised cortisol levels among those in insecure relationships. She has shown the key ingredient to buffering stress is sensitive, responsive, individualized care, the type of care that leads to secure attachment relationships.
The Stressfulness of Separation among Nine-month-old Infants: Effects of Social Context Variables and Infant Temperament
Adrenocortical Responses to the Strange Situation in Infants with Disorganized/Disoriented Attachment Relationships
Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2012). The Science of Neglect: The Persistent Absence of Responsive Care Disrupts the Developing Brain: Working Paper 12. http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Love and God (Oslo, Norway: Spiritual Regeneration Movement, 1965), p 14, 19.