By Upendra Mishra
Are you fit to love? That question may outrage some because who does not know that love is the basic foundation of life and evolution. Without love, there will be nothing: no happiness, no births, and no purpose in life.
Soon after our birth, every little experience we have during our life time will shape our thinking, values and actions. These experiences will also have an impact on our innate ability to love.
Some of us will genuinely love because it is in our DNA, or the DNA of our experience. Some, however, will pretend to love, some will put conditions, and some will make rules for love and so on.
Who will eventually become the eternal source of love or a natural lover forever? The answer is simple: The person who loves herself/himself first. If you don’t love yourself, your capacity to love others will diminish.
As I grow older and relate my own experiences with the wisdom of ancient scriptures, my faith in both the ancient scriptures and my own experiences become stronger each day. I have learned that we cannot love others if we don’t love ourselves first—just like an empty pot cannot fill another empty pot.
We make loved ones happy only when we ourselves are full of happiness—just as the ocean never empties itself no matter how much water evaporates from its surface and similarly there is always a space in the space.
The following lines from Isha Upanishad have gotten imprinted in my head for a few years, and now I realize how profound they are:
“All this is full. All that is full.
From fullness, fullness comes.
When fullness is taken from fullness,
Fullness still remains.”
The person who is endowed with the fullness of love is probably the fittest person to love because in love there is no give and take, no trade and no conditions. We love someone because we just love; because it brings an eternal inner joy. We don’t expect anything in return.
Can we teach ourselves how to fill ourselves with love? It may take some time, but with a diligent effort and dedication, we surely can. We must, however, first fill ourselves with love, just like an air flight attendant announces in case of an emergency: “If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”
A few months ago, I stumbled upon talks and writings of Jordan Peterson, a Canadian professor and psychoanalyst who also believes in the art of taking care of oneself first. I have just started to read his latest book: “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” (Published 2018; Random House Canada.)
His Rule #2 is: “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.” His theory is that there is always going to be chaos, conflicts and natural disasters in the world, and our first responsibility should be to take care of ourselves.
“You must take responsibility for your own life. Period,” says Peterson, adding that life has more to do “with developing character in the face of suffering than with happiness…And that is much better than happiness.”
I do agree with Peterson’s idea. If we have developed our character, we are much better than being just happy, and that makes us perfectly fit to love.
(Mr. Mishra is managing partners of marketing firm The Mishra Group. He writes about his three passions: marketing, scriptures and gardening.)