I'm so happy to be here tonight. When Bobbie asked me to talk tonight, I thought, what could I possibly share? And I was grateful for ChiSing to explain the light. If there is one thing that transcends all the religions, in addition to the light, it is love. Every faith tradition celebrates and teaches love, so what better thing could we talk about tonight? This is the one universal characteristic of all of our faiths. They all teach them, and how we express it looks different from person to person from the inside out.
So love is a very powerful energy, and we see it in our world. We see it in our teenagers when they fall in love for the first time, how powerful that is. And we see that in our adult relationships when we first fall in love. We feel that from our parents. We feel it from our friends, our partners. It is a necessity in life. That is the power of love. We see a lot of good that comes from the way we express love, and we see some things that are not so good from the misrepresentation of love. That is the power of love.
In the spiritual community that I am with, we teach a few things about love, and one of them is that love is the pure essence of being that unites all humankind. Being is that power that we all have. Some people call it God. Some people call it divine, source. Whatever we call it, it is the energy that guides our thoughts and directs our path, and the essence of that is love. It holds us all together. And love is what binds in harmony. We teach that love harmonizes everything. Love is not judgmental. Love only sees good. Love is a teacher. Love is the inner quality to see good in everything and in everybody, and when we practice love, we see with eyes of good. We keep looking until we see good. We keep looking until whatever is happening, whatever is going on around us, we can transform it and use it for good, no matter what it looks like in our human existence. We learn to see it or we learn to use it for good.
And love holds together our body and soul. Without that essence of love, our body would just be limp, and our soul would be something in the ethers. So love is what holds the two together so that we can live in this human world and still have our being in the spirit world. Love draws our good to us. It is a magnet. It draws to us all that we need, all that we desire, set by our intentions, and it draws it to us to the level with which we understand and our strength in love. So as we practice love, we become better skilled at being love and at seeing love and at acting from love.
We are asked to start in love by loving ourselves, loving all of ourselves, all the aspects of ourselves. So we love ourselves in this physical manifestation, and it might sound like a good thing to do, and it might sound like that is pretty easy. I love myself. I give myself nutritious food. I take care of myself. And how can we love our physical expression when we are in that fitting room of our favorite clothing store trying on swimsuits? How do we truly love our physical body then? Sometimes we have a little more judgment at this time, but we are still asked to love ourselves, that physical expression as well. If we can't love ourselves, we cannot love another. So starting with ourselves.
For us to love ourselves for the goodness that is within us, that is in the spiritual community I am in, we teach that we all have this power of the divine within us. We all have a divine essence, and when we acknowledge that within ourselves, we then can acknowledge that in others. And it might be easy to do in our spiritual community when we are all coming from that place of love for those moments or hours that we are together. Then to go out into the other world, and we are still asked to love ourselves and to take that expression to others, no matter what it might look like in the human world.
When we are at work, when we are with our families, seeing each person with that spark of the divine, with that sense of the divine within them, if it changes us and how we look and how we see. And when we are coming with our eyes of love, we are less likely to judge ourselves and others quite so harshly. We are asked to love ourselves in all aspects, love ourselves when we are thinking and speaking with thoughts and words of love and when we are acting from waves of love, and that is easy to do.
What about when we have those moments of sarcasm, of thoughts that see another person as a little less than? We are asked to love ourselves in those moments as well. When we love ourselves, whatever we are thinking and speaking, we learn to forgive ourselves. When we love ourselves in those moments, when we are thinking kind thoughts, or when we are feeling anger and rage, if we only love ourselves when we are acting kindly, then we love ourselves conditionally. And if we love ourselves conditionally, we love others conditionally. I love myself when I make wise choices and what I eat, but I'm not so fond of me when I eat cake and ice cream. And I take that even further, and I love my family as long as they do things that please me. My children when they pick up their clothes from the floor and keep their rooms tidy, I love them then. Or when a spouse or partner cleans up after themselves, but when they leave the coffee cup in the sink at home for the whole day, that is when we are asked to show love.
If we don't acknowledge both the dark side of ourselves and the light side of ourselves, we are suppressing. We love the light but not the dark. We are stifling the dark, and when we stifle the dark, we are not allowing our light to shine as brightly as it could. But when we acknowledge it, we don't have to act from it. We don't have to act from thoughts of disagreement or thoughts of anger. We can still act from a place of love, but respect the fact that we have those thoughts and feelings, honor them, teach them, love them, bring them to good health. When we honor that, we allow our light to shine ever so much brighter, and we can take that into all of our worlds. We begin with ourselves and we love those around us, and if that goes forward, it just changes that greater consciousness, that collective consciousness of the universe, and we have a very big impact on the collective consciousness. So we need to be very mindful how we think, how we speak, and how we act.
When we truly love, we love all those aspects of another as well. When we first love a new partner, a romantic love, we see them as perfect. We hear it from our friends. I know my girlfriends always say, "Oh, he is so perfect. He is wonderful." Guys, maybe you do the same thing. But in time, we see a little more realistically perhaps. We have different discernment, and we see all the characteristics of a person. And they're still perfect. They might express their perfection in a way that maybe annoys us a little bit, that isn't quite as charming as it could be. But they still are an expression of perfection. We just need to look at them a little more with that discernment.
And that is one of the gifts of understanding, when love and understanding and wisdom are together. That is when we see true love. That is when we can experience the love at its fullest and at its best. In the book True Love, by Thich Nhat Hanh, he expresses four aspects of love, and the first one would be lovingkindness. And lovingkindness isn't just the desire to bring happiness to those we love. It is our ability to bring happiness. He says that if we love someone, we still may bring sadness and suffering to them. So we need to understand the person that is the object of our love. We need to understand them very deeply. We need to understand what their heart's desires are. We need to understand what their aspirations are. We need to understand what the sources of their suffering are, and then we understand that deeply another person. Then we can truly love.
He also says that compassion is another aspect of true love, and that again, it is not just the desire to show compassion and bring happiness to a person, but it is the ability to be able to do that, and that counts on that deep understanding of what it is that causes the person we love to suffer. And when we have that deep understanding, we are able to use that. In my community, we call that wisdom and understanding, and those are two abilities that go hand in hand. The understanding teaches us the facts about what causes a person to suffer. The wisdom and the will teaches us how to move forward through that. So be it Christianity, we use the same thoughts, the wisdom and the understanding for love.
Thich Nhat Hanh also says that to have true love, you must have joy. No joy, no love. You must have joy. If your love causes someone to feel emotional and sad or cry all the time, or if you in that relationship of love are crying and sad, that is not true love. And I know we see expressions that, but true love adds true joy.
And the fourth aspect is equanimity or freedom. True love allows both people or all that we love to be free, to truly be free to express all that we are freely. And when we have that freedom, when we have that joy, when we have that compassion, we have true love. For my spiritual community, remembering that we are all made in the image of the divine, that we all have that essence of the divine within us is one of the biggest aspects of seeing another through the eyes of love. To love ourselves and to truly love another is one of the greatest expressions of our love for that divine as well.
And the last thing I want to share with you, I want to read this because I want to get it correct. This is from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. "Compassion and love are not mere luxuries. As the source of both inner and outer external peace, they are fundamental to the continual survival."