I was recently listening to an audiobook lecture by noted Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, for which I’ll post a full review & recommendation shortly. One of the many things he spoke about that struck me is his description of love as being alive and organic. He describes the importance of “right thinking” about love. From the Buddhist perspective, wrong thinking and distorted perceptions are at the root of much our suffering. By clarifying our thinking, we can avoid much suffering. This Buddhist concept of right thinking fits very well with the primary tenants of cognitive-behavioral therapy (or CBT). Regarding love, Hanh says that our misperceptions about love lead to a lot of unnecessary suffering.
It is easy to see why there is so many misconceptions about love. As romanticized in movies, music, and books, love is dichotomous, absolute, and eternal. We either love someone completely, with our “whole heart,” or not at all. And, once in love, we just stay that way. However, this is a misperception about the nature of love, Hanh explains. Like a tree or a flower, love must be tended to and nurtured in order for it to grow and thrive. As a practice, in our relationships, Hanh advises us to be mindful in our close relationships and make conscious efforts to foster the continued growth of these relationships.
If, in our relationships, we act as if love is stactic, then this misperception can result in our love withering on the vine, so to speak. I know this idea about love being organic and alive might sound basic and trite, but it still struck a powerful chord in me nonetheless. And, given how love is often portrayed in the media, some misguided notions about love may creep into our minds and then begin to affect our relationships with the ones we love despite our best intentions. So, I think it is important that we frequently remind ourselves of this powerful truth. We need to ask ourselves whether we are nurturing the love in our relationships, because it is through this mindful attention that our loving relationships can grow and flourish.