When asked to describe what I think this is or means, at first I thought it was going to be difficult but fortunately, I soon realised all I had to do was close my eyes and not think. Then it was simple, to feel the essence of unconditional love, without thought.

Big love, as I like to call it, transcends what most people consider love to be. Our perception of love is often misguided unfortunately, due to conditioning from parenting and what we experience in the wider world. Love becomes distorted, sensationalised, a misconception for many, something we think needs to be achieved or deserving of. Love is not available to everyone. Love is only available to the lucky ones…this is the gravest illusion of all.I grew up thinking ‘I am not loved’ why is this so important? Am I just feeling sorry for myself? Am I caught up in a story that I think is my life?

This has been my journey of exploration for several years. Being attached to this suffering has consumed me at times. Every sad moment I can recall as a child and young adult has a feeling linked to it and a sense of longing, yearning for something I believed I was deprived of, which in turn translated to ‘I am not loved’ …and yet I have come to see, through a deep sense of knowing, that love has always been there (is always here), I didn’t realise for a long time because it was hidden, disguised in perception and conditioning. However, even though I believed I wasn’t loved, I always had the ability to love others, why is that? It took me a long time before I could see…love has always been by my side, a constant companion and guide. It’s just misguided beliefs were in the way. I was looking for someone to blame for not feeling love, in this instance it was my mother. Now I see this notion is ridiculous, she is not to blame, no one is to blame, our conditioning has the ability to manifest itself and create all kinds of stories of suffering, ie, low self-esteem, anger, jealousy, anxiety, controlling behaviour etc. but these are just our stories.

If we think about a baby being born, the child can only express by showing how he/she feels. ie if it cry’s it wants/needs something, to be fed, or sleep etc. As the child develops, it learns (coping strategies) directly from its surroundings and parenting, the child’s behaviour begins to develop.  If you are ‘good’ you will be rewarded and if you are ‘bad’ you will be punished. Unfortunately, for most children, conditioning starts to form at a very early age because ‘rules and boundaries’ are set…we lose our sense of freedom, we feel like we don’t belong, we are misplaced And so, judgements form, we build layers and walls caused by our conditioning to protect ourselves. Now we are constantly disappointed, frustrated, and easily offended. If/when we start to wake up from this madness, it’s to discover everything we believed to be true get’s turn on its head, the layers need to be peeled away and the walls knocked down in order to shine, into the essence of our being and this is where big love can be found. Big love is like mother nature, all nurturing, without prejudice or boundaries.

To me, unconditional love is a sense of freedom from suffering (both internally and externally), an overwhelming feeling of joy, a tingling sensation, a deep sense of awareness, I feel no agenda attachment. There is nothing to gain, there is no agreement, or terms to adhere to, no conditioning, no judgement, no right or wrong, no offence taken, instead there is an infinite acceptance of everything.

It is truly liberating to know all is well….a deeper sense of Knowing, like a force field that cannot be damaged, free from emotional attachment. This is big love.

What is the motive for thought to wander off into the past or future to move away from the NOW, is the current situation so lacking or unbearable? So lacking, yes maybe. We’ve been conditioned to believing that happiness is out there somewhere and we believe it, very deeply. That belief forces our attention away from what is, towards something that isn’t, that has, in itself has no happiness. This resisting of now and seeking happiness in the future is itself the veiling of the true peace and happiness that lives shining at the heart of all experience, as our very own Self.

We are so unaccustomed to just letting ourselves abide in our being, to ever discover if happiness might abide there. It’s not easy, as when we first enter a darkened room from the outside sunshine, it’s not easy to make out what might abide there, it takes time to adjust. And in the meantime, the mind is saying; this is boring, there’s nothing there, what are you doing get on out there and do something real.

Do we ever really just spend time with ourselves, our being? or are we always rushing from one experience to the next in the hope of some future happiness, so deep is our conditioning.

Everything in our culture encourages seeking happiness out there and discourages, becomes uncomfortable if you do nothing and just be. We have become frightened to “know thyself”. Can I really stop myself from telling myself; “I’ll be happy when” just catch it and drop it, don’t reinforce that belief by acting it out. No matter how comfortable you have become in life you have not found that everlasting peace and happiness that you seek. When will you be convinced that the answer is not out there?

What does this statement mean? Most things in life we have to learn about, how to bake a cake, drive a car, learn a language etc, so why do we not only not need to learn about the Self, in fact we have to unlearn all that we have supposedly learnt about the Self in the first place in order to know the Self!

Implied in the statement is that our usual method of learning about “things”, through the mind is not going to work or be appropriate to the learning about the Self and that a radical different approach is necessary. In fact it’s worth pointing out that our usual way of learning is so automatic and deeply Intrenched in us it will be quite a challenge not to fall back into it and use the wrong tool for the job with the inevitable frustrations that that leads to. We cannot get to this Self with the mind, this is really important to understand and yet the mind will insist over and over again to be involved. Even when we do come face to face with the Self (experientially), the mind will still jump in and demand, “what exactly is the self”? The mind has become very skilful in learning about “things”, their relationship, creating concepts, theories, ideas, beliefs but totally inadequate about knowing that which knows (Self) about these things in the first place. This knowing is a totally different kind of knowing that we normally associate with learning through the mind. Not only will we never, ever know our true Self through the thinking mind, the thinking mind will lead us further and further away from our true Selves and ultimately block our access to it.

Why is this so? We need to go into this quite deeply in order not only to understand, but to avoid turning this statement into just another spiritual belief or a concept. What’s wrong with a belief or concept you may ask, it generally works quite well for most things in the world? The answer being that this Self in not another “thing” in the world, it’s if you like what witnesses, is aware of things in the world and as such cannot be another thing in the world. A concept or belief is a bit like a map, it’s not the actual territory it’s only a representation, which until we actually experience the territory, we have to take on trust, but It will never be the actual territory. In the same way, concepts and belief around the Self are NOT the actual experience of the Self. It doesn’t matter how long you study the map (religion, philosophy’s, beliefs) it will never deliver the realisation of the Self.

So check this out, ask yourself the question; who am I really?” ………..what comes up? Generally what comes up is a complete blank, the mind cannot answer the question and we are from the minds point of view left in a complete void. At this point we generally either give up or read another book on spirituality in desperate pursuit of this illusive Self.

But perhaps we did get an answer but not in the form that we expected it! Perhaps this “void” that we were confronted with had within it the seed of the Self but that we just overlooked it. If that might be the case, then maybe we owe it to ourselves to spend some time in this so-called void, give ourselves permission to hang out in it despite the moaning from the mind. Could then this approach help get us closer to realising the true Self? Could this; “I don’t know actually”, be of enormous assistance to us rather than a hindrance? What a radical turn around! So as with coming into a darkened room from the sunny outside takes time for our eyes to adjust and see anything, so to when we enter this so called void, we need to spend time being receptive to the subtleties that we might discover.

Thought is quite capable of realising it’s own limitations and therefore ultimately gives way to it’s source, stillness, being.

Where are we, in time and space? Does space actually exist? Does time exist? Or are these mental abstractions that we super impose on our experience of reality in order to navigate and contain this immensity, this mystery?

When we give a place a name it’s only arbitrary, the map is not the actual territory, not the actual experience, there is no south, north, west or east or up and down to the infinite universe. So when we fully enter into the boundlessness of experience there’s no way that we can “know” where we are in the normal sense of knowing where we are, because in fact we are in truth nowhere! and never have been! In the infinite there are no reference points only the knowing of experience and what knows that knowing of experience is knowing knowing itself. Names and labels are just arbitrary lines drawn in the sand of consciousness, they are not the things in themselves, although they “appear” to have taken on a life form of their own, they are very seductive. If we strip away all the arbitrary labels about ourselves, who are we now in this moment, out of time but in eternity. Who, what, where?

When we sit here quietly together, I suspect that our individual thinking is creating it’s very own reality in this moment, so in fact we are not sitting here quietly together! Equally so the so-called world is not really here but in our individual minds, the conflicts of the world are really projections of what’s going on in our internal world and have very little to do with what we call the real world. The word world is an abstraction superimposed on our direct experience and actually doesn’t exist in our actual experience, the word water for example doesn’t make you wet.

Fear and the Separate Self go hand in hand together. Until we see that this sense of self, this sense of separateness is an illusion, that consciousness is not trapped inside a body but that a body appears within consciousness, fear and anxiety will always follow us around.

As we start to wake up from the fixations and identifications at the level mind and emotions we come to see that there isn’t a someone to be hurt; there isn’t anyone or anything to be threatened by life.

The dissolving of the separate self is a process of love falling in love with love.

Giving attention to what is and not giving attention to what appears to be, is the key to opening the prison door. (Wu Hsin)

Take a closer look at your ability (or inability) to interact with the world around you. If you are living life compulsively then your interaction will be limited. If you are living life consciously then you are open to the whole of life and you have the capability to meet life as it presents itself.

If you are caught up in psychological suffering, if you find life difficult, if it lacks meaning, then there is work to be done. Are your thoughts dictating play? The mind will control your behaviour if you allow it to (know that you are not your thoughts), the mind thinks it is protecting you but actually it can be your worst enemy. Remember, you do not have to believe everything you think.

To live a harmonious life, first you have to meet yourself in truth. If you live in a state of perpetual turmoil and/or disappointment it’s because you are setting yourself up for failure, think about it…how many times do we measure happiness? ‘…..I will be happy when…..’  ……’I am unhappy because…..’  these are all make-believe stories that we live by, they only keep us separate from life. If we continue to live compulsively and unconsciously, slaves to our negative thoughts then we will remain slaves to suffering. If we can live consciously, everything will change for the better.

Think for one moment about the enormity of the cosmos. Everything is working perfectly well in the universe without our emotional turmoil and everything we require is provided for us (even if it doesn’t seem like it) yet we are still miserable because of ‘this or that’ ….. because we are not living consciously. If you have experienced terrible things in your life, it doesn’t have to define who you are.

Accept life as it is, without judgements, prejudices, fears, anxieties etc. All of this is within your capability. Or you can stay stuck with your misery and suffering, it’s your choice. Ask yourself, how do you want to live? You will suffer for as long as you wish to suffer. When you’ve had enough, it can stop.

If you want to live a pleasant life then be pleasant, no ‘ifs or buts’ it starts with you…not with your parents, your friends, your boss, your neighbour, your children, not with self pity, or your current circumstances, not with your past (which is all just memory by the way) and certainly not with deep routed attachments to suffering…..it starts with YOU, here, right now.