Love makes the world go round, doesn’t it? In the humdrum of my daily life, tiny scattered moments of love usually turn out to be the best part of my day. Today, it was when my father fixed my car without telling me. Yesterday it was when my little one ran up to me to show her drawing of a smiling rainbow.
Each time I receive these gifts of unconditional love, my heart explodes with gratitude and happiness. It nourishes my soul. And it makes me want to do whatever I can to make that love grow stronger.
Demonstrating love does not require grand gestures or expensive gifts. All one needs is to be more mindful of the love one gives. As identified in the Patanjali Yoga Sutra and early Buddhist teachings, true love manifests itself within four core elements, collectively known as the Brahma Viharas or ‘the immeasurables.’
MAITRI (Friendship): The word ‘maitri’ originates from ‘mitra’ (meaning: friend). It refers to your capacity to offer happiness. When you embrace people for who they are, without any expectation, judgement or self interest, you become their source of kindness and benevolence. Think of the time when you met your closest friend for the first time. Fate may have brought you both together, but it is your ‘unconditional friendliness’ why you remain great friends to this day. Mindfulness in love means wholeheartedly giving in to the spirit of friendship, brotherhood, and togetherness.
KARUNA (Compassion): In the most fundamental sense, ‘karuna’ translates to compassion; or the ability to understand and remove suffering. With Karuna, your presence alone can bring peace of mind, especially to those who are suffering. Makes me think of the time I was travelling out of the country with a toddler and needed help getting my flight rescheduled. My husband spent 20 minutes staying on the call with me to make sure I didn’t panic and that I reached the correct flight terminal in time. Mindfulness in love means being a good listener, and a dependable support system.
MUDITA (Joy): Joy or ‘mudita’ refers to empathetic love. When you feel genuine love towards a person, their joy brings you joy. Remember that time when you did something, just to bring a smile to your mother’s face? In moments like these, Mudita expands your capacity to bring happiness to others, and makes your love stronger and deeper. It opens the heart and dissolves the negative emotions of jealousy and self-centeredness. Mindfulness in love means revelling in the joy of pure and thoughtful interactions that you share with the people you love.
UPKESHA (Equanimity): ‘Upeksha’ means non-discrimination. It gives you the serenity and even-mindedness to love beyond biases or preferences. It allows you to accept with equanimity (not with resentment or reluctance) that all people have shortcomings and that nobody’s perfect. Much the same way my grandparents relate with me. Do I follow the same cultural practices as them? No. But do they look past those differences and love me anyway? Absolutely yes. Mindfulness in love means always choosing to avoid bias and embracing people and situations as they are.
When love is rooted in these four virtues, it can truly be described as mindful. The Patanjali sutra on the 4 core elements of love brings attention to cultivating relationships with friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity. In doing so, these elements expand your heart and make it immense.
Thich Nhat Hanh once shared an interesting analogy to illustrate how immense love can reduce suffering. He said that if you add a handful of salt to a glass of water, you will not be able to drink the water. It will be salty, bitter, and won’t quench your thirst. But, if you throw that same handful of salt into an ocean, you will find that its water is still drinkable. The tiny handful of salt made no difference to the disposition of the vast ocean.
Similarly, if your heart is immense, open, and accepting, then the small impurities which bring handfuls of suffering will not be an obstacle on your course to a happier and healthier mind. Because when you are mindful in love, you have more love to give.