In Thich Nhat Hanh’s succinct book, “How To Love,” he explores the elements of what makes love true and shifts it from concept into action. Hanh defines true love, as he sees it, through four qualities: lovingkindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. These four elements flush out the roots of true love and bring them into the light of the heart’s full capacity. Here is a description on how to use them.
Lovingkindness is active and mindful daily awareness and practice of wishing ourselves and others well, of holding a full heart by intending the best circumstances for all. Below is a daily meditation (Metta Meditation) to cultivate kind wishes and love for self and others and expand our heart’s capacity:
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
“Compassion is a verb” Thich Nhat Hanh, p. 104
Becoming mindful of one’s own suffering and recognizing the universal elements of suffering in others is the action of compassion. Hanh explains that expanding our capacity to know others suffering as our own and vice verse is a transformative practice that eases pain and invites us into deep relationship with our shared humanity. Separation and polarization decreases as we practice deep seeing and knowing, truly experiencing the truth of intimate belonging. Our heart expands beyond conceived ideas of mine and your’s as well as the depth of our capacity to feel and relate. The field of the loving heart opens up naturally over time and rests in deep inclusivity.
Do, say, think, be what is joy. Offering joy to another, Hanh explains, nourishes all and is an offering that eases challenges. When we contact joy in ourselves it impacts those around us in more than readily seen ways. We are relational creatures and the energy we bring to each other has a profound impact in ways that often go unnoticed and unexpressed. Sharing our joy gives other people permission to experience that quality of their nature and pass it on. It is food for our loving hearts to grow strong and connected.
Equanimity is the quality of true love that Hanh says is nondiscrimination. Boundaries between you and me are no longer present in this active awareness. It is the recognition that there is no individual suffering, we are all suffering; there is no individual happiness, our happiness is other’s happiness. We are in this together! This experience of equanimity, of what happens to me happens to you, like all the other qualities of true love depends on deep looking, mindful awareness of our shared humanity.
Go forth and cultivate love, be love and offer True Love!
“The outer work will never be puny if the inner work is great.” Meister Eckhart