We all know what love is, don’t we? You can’t really measure it scientifically. There’s no formula for how to produce it, but we definitely know when it’s there and when it’s not. And we all value love and want it in our lives. More, please, even. So how do we cultivate more loving relationships?
One thing we do know how to make is a garden. We plant seeds, carefully chosen to thrive in a particular environment–sunny or shady, temperate or tropical, warm or cold. We water the plants. We fertilize. We trim branches and vines when they become overgrown. We keep weeds out.
What if we cultivate love like we cultivate our gardens?
In her lecture series, The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection and Courage, Brenè Brown says,
We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.
So, to follow the analogy, what soil, sun, water, and tending are to a garden, trust, respect, kindness, and affection are to a relationship. That is the place where love thrives. We hold ourselves in that space, that garden, and treat ourselves with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Then, once we’re used to how that feels, we invite others into that garden and shower them with trust, respect, kindness, and affection as well.
Can you imagine a place where trust, respect, kindness, and affection flourish? It’s a tender place. A beautiful place. It encourages rather than criticizes. It is considerate rather than thoughtless. It treats others as itself. And it gives of itself to help the union grow.
How would that kind of garden transform your home, your classroom, your neighborhood, your world?
But, remember, in any garden, we keep out weeds and do some pruning. Stomping on plants, wild animals, too much or too little sun and water, weeds, and neglect can kill a garden. In the same way, shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection destroy loving relationships.
Today, as you engage in relationship, shower yourself and those in your garden with trust, respect, kindness and affection. Keep shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection far, far away. They don’t belong there.
And then watch your love garden blossom. It will delight you and make your life fragrant and colorful!