6 April 2015

3 Ways I'm Practicing Unconditional Love

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unconditional love

I'll enter into this conversation by sharing my spiritual name with you. (It's a relevant little detour, I promise)

After I returned from LA last year, having practiced Kundalini Yoga at Golden Bridge, I felt an incredibly loud and persistent calling to journey deeply with it; to become a student, and perhaps even a teacher. Soon after, I became interested in learning my spiritual name.

In truth, I remember scoffing at folks with spiritual names. "Puh-leeeeze" I would think to myself with a roll of the eyes. But I get it now. It is not an attempt to escape and adorn oneself in significance, instead, it's a process of leaning further into the self which can't be seen or touched or heard.

Sooner than I'd expected, I opened an email that read:

You have been blessed to live as Karan Prem Kaur, the Lioness who is filled with divine love through the power of knowing that God does it all.

Karan means knowing that God is the doer, one who makes things happen.  Prem signifies divine love.  Kaur means the Lioness of God who walks with grace and power throughout her life.

When I got home later that evening and read back over the email several times, I did what I so often do in moments when I feel life stand still – be it witnessing a sunrise, or watching a film that moves me, or indeed reading words that describe not my personality, but the essence of my Soul – I cried.

A spiritual name is a vibration and a tool that helps to elevate your energy through the power of its nadh (inner sound current), and through the divine essence of its meaning.  It is your spiritual or soul identity.  It challenges you to live in your highest consciousness and helps you progress towards your ultimate destination.  Making the choice to receive a spiritual name is taking a step toward leaving old patterns behind and connecting with your infinite self. -  3ho.org

I cried because I know - I really know – that one of my greatest life lessons is to see, feel, extend, embody and realise Divine Love (well, that probably applies to each of us, right?).

I find myself contemplating Unconditional Love most days of the week, actually. I ask myself whether I'm practicing it, being it, projecting it. Usually the answer is a very honest and soft No, no I'm not.

The thing is, my love is very conditional, and those conditions are much more detailed than I'd like them to be, but with the precious prayer of 'Karan Prem Kaur', I get the privileged assignment of untying these prerequisites to love. And what better place to start than within the home; with the person I'm sharing my life with.

Here are the three things I'm currently practicing in my romantic relationship that give me a taste of what it's like to love fully and completely, and free of conditions.

1. Quit the Always/Never Conversation

I just sighed out loud writing that because the back and forth that accompanies the destructiveness of this tit-for-tat is downright exhausting.

When I catch myself saying: 'You always [...]' or 'You never [...]' to Glen, I feel as though I've electrocuted myself with ugly words. I get jolted by the inaccuracy and manipulation of them (not to mention how it must make him feel to hear them). And when they're said to me, I feel so frustrated with spikes of 'THAT'S NOT FAIR!' that I could almost throw something across the room! These conversations need to stop. We're all grown ups here.

A thriving intimate relationship requires presence, not raging egos that collect every memory of things not going right, before projecting utter failure upon our spouse with 'Always/Never.' This stealthy little tactic ensures that our partners feel unseen and unrecognised.  It's our bully attempt at creating smallness out of them in an attempt to beef ourselves up on power. Enough is enough. In case you're thinking: Yeah, but, he does it to me too -- stop it. Someone has to instigate change, and it may as well be you.

2. Yield

Or in other words: give up the need to be right, and say sorry first.

This can feel bracing because in many ways it contradicts much of the feminist messaging from the last few decades.

I don't know about you, but I'm very aware of how I feel in my body when I am locked up in the war of trying to win.  I feel brittle, not strong. There is a harshness to me. Rigidity. When I am rigid, I make it damn hard for my man to love me. As a feminine being, I am actually most empowered when I am surrendered; not weak, or submissive, or numb to reality, but open, in every way.

A woman who can return to her breath, gain a little perspective and say 'You're right, I don't want to fight. I'm sorry', is a Queen of a woman; majestic in her understanding of relationship dynamics, and it's something that I'm striving to do more often.

The content of the conversation or argument is entirely irrelevant.  'Nope, that happened in 2009 not 2008... No, you're wrong... Wanna make a bet? No... No... That's not the right way to do it...' Who fucking cares if he's wrong. Let him win. Don't castrate him.

The saying 'Would you rather be right or happy?' springs to mind here.

3. Don't Try To Change Him

Attempting to change and control our partners isn't reserved for the Cruella DeVille's of the world. These power issues surface in the small, subtle, everyday moments, and I suspect we're all guilty of it.

It's in the suggestive tone we speak with – those moments when we give advice that's unsolicited.

You're going to turn the indicator on soon, aren't you?

That's not the right way to hold the baby...

Often nostalgia is a mega kickstarter of manipulation. "I remember when you used to [.....]. I was happier then."


Look, I'm not saying that difficult moments aren't a chance to grow together and reach new thresholds, in fact, I know they are. The difficult conversations are often the ones that bring the most profound change. That's not what we're talking about here - we're talking about the ways we ever so subtly disapprove of our partners.

Last night, Glen and I went to the movies to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and I was so brought alive by the colours, the dancing, the music! I was smiling and bopping in my seat for most of the film. So much joy!

I leaned over to him and whispered 'Oh, I love that Indian men aren't too proud to do yoga, or dance, or sing!'

It's true - I do admire that in them.

But the moment after I shared that with him, I felt the bite of realising that in effect what I had said to my love was: I would love you more if you would dance with me and sing with me and do yoga with me...

... which on a soul level could not be further from the truth.

Men and women – brace yourselves – are NOT equal.

We spend so much bloody time and energy trying to be the same that in the process we dullen the essence of our souls. We are other's polarity; each other's opposite, and it's in the coming together, the unity, that duality is dissolved. Through the interaction – the engagement – we become one.

While these experiments might feel 'hard' to practice at first, the softness that opens up in my body, when I give up the fight tells me that it's very, very right.

Maybe they'll help you too.


PS: Obviously this post is designed to speak to those of you have good relationships (and you want them to be better).

Never above did I say: Put up with crap, become a doormat and give up your will.

I trust that you can use your discernment in determining whether you need to surrender or rightfully take a stand in the moment.

PPS: I'd love  you to share this one with your friends. Thank you :)


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    • 6 April 2015

      I think this is the most perfect post on honouring relationships that I've come across. There seem to be so many rules these days that the guy must be this and the girl must be that and that is the only way to have a good relationship. I'm an introvert who suffers from anxiety who is with an extrovert who suffers from depression and we are in no way what most people I know consider a good relationship yet we have the awareness to nearly always let each other be in our truth and love just as this article describes and that is exactly what I want from a relationship :)

      • 7 April 2015

        At the end of the day, it all comes back to LOVE :)

    • Kristee
      6 April 2015

      Love this! You're always so honest and raw, thank you for being so incredibly real. Xx

    • 6 April 2015

      At the age of 39, I am 7 months into my first romantic relationship where true, deep, unconditional love is the order of the day. We both mindfully practise the unconditional part each & every day - it's a conscious decision that more & more feels like my natural default (but I won't rest on my laurels). It's real, it's raw, it's beautiful. This relationship is such a spiritual experience unlike anything that's ever entered my life. I feel so bloody lucky. So your words very much resonated with me. Thanks for sharing this with your readers, Tara. :)


      • 7 April 2015

        How totally beautiful darling. Enjoy every moment ox

    • 7 April 2015

      Loved it, Tara! I've found after the last few years of starting our family and running my own biz, huge transformational periods beg for honouring one another's needs and happiness - plenty of those raw and open conversations but also very conscious choices about the words and tones we use to each other. The positive side of this is we now check in on each other, weekly gratitudes at the dinner table and talk openly about things we want to explore or desire.

    • 7 April 2015

      Oh my Tara, I so adore this. Even after all our conversations about relationships, I still continue to learn so much from you through your words and your soothing presence.

      "When I am rigid, I make it damn hard for my man to love me. As a feminine being, I am actually most empowered when I am surrendered; not weak, or submissive, or numb to reality, but open, in every way."

      I'm feel so very blessed to have been cracked open to this perspective and have a man that not only adores me, but have a soul that now allows myself to feel that adoration in every way.

      Thank you xx

    • Priya
      7 April 2015

      Ohhhhh. While I think you meant well, there were a few jarring moments of dissonance for me in this post. "Men and women – brace yourselves – are NOT equal." Ummm, really? Do you actually mean "Men and women – brace yourselves – are not the SAME"? *That* I'll agree with. *That* I can get behind. But that we're not equal? Hmmmmm.... Them's some fighting words there, lovely.

      As far as yielding goes, I also don't think saying "You're right" to someone when you clearly think that they're wrong makes someone a 'queen' or is a path towards true connection. I love the idea of saying 'let's not fight, let's be kind, let's let it go', or of simply letting things go yourself, whether articulated to your partner or not. But saying 'you're right' to someone when you don't actually believe it is disingenuous at best and dishonest and manipulative at worst. And I think the ringing incongruence would end up bursting forth at some point (probably in an explosion over something petty, which happens to me more often that I care to admit when I say one thing but believe another).

      I also think it's a destructive generalisation to say that feminism's message over the past few decades has been to be harsh, rigid, controlling or assertive. The vast, vast majority of feminist messaging is actually that we are equal -- that's it. Not that we're better, higher, more important or that we should metaphorically beat our men into submission. To assert otherwise is disrespectful to the many women who paved the way for us to experience the tremendous freedoms we now have (with, of course, decided room for improvement ;). I feel that your statement here about feminism is careless and potentially destructive. No, not all feminists are man-bashers, and to suggest that this is a driving theme of their message is irresponsible.

      I ordinarily love your writing, Tara. But to me, this post felt ill-informed and a bit irresponsible.

      • 7 April 2015

        Thanks for contributing to the conversation Priya.

        I think you stretched my words a few times, but that's okay. Posts like these are bound to jar a few people and rub the wrong way, so I can appreciate that. I actually also really appreciate feminism and everything it stands for, this post wasn't a bash against that.

        Mainly, this post was an investigation into the complete illusion of right vs. wrong and how toxic that conversation and tension can be to unity.

        You're right, when I said 'equal' I meant 'the same', but I think most of my readers realised that.

        You're completely within your right to choose whether you like or dislike my writing, just as I'm within mine to share different perspectives with my readers.

        Sat nam xo

    • Renee
      7 April 2015

      I love this Tara. I was brought up by a single mum who did a wonderful job, but was jaded about men and the poor role that my dad played in our lives. Unfortunately this translated to us that women don't need men, they can survive on their own and shouldn't bow down etc. Etc. I would be silly not to admit that those views shaped my relationship expectations and the expectations I put on myself to be stronger than any man in my life, ultimately leading to many failed relationships. It's only in the last few years, being with a kind and gentle soul that I have realised myself what emasculation results when they are my views and boy have they drastically changed. I would like to thank my 95 year old grandmother for her wisdom there really. There are a few things she has said to me over the years that have stuck and lead to realisations later down the track. It's still tough at times to break out of the feminism but I'm so glad that I have, not only does it improve my relationship with my now husband, but I feel like I now truly feel in touch with my woman, my yin and my feminine power as opposed to taking the masculine role for both of us. Such a nice and humbling read, I wholeheartedly agree with you x

    • 8 April 2015

      Oh Tara.
      These words. I am truly moved by them. My husband and I are so madly in love, but we own a business and have three children, and so many of our arguments are of the "tit for tat, whats fair, i'm right/you're wrong" variety ~ its offing exhausting. and just as you said, when I soften, when I open, its feels so, SO right. Thank you, deeply, truly, for the reminder.

    • Emily
      8 April 2015

      Ah Tara.... I almost didn't say anything, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about this post all day so I had to come back.

      While I can totally see that your words are heartfelt, and come from a genuine caring place, something about the idea of unconditional love in the context of a romantic relationship doesn't sit right with me. Perhaps it's because I know strong, loving feminine women who have been abused, disrespected and treated badly. Perhaps it's because I know that my own marriage is based on mutual respect and trust - two conditions we stick to, if these are broken then something deep has fractured. Or perhaps it's because I'm a raging feminist and I can't let go and surrender into my feminine role ;) hehe, could be all of the above!

      Either way, I will have to respectfully disagree with you on this one. Personally, if I surrender when I know I am right, if I embody the soft and yielding aspects soft human nature in every disagreement with my love, then I don't feel that we are in a relationship on equal footing. Even as a woman, I feel that strength and power don't have to mean rigid and overbearing - it's important to stand for your truth and hold your ground even if it could be easier to give in and apologise so as not to make a scene. I think you agree with this, I know you do when you discuss other aspects of your life! I also think it's important that our male counterparts learn to embrace their softer yielding sides from time to time.... The world would be very different if each human shared the male/female gendered qualities more evenly....

      Which also leads me to wonder about how this dynamic would work in a same-sex relationship? If female = surrender, how do two women work out their issues?

      Sorry, I know this is your blog and therefore you are free of course to express your thoughts and views of the world as you see fit :) I also hope this doesn't come across as cranky - it's so hard to convey tone over the net!! I simply wanted to raise my concern that in a country struggling with shocking domestic violence statistics, we might want to consider playing strong not submissive a little more. To embody both the warrior female energy as well as the surrendering, yin, yielding....

      Sat nam xx

      • 8 April 2015

        Hey love,

        You'll notice that down the bottom, I said:

        "Obviously this post is designed to speak to those of you have good relationships (and you want them to be better).

        Never above did I say: Put up with crap, become a doormat and give up your will.

        I trust that you can use your discernment in determining whether you need to surrender or rightfully take a stand in the moment."

        ... for this exact reason.

        I also trust that all my readers know my work well enough to know that NEVER would I say: 'Oh hey, if you're in an abusive relationship, just surrender girlfriend, and soften.' That is absolute MADNESS.

        Like so many women, I witnessed and experienced abuse growing up, and a huge stretch point for me has been learning how to navigate sovereignty WHILST trusting myself to soften into a relationship.

        What this blog post is specifically speaking to, is the PETTINESS that pervades relationship, and how relinquishing the need to be right gives way for a greater intimacy -- when you can truly SEE beyond the irritation and into the soul of the unity, and give up the fight.

        It's your choice entirely to love conditionally, like you mentioned. Personally, I strive to love WITHOUT an agenda, and that includes everyone. My wonderful husband, my mother, everyone.

        'I will only love you if you [...]' is the subconscious conditioning that many of us carry around, and I believe it is poisonous; keeping couples from epic closeness.

        Loving unconditionally doesn't mean that you don't get angry or uptight. I can be tempered with my man and simultaneously still sense and know the truth of our love.

        And masculinity and femininity isn't distinguished by male and female. I am a woman with a feminine core. There are women out there with masculine cores...

        Finally, of COURSE there is a time and a place to embody the feminine warrior -- I bow to Goddess Durga and everything that diety stands for -- however I have to question whether we need to evoke her in our relationships as often as we think. Perhaps we can reserve our warrior power for the stuff that REALLY matters.

      • Emily
        9 April 2015

        Thanks for clearing that up Tara :)

        Totally get what you mean about pettiness and dropping agendas, these are definitely worthy goals!

        I'm glad the concept of unconditional love works for you, can absolutely see that we do waste energy when we bicker about inconsequential things. Need to practice letting go here and maintaining a broader perspective, for sure!

        Great topic to bring up and think about, it's something that comes up often - how does spiritual practice shift your ideas and relationships with the world around you.... Everyone's answer/response is different, thanks for sharing your own :)

    • 8 April 2015

      This: "We spend so much bloody time and energy trying to be the same that in the process we dullen the essence of our souls."

      YES! I've spent so much of my life trying to be the same as my partners or even the guys I've been interested in, which I'm only now fully discovering may work on a friendship level but NOT with someone I'm romantically involved with. Not to mention, doing so in the past led me to reject a big part of my feminine side.

      My man and I have had so many conversations/arguments that basically boil down to "Why do you do things that way and not MY way (which by the way is better?)" LOL. It's like we're constantly trying to get the other to be more like us, even though I'm sure if we were the same there would then be no attraction! Since realising this, I've been genuinely appreciating our differences instead of disapproving or trying to change them. Love that you mentioned this! xx

    • 9 April 2015

      I needed this. Thank you Tara. <3

    • 9 April 2015

      I'm not sure what I enjoyed reading more; this post or the comments! What a conversation! :D x

    • 9 April 2015

      Thank you, Tara. I love your spiritual name and reading about your Kundalini journey. I start classes next week. So excited. And I needed these reminders, thank you xxx

    • Buffy
      14 April 2015

      Love, love, LOVE this post - thank you Tara. My husband and I are polar opposites of each other, I like to call it our ying and yang which compliment each other perfectly. Too often, we both get bogged down in 'being right' or 'tit for tat' and its not nice. This has reminded me that at the end of the day, the small stuff doesn't matter, it all comes down to love and respect. xxx

    • 25 May 2015

      What a brilliant post to stumble upon. I have to say I'm guilty of all three, but probably not as conscious of the 'always/never' vernacular... Thanks for sparking the thought Tara! x

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