Love is an experience that we all seek. Love gives us a feeling of warmth, connection, acceptance and appreciation. It makes us feel like we're arriving home.
When we feel love, we know who we are. We're happy and at peace. Life makes sense through the eyes of love.
But many of us aren't connected to the essence of what love is as much as we'd like to be. Instead, we tend to feel like something is missing and end up searching for the answer of love "out there."
When we're disconnected from the internal flow of love, we use people and experiences to fill the void within. We become compulsive, antsy and emotionally-starving for that feeling we all desire — oneness, completion, peace, happiness … the feeling, the essence, of love.
In the long-run, chasing love will never work because love is not some object found in the outside world. Love is an experience. And it is an experience that we cultivate from within.
Of course there are people, places and things that enhance love. However, relying on outside circumstances to feel good can cause us to confuse love with codependency. That is, if you rely on other people to make you feel good, you'll find you're only happy when you get what you want, and then devastated when you don't. We've all been on this path and I'm sure we all agree that it doesn't lead to that sustainable feeling of love and wholeness that we're looking for.
That's because love can only feel sustainable if it is first cultivated from within. This is the most important lesson there is to create an entire life beaming with love and connection.
While Valentine's Day is typically seen as a Hallmark-holiday reserved for couples, I encourage you use this time of year to celebrate something more this year: not only can you take some time to give yourself some love on V-Day, but you can let Valentine's Day be an opportunity to celebrate love itself.
Below is a simple love-ritual — a sequence of inquiries that will guide you to create love from within. Set aside 30 minutes and sit down in a quiet space with your favorite journal. Move through the exercises to honor the essence of love within you. Doing so will guide you to shine with love from the inside-out.
Love-Ritual: Celebrate the Essence of Love
1. Appreciate the love you feel for yourself.
Loving yourself is the best way to practice feeling more love. Of course, it's also one of the most difficult expressions of love we can make.
Part of the reason for the difficulty, I think, is that many people get confused about what self-love is. In my mind, its something very simple: self-love is the act of treating yourself with kindness, compassion, appreciation and generosity. It's treating yourself the same way you'd treat an old, dear friend.
In your journal, make a list of 10 things you appreciate about yourself. As you create this list, pause after each thought to honor the love and gratitude you feel. This exercise will feel like a big hug, and you'll notice the essence of love rising from within your heart.
2. Appreciate the love you feel for others.
There are probably many people on this planet that are easy for you to love (and if there aren't many, there's at least one!). Take a moment to honor the love you feel for the people who have blessed your life.
In your journal, list five to 10 people you feel grateful for; pause after you write each name to honor this person in your heart, silently thanking them for how they've touched your life. As you do, you'll feel your love growing from the inside-out.
3. Appreciate the love you feel for nature, animals, places and our planet.
Nature overflows with love. Animals overflow with love. Even flowers overflow with love!
Have you ever noticed how your body and mind reset and feel more alive when you spend time with the natural world? This is because nature is uninterrupted life-force; it connects us with the essence that we're all made of (yes ... the essence of love).
Make a list of at least five places, animals or aspects of the natural world that you feel grateful for. Let your heart run wild — feel love for the moon, the stars, a park near your home, your pets or whatever feels right. Pause after each item on the list to notice how your love grows.
4. Appreciate the love you feel for what's to come.
We are creating our realities from the inside-out. When you combine intention with the feeling of love, your desires become your reality.
Make a list of five to 10 experiences that you want to have in the future, and feel grateful for them as if they are occurring in the present moment. Notice how the feeling of vitality and gratitude already exists for a desire that is yet to come. Hold your dreams in the essence of love, and you will create them from the inside-out.
5. Appreciate love itself.
To complete this ritual, take a few moments to appreciate love itself. Appreciate that you are able to grow this feeling inside yourself. Appreciate how good it feels to bathe in the bliss of your true nature — the experience of love.
Always remember that love is found within; it's waiting for you to discover it. If you find yourself chasing love on the outside, stop and drop into your heart. Celebrate the essence of love everyday of your life, and you will shine from the inside-out.
Please leave comment below telling us the most potent thing you experienced from doing this love-ritual. We'd love to hear from you!
If you'd like to know more about how I can help you grow love from the inside-out, sign up here.
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to relationships. She has worked with thousands of clients on improving their relationships with others and themselves, and she's also the instructor of the popular mindbodygreen courses How To Become The Most Attractive Version Of Yourself and How To Attract A Partner.