How to Love (Mindfulness Essentials, #3) | Thich Nhat Hanh

Summary of: How to Love (Mindfulness Essentials, #3)
By: Thich Nhat Hanh

Introduction

Welcome to the enlightening world of deep human connection explored in Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘How to Love (Mindfulness Essentials, #3)’. This book summary takes you on a journey to understand how mindfulness can transform your life and your relationships. Happiness, Zen Buddhism, and the nature of true love are the key topics as you discover how to use mindfulness to nourish love and happiness in yourself and others. Exploring the essence of true love, you’ll find that loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are its defining traits. Learn to trust and respect yourself, and apply the same to your partner to build a stronger connection.

The Nourishment of Love

Love is a living thing that needs sustenance to grow and flourish, just like every other being. Happiness acts as the food of love, feeding and nourishing it. However, one cannot attain happiness by fulfilling superficial desires; it comes through mindfulness. Mindfulness is about experiencing and appreciating the present moment, noticing and appreciating the beauty in the world. By practicing mindfulness and sharing these gifts with others, one learns to spread love and happiness. When we expand our hearts, we become capable of treating others with compassion and empathy, instead of letting their faults enrage us.

The Nature of True Love

Love isn’t about personal gain, but rather understanding and empathizing with others’ suffering. True love is characterized by loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. It reveals a world of beauty, feels refreshing and solid, and gives a sense of freedom, tranquility, and joy. Maintaining a relationship requires treating each other with deep respect. True love expands to encompass all living things.

Love, Respect, and Trust

True love starts with self-respect and trust, extending to your partner by acknowledging their goodness and offering trust and respect.

Love is more than just an emotion conveyed to a loved one. It is also about respecting and trusting yourself, the starting point of love. Love flows two ways, and trust is necessary for its realization. Building trust is not just about acknowledging the goodness of your partner; you must also prove it to them.

Learning to look inwards is crucial to loving yourself. You need to learn how to accept your body as it is, respect it, and appreciate what makes you unique. However, we are conditioned to just focus on the imperfections in ourselves and others, bringing a critical view to everything rather than acknowledging the beauty in things, including ourselves.

Consequently, we need to remind ourselves and others that we are already beautiful. That way, we can trust and respect ourselves, becoming a haven that we can seek shelter in times of trouble. Once we have learned how to respect and trust ourselves, the next step is to extend it to our partners.

Love without trust is impossible, and you need to start by trusting your partner and extending respect to them. Proving trust and respect to your partner requires action, not words. The author had an encounter with a couple whose relationship lacked trust and respect, leading to sadness. The wife was shown the beauty of trust and respect with a list of things that her husband loved and respected about her, and her sadness was instantly transformed into joy.

In conclusion, the foundation of love is built on self-respect and trust and extends to your partner by acknowledging their goodness and offering trust and respect.

The Practice of True Love

The spiritual and religious figures of history are often associated with the concept of true love, and for good reason. Spiritual practice helps us to learn how to love, nurturing our happiness and helping us to change for the better. This practice involves harmonizing our physical and spiritual bodies through techniques like meditation and mindfulness, leading to a greater understanding of our own emotions. Deep listening and physical intimacy can both be effective means of establishing intimacy with others. Ultimately, the search for intimacy is related to the search for true love, which can be achieved through the practice of spiritual awareness and mindfulness.

True Intimacy Beyond Physical Pleasure

Intimacy and sex are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct from one another. While sex can be enjoyable, it cannot establish true intimacy. Loveless sex only reinforces the disconnection between heart and mind. People often turn to sex to alleviate loneliness, but it is not a cure. A relationship based on shared dreams, aspirations, and emotional depth is the only remedy for loneliness. Practicing sex wisely involves harmonizing desires with those of your partner. Saying no to sex when it does not reflect your wishes is an essential part of this mindfulness. Sexual energy can be transformed and utilized in other aspects of life, just like how celibate monks harness it for other activities.

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