Thursday, July 7, 2011

Calling for Love

Many studies show that our happiness is directly related to the connection we have with others. And we are only connected to others when our hearts are open. Great concept, but hard to put into practice. How many times a day do I separate myself from someone by closing my heart with anger, judgment, criticism, fear, resentment, seeing someone else as “other”? Let’s face it, there are plenty of folks out there I really don’t want to be connected to.

I have a friend in Los Angeles who does stand up comedy. She says she supports the military policy of banning women from combat. “Why,” she asks, “would I want to go halfway around the world to wear a ton of gear in the middle of the burning desert and shoot at people who have done absolutely nothing to me, when I can sit in the air-conditioned comfort of my own living room and take out a few people who really matter?!”

Been there. So if maintaining a connection to other people is the price of admission to my happy place, I sometimes need, as Patti LaBelle sings, a new attitude.

A Course in Miracles teaches that love has no opposite. Love is all there is. (Wasn’t that the title of a Beatles song? No, that was "Love is all you need." Also true.) When something happens that blocks our awareness of love’s presence, we experience that separation as fear. When we feel afraid, we reflect our separation from others through negative thoughts, words, and behavior. In reality, all we are doing is seeking reconnection. We are calling for love. Everything we do or say or think is either an expression of love (when we are connected) or a call for love (when we are separated). Everything is one or the other. Everything. It’s that simple.

When I can remember this, I find that it is much easier to keep my heart open. For example, if someone is unkind to me, instead of reacting defensively, I can take a deep breath and think, “Man, you are seriously calling for love.” Someone cuts me off in traffic? “Hey, I see you are needing some love over there.” Big hurts, little affronts, it’s all the same. If it isn’t an expression of love, it’s a call for love.

This reframing shifts my attention from my own hurt feelings or irritation. My ego is not engaged. I can stay connected at that sacred level. It’s easier then to respond with an expression of love. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I voice affection. It might be as simple as a smile, or sending a silent blessing.

If I am unable to make this shift, if I react with separating thoughts or words or deeds of my own in retaliation, then later I can see that I was calling for love myself. And yes, sometimes I am the perpetrator who initiates the call for love by being unkind or insensitive to someone else. When I see my own behavior in this light, it is easier for me to accept responsibility and apologize.

Characterizing negative thoughts, words, or behavior as a call for love helps me avoid judging and reacting. If I can reinterpret a perceived attack, from myself or someone else, as a call for love, then my heart stays soft and open. Compassion flows naturally to others and to ourselves from an open heart. We stay connected, happier, and our lives become expressions of love.


  1. I think it was Samuel Johnson who said, to paraphrase, every moment of anger steals a moment of happiness. My heart is always open. I do not find it difficult to put into practice.

  2. I love this " if someone is unkind to me, instead of reacting defensively, I can take a deep breath and think, “Man, you are seriously calling for love.” What a beautiful way to turn negative into positive!

  3. I will forever remember such a truly inspiring comment for (oh so many drivers I meet) and will for sure say "Man, you are seriously calling for love!" ..really, really bad! are very right in this way of thinking, and my heart is open and thankful!

  4. I have to go and share this Galen... it's a wonderful post!!!

  5. I hope you don't mind Galen, but I posted your post to my facebook page called 500 days of happiness... I thought it was spectacular!

  6. JJ--You are truly an awakened person. Does anything ever wobble your equanimity? I bet your students think you are the best teacher they ever had. Thanks for your comment.

    Mitzi and Karen--Glad you like the phrase! When I can remember to use it, it's very effective! Thanks for your comments.

    Tracy--So glad you like it and thank you for passing it along via facebook. I appreciate your comments.

  7. Thank you for the reminder that I really need to open my heart. It would probably make my current reality a whole lot more tolerable.

    Hope you are well! Thinking about those little babies! Just a few more weeks! :)

  8. Chrissy--Yes, they will be here before we know it! Thanks for commenting.

  9. Galen,

    This is so beautiful in its simplicity. And, I believe we need very simple transformative tools in this stressed and overwhelming day and age. A friend was telling me that whenever he starts to contract he tries to moving into loving kindness practice. The idea is very similar to what you present here. It's not necessarily easy, but because it's simple, it makes it so much more possible to do.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm going to write the key points in my journal.

  10. That was a lovely post and I can tell you have a heart full of compassion for others.
    You must be a great blessing to all of those who surround you. I always love reading your uplifting thoughts.
    Blessings to you!
    Living Waters by LeAnn
    google comments is down.

  11. I will certainly remember this one. It is difficult to have compassion for everyone, but thinking of others as them calling for love makes it easier. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Great post Galen and reminder that we shouldn't take things personally because all too often if someone gets angry with us it's not so much what we did as the attitude they have. We can never really be too compassionate and instead of asking what's their problem try to fix it:)

  13. Sandra--You are right. If it's simple, it is easier to remember and the more often we can remember, the easier it is to grow a habit. Thanks for commenting.

    LeAnn--I have my compassionate moments, as we all do. Techniques like this help me remember to move in that direction. Thank you for your lovely words.

    Beliza--Yes, using this technique helps me not get so heated, or hurt. Thanks for commenting.

    Annabel--You hit on an important point about not taking things so personally. It's rarely about us. Thanks for your comment.

  14. "Characterizing negative thoughts, words, or behavior as a call for love helps me avoid judging and reacting."

    I need this right now. Sending love sure beats dealing with anger or frustration! Thank you for sharing this special post.

  15. Galen, what a great way to be able to "detach" from the "upsets" we feel brought upon us by others. I do feel that it requires a huge "shift" in our thinking and believing--just as it is to stop trying to control others. As in other significant changes in my ingrained habits and patterns, I'm going to try sending love in challenging situations in small ways at first.


  16. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" Goethe. This quote is one that really makes me kinder in my outlook towards others. So being more loving must be somewhere nearby in the same neighborhood. A wonderful,inspiring post Galen.

  17. Love really is all there is. It's not an easy place to come to... and an even more difficult place to stay in...but acquiescence is the key to acceptance. It seems to come in cycles [it does for me at least] the sense of connection and disconnection. For the most part I try to keep my heart open and soft. How successful I am depends on where in the cycle I sit... but at the heart of it I wouldn't hurt a fly [not intentionally anyway] and default to kindness automatically. I think it's intrinsically in us. We just have to nurture it and tease it out. Another thought provoking post Galen... thank you :-)

  18. restoring--Glad this came in a timely manner! Thanks for your comment.

    Danny--Starting small is a great approach. More chance of success and less chance of getting discouraged. Thank you for commenting.

    Riley--Thank you for the great quote (now in my file!) and for your comment.

    Jean--I love your outlook that kindness is our natural default. We just have to not get in our own way. Thank you for a thought provoking comment!

  19. Hey Galen,

    THat's a very nice post because kindness and love is the true way to be a great person in life because it's a part servantship in life! I truely agree that we sould close our heart criticism, judgement, and on because it affects us as we be around!

  20. Galen: Really great message and wisdom. I will take it all in this morning :) I thought what you shared from CIM was powerful ... anything is either an expression of love or a call for love. Great message. Thanks for sending it my way.

  21. Tyler--You are right that redirecting our energy away from criticism and being judgmentalcan have a positive effect on us and those around us. Thanks for commenting.

    Sibyl--This core message from ACIM made a big difference to me in my life. I am glad you like it, too! Thanks for your comment.

  22. Galen, I need to comment again because I followed your advice and it really worked in an unexpected way. I'm an avid tennis player. When I was playing doubles the other day, one of the players on the other team kept saying "thank you" in a sarcastic way every time I made an error.
    It was really upsetting me--and my game suffered. I then remembered what you said about giving love to even those that irritate us. I told myself, "this person needs love" and I sent it his way. From that point on, I was no longer upset, my game improved and we won handily!

  23. Danny--Thank you for taking the time to comment again and to share your story. This is a great example! Good for you!

  24. I've been working with A Course in Miracles..., and love it. If it is not love it is fear -simple. Also..., clearly seeing when I wanted "love" from others in a craving kind of way (coming from lack), helped me big time not to re-act. And "a quick fix of wisdom and truth" is exactly what I want my blog to be, plus support for my practice (to sit daily and attempt to feel the truth, meditate...) -so thanks!!!

  25. Maya--I like that simplicity, too! At my discussion group tonight we talked about calling for love v. expressing love, another concept related to the love/fear distinction. Thanks for your comment.

  26. I read this article when you first posted it, but I'm back here again because I'm desperately in need of a refresher - when someone is unkind to me, they are calling for love. It is a call for love. Even when my step-mother-in-law cruelly critizes my daughter and can't see my daughter's agony past her own selfish needs, it is a call for love. I'm trying desperately here to open release my anger and open my heart to her. Desperately. But just when I'm almost there, I think, "But maybe someone is unkind because they are completely selfish and incapable of empathy and it's not actually a call for love because they love themselves so totally and completely that they have no need for others." Any suggestions?

  27. Hi, Kara. Yes, I do have a suggestion. Don't get too stuck in the words "call for love." The idea is not that we are consciously calling for love. The idea is that at some deep level we are perceiving ourselves as separated--at a soul/heart level. This triggers fear and a desire to reconnect, often way below our conscious level.

    You might think of it in these words--everything we do or say or think is either an expression of connection (love) or an expression of disconnection (call for love). Everything we do or say or think that is a call for love is based in fear.

    When we are feeling connected, we express love--through kindness, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, joy. Cruelty can never be an expression of love. It can therefore only be an expression of disconnection based in fear.

    The situation you describe would strain anyone's ability to stay connected and express love. When I say that I mean at a soul/heart level. We don't have to stay in the presence of or voice love to someone who is being harmful to us. And as parents, we sometimes have to step in to protect our children from a harmful person even while we try to keep our hearts open with compassion.

    The purpose in trying to shift our perspective is not to change the other person (we can't control that), but rather to keep ourselves in a place where our own spirits are open and connected.

    If you can't, then turn some compassion and forgiveness towards yourself. We all do the best we can.

    I can appreciate what a difficult situation you are in. I hope this helps a little.

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  29. Kara--Sometimes having information helps. When my son was small, I found that letting people know that some of his behavior was due to autism helped them be much more accepting and compassionate. So maybe having some diagnostic information about your MIL will be helpful.

    As for whether she is even unconsciously seeking reconnection, I think it can only be one or the other. If she isn't expressing love/connection, then she is seeking love/connection. Remember that what we are talking about here is something that happens at a deep soul/energetic level. It might or might not be part of our consciousness or even our personality. For example, my son James is autistic and generally does not care about or seek social or love connections with others. That does not necessarily mirror what is happening at a soul/energetic level. Perhaps he's doing the best he can.

    In any event, we can't really know what is happening in another person's spirit. We can only know what is happening in ours. Characterizing someone's behavior as a call for love is not really about them at all. It is simply a way for ME to shift my own perspective and to keep my own heart open and expressing love.

    Does that make sense? If characterizing your MIL's behavior as a personality disorder or a call for love or anything that helps YOU keep your heart open (whether or not you choose to spend time in her presence), then that is a useful tool.

    I hope that helps...a little more!

  30. Oh yeah, I do remember this was a great phrase...very cool! have you been using it too?!

  31. Kearn--I do use it! The phrase came from A Course in Miracles. Thinking of everything in connection to love without opposite really changed the way I interact with the world. Thanks for your comment.


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