Learning to love is like swimming against the current of a powerful river; most of our conditioning is pushing us in the other direction. So it is a question of developing your muscles: the more you use them, the stronger they get.
Likening the spiritual stuff to simple skills is something I love about Eknath’s writing. A concept as deep as Love is suddenly demystified in one short metaphor—now Love is talked about in the simple terms of practicing, just as a swimmer would practice becoming stronger.
Before I understood this idea I thought that how much a person loved was more or less set: that person is a loving person; I’m a person who is only a bit loving. Or, when I did believe the ability to love was a bit more mutable, I still never felt I had a good way for going about improving at it. I knew I should be more loving, so I would try, and then when I at some point failed (inevitably) I would be discouraged at my apparent absence of progress and concede that I am simply not that loving of a person.
But now with loving as a skill as straightforward as swimming everything makes so much more sense. If I was a competitive swimmer wanting to be the best in the world then every swimming pool in sight would be a chance to practice. Similarly, if I’m really serious about growing my ability to love, then every encounter with another person is a chance to practice.
So my day has now become one big training session. At every turn there is a chance to practice loving more and better. And everyday I can see more results, just as a swimmer would if she trained with focus and determination.
When you put the other person’s welfare foremost every day, no matter how strong the opposing tide inside, you discover after a while that you can love a little more today than you did yesterday. Tomorrow you will be able to love a little more still.