Love is the most powerful healing emotion. It has been described as a bio cognitive healing field that improves our health and well-being. Love is not just a feeling; it is a way of thinking about ourselves and others. Practicing the act of loving will increase our happiness, confidence, relationships, and health. This article describes how love improves our lives phsyically and emotionally. More importantly, it presents a tool to live a life of love; regardless of the problematic circumstances and people in our lives.
George Solomon’s research reveals that thoughts and emotions influence our immune system. Negative emotions narrow our focus to being more self-centered (i.e. “what’s bothering me”). While positive emotions expand our focus to a more inclusive and warm “we.” The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) reveals that positive emotions allow us to better remain focused in the face of set-backs and frustrations of life. These positive emotions also produce a direct impact on the functioning of our immune system.
Research on forgiveness shows that it decreases the physical damage that stress does to our body. We are much less likely to experience the physical wear and tear on our bodies in repose to life stressors when we cultivate positive emotions like love. Forgiveness is extending love to ourselves and others.
Dr. Mario Martinez, a leading PNI researcher, is so convinced of by the evidence of emotions impact on our health, he states our immune system operates according to a “moral code that favors love over fear and compassion over hatred.”
Self-compassion is a critical component of love. We can not give to others, what we do not already posses. So self-compassion becomes a core requirement for healthy relationships. But self-compassion is also required to help us reach our optimal health and our optimal levels of success in life.
Self-compassion produces positive mental health outcomes. A study published in the journal Body Image showed that people with higher levels of self-compassion are less likely to be depressed. They have lower rates of eating disorders and are less likely to experience body shame . Another study of college students showed that self-compassion served as a protective layer against academic burn-out. Under normal conditions that would produce burn-out, those students with higher levels of self-compassion didn’t experience the burn-out. Research also shows that self-compassion leads us to more healthy behaviors (e.g. healthy eating, regular exercise, good sleep habits, and stress management) which supports our long-term physical well-being.
Loving ourselves creates positive mental and physical health. Too often we try to improve our physical health or productivity by “shaming” ourselves into good behavior. We imagine that being a hard task master on ourselves will force us to get our act together and perform our best. Yet, research shows the exact opposite. We feel and perform our best when we practice loving ourselves on a daily basis.
It is easy to love people who are kind to us, but how do we love those who are not? How do we show love to the driver who cuts of off, the rude cashier, or family member who has just made a hurtful comment to us? We’ve already discussed how important love is to our health and well-being. As well as how critical love is in reshaping our relationships. So we can not allow our quality of life to be diminished by the action of others. We must learn to love at all times, especially when it’s difficult.
In their book Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels introduce us to powerful tools of visualization that help us to create a successful life. Often we think of ourselves as helpless and subject to our current feelings or circumstances. In the book Tools, we learn how we can actively create the (inner and outer) reality we seek.
These tools are built on a combined 60-years of psychoanalytic practice with hundreds of patients. The authors remind us that theses tools are not just cognitive exercises. The exercises position us to access the power of the spirit realm to strengthen and shape our daily life.
Personally, I’ve practiced the tools since reading the book and have found it very effective in restructuring my reality. I’d like to share with you the second tool (Active Love) to help you increase your capacity to live a life of love. Stutz and Michels describe the tool of active love as having three important components: concentration, transmission, and penetration. In the section below, I walk you through the three steps of the visualization of active love.
Get into a relaxed position, either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply. Breathe so that your belly rises and falls with each breathe. Listen to your heart beating and the flow of your breath. Now visualize your heart soaking up all of the love that is around you. Your heart draws love to it like a magnet. As your heart attracts love it is growing larger and larger. Watch your heart grow in size and power with the fullness of love.
Now visualize your heart directing the full strength of its love outward like a laser beam. Your heart is pulsing a laser beam of love. The love flows in a steady and powerful stream from your heart.
Next visualize the person to whom you want to direct that love. It could be the cashier person who was rude to you, the family member who made the hurtful comment, or even the driver that cut you off on the road. Even if you have not seen the person’s face, make up a face for that person. Visualize them standing directly in front of you, facing you. If the object of your anger is an abstract idea (e.g. poverty, a nation, religion), visualize that entity as a person.
Visualize the pulsating beam of love emanating from your heart going directly to the heart of that person. Watch it pierce through their outer layers and penetrate to the deepest parts of them. Feel the point of contact and connection with that person. Feel you giving them a transfusion of love. This love comes from you, but does not start with you. This is the love you have freely received and you are sharing with this person.
Watch the laser beam of love fill their hearts. Watch it circulate throughout their entire body. Visualize it flowing from their heart to their head. Watch it flow into their arms, legs, fingers and toes. Every part of their body is washed in this flow of love. Now watch the flow of love completely envelop them in a bubble as they float off into distant space.
Open your eyes and notice how you feel. You have just given that person, and yourself, the gift of love. You have played an active role in promoting physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in our world. Love is the gift that keeps on giving. When you give away love, you wind up with more than when you began. Practicing the tool of active love increases the healing power of love that you experience.
Although this exercise only takes a few minutes, it produces substantial changes in us and in our world. Some of these changes happen immediately and some occur over a longer period of time. It is important for you to know that what you have done matters. Practicing active love is an important way of changing your life and changing your world.
Stutz & Michels encourage readers to be critical skeptics. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the power of the tool, it only matters that you use it. As you use the tool, you will see the changes produced in your own life. Ultimately, this is all the proof you need.
I urge you to commit to using the tool of active love this week. Use it whenever you find yourself feeling angry or frustrated. Practice active love whenever you experience feelings of anger, find yourself ruminating on past injustices, or are preparing to interact with difficult people. Whenever you want to promote healing and connection with another person use the active love tool.
Every day will present you with many opportunities to practice the tool of active love. Record your observations and reflections on this experiment in a journal each day. At the end of the week, you will have a written record of some of the immediate impact of the tool of love on your life.
Share below your reflections on practicing love on a daily basis and the difference you see it making. I’d personally like to thank you for supporting yourself and adding more light to this world. Thank you!
Being a person of action is important because it keeps us from being passive participants in life. When we commit to acting upon the world, we help to reshape ourselves and our world through our own efforts. Yet, not all action is equal.It is important to distinguish between fear based action and inspired action. Only inspired action will allow you to create the life your desire.
These two distinct types of action the produce different results in your life. Fear based action will drain your energy, alienate you from others, and undermine your health. Inspired action will produce the exact opposite effect in your life. It will provide you with more energy, connect you to yourself and others and promote your health and well-being.
So how can you tell which type of action is motivating you? I’ve identified three characteristics to help you distinguish inspired action from fear based action. Pause to ask yourself these questions, before you act. Your answer will reveal to you the true motivation for your behavior. The brief reflection will give you an opportunity to make a choice about the type of action you want in your life.
Is this ego-driven or purpose-driven? Are you performing this action because it will make you look good to others or because it is in line with your life purpose? Inspired action is any activity that expresses or advances your life purpose. It is action that you “have to” do because it is an expression of your most authentic self.
This is a question that only you can answer. The same action could be either ego driven or purpose driven. Consider for example, serving food to homeless families in a soup kitchen. That act of generosity could be driven by ego; an attempt to show to others what a good and moral person you are. The same activity could be an expression of your life purpose to eradicate suffering in the world. You are the only person who can answer this question about your behavior. Just remember to be honest and to use this question to reflect on all your actions, even the seemingly “noble” ones.
Is this motivated by fear or by love? This is a question, that only you can answer. Inspired action is always motivated by love. Dr. Martinez’s research reveals that emotions are bio-cognitive fields that can either be healing or destructive to our physical and emotional health. This means that the emotion motivating your action alters your physical and psychological state. Research on social intelligence helps us understand how these subtle emotional states are communicated to others with whom we interact.
Much like how we “catch colds” from interacting with others who have a particular bacteria or virus, we can “catch” emotions in the same manner. Emotions shape our cognitive understanding of the world and our physical health. Thus, it’s very important that we maintain our own emotional health so we don’t negatively impact others with our dis-ease.
Dr. Martinez argues that fear and love are mutually exclusive bio-cognitive states. Fear always produces damage to the immune system and love always repairs the damage and restores healthy functioning. So, the question of the emotion motivating our action, is not an esoteric one. Rather, the emotion motivating our action shapes our well-being and the well-being of those with whom we interact.
Will this action only benefit myself or will it benefit others as well? Inspired action is action that benefits ourselves as well as others. We do not need to see the world as mutually exclusive choice between our well-being and the well-being of others. Inspired action allows us to see how we can contribute to our own well-being and happiness by actions that benefit others. Happiness research reveals that activities which focus on doing good for others not only makes us happier, but makes us healthier as well. Researchers at UCLA distinguished between two types of happiness: happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life and happiness focused only on pleasure seeking and self-gratification. In their report to the National Academy of Sciences, they found that happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life promotes the gene expression of anti-viral and antibody genes. Happiness focused only on self-gratification had the opposite effect, suppressing the health of the immune system.
An important part of empowering yourself is taking the time to pause and reflect on what is important to you. As you become more clear on your life purpose and core values, you are able to evaluate your activities in light of this focus. Inspired action expresses your life purpose, is motivated by love, and places you in the service of others. This type of action strengthens your sense of meaning and feelings of connection in the world. These attributes are empirically proven to improve both your physical health and your happiness.
Inspired action is much like the Tao concept of “effortless action” (non-action). The process of being and flowing from one action to the next effortlessly, rather than imposing conscious action. Based on knowing yourself. It feels like you’re not doing anything except showing up and being who you are.
This is how inspired action puts you in your flow. You are no longer “making” yourself do things, you are simply “being”. That is more than enough. Your authentic presence brings the gifts of love, purpose, and healing to both you and others.
Inspired action is a choice. It is a choice that is always available to you at the moment you decide to act. Give yourself and our world the gift of your inspired action. Create a life that produces happiness and healing through your inspired action. Start today.
Share your moments of inspired action in the comment box below. How have you showed up and shared your authentic self with the world today? I am proud of your courageous commitment to be uniquely you and to share the gift of you with our world. Thank you!
In 1928 Marguerite Annie Johnson, the great spirit that we have come to know and love as Maya Angelou, began her life journey. Maya gained strength and wisdom from her family and community that enabled her to thrive in spite of the oppressive force of Jim Crow segregation. Through her writings, Maya Angelou taught us how to transform our own suffering into triumph Click & Tweet! . As I reflect upon her legacy, I am struck by three major themes that shaped Maya Angelou’s life and writings. These themes present important life lessons to us about how we can transform our suffering, maximize our joy, and impact our world. Click & Tweet!
As a woman who enjoyed a long and prosperous career as a writer, poet, actor, and singer, it is hard to believe that Maya Angelou’s voice was ever silent. Yet from the ages of 7-12, Maya experienced selective mutism. Maya Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Shortly after her telling her brother about the abuse, the man who abused her was found dead. Maya refused to speak believing that her speaking caused his death. Even her silence was a result of Maya’s belief in the power of voice. Fortunately, Maya regained her willingness to speak and through her writings has helped so many people who were also victims of sexual abuse also find their voice.
The first of her autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, discussed this traumatic event and other painful memories of growing up under racial segregation. This book was an immediate national and international success, catapulting Maya Angelou onto a worldwide stage. It also made literary history as the first non-fiction best seller written by an African American woman. Maya Angelou’s willingness to courageously voice her truth paved the way for her success and enabled her to help countless people around the world who have read and benefited from her work.
This is the power of voice. Imagine how your life can change and how other people can benefit from the contribution of your voice. Do not shrink from the challenge of the task by playing small and suggesting that there is nothing for you to contribute. Your challenges and triumphs have given you a unique perspective that will add value to others if you are willing to give it voice. If there is something you want to say, chances are there is someone who wants to hear it Click & Tweet! . Activate the power of your voice.
Maya Angelou’s artistic career began in her late teens and continued until the time of her passing in 2014. She was always producing without recognition of the clock of ageing and cultural expectations about slowing down. Maya Angelou published her first memoir at the age of 41. She began her academic career as a college professor at the age of 53 and was invited by President Bill Clinton to write a special poem for his Presidential Inauguration at the age of 65.
Much of the reason for Maya Angelou’s longevity in her career is the vitality with which she approached life. She was always learning and growing which enabled her to continually make fresh contributions to our world. The writings of Maya Angelou are not recycled versions of her earlier work; they reflect change and growth. Maya demonstrated a willingness to engage in new forms of expression and start new careers past the age when society expects us to retire from life.
Maya Angelou serves as a positive model for aging, especially for women who are often taught to connect our vitality to youth. I remember the wisdom she shared with Oprah about the glory of life after 50. Although I was barely 20 at the time that show aired, I remember thinking how excited I am about turning 50! And then Maya returned to the Oprah show to report that 80 was even better!
Maya Angelou showed us that our beauty, vitality, and ability to make valuable contributions to the world does not stop at any age Click & Tweet! . Her commitment to life-long learning and her openness to sharing makes Maya’s legacy so impactful. She did not shrink from the painful, dark places both internally and externally. She faced them with courage, humor, and love and invited us to do the same.
Maya Angelou spent much of her time in the 1960’s living abroad. She lived in Egypt for some time and worked as an editor of the English language weekly, The Arab Observer. Later Maya Angelou move to Ghana where she worked as a freelance writer and editor of The Ghanaian Times. These extended travels outside of the United States helped to expand Maya’s understanding of herself and her place in the world. She later returned to the US to help her good friend Malcolm X build his new organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity(OAAU).
The experiences and relationships that Maya formed during her travels expanded her understanding of the human struggle and the possibilities for our collective future. Travel can do the same for us. Too often we remain in our comfort zones, interacting only with people who share our identities and perspectives. Whether we are traveling across town, across the country, our across the world, travel can disrupt our comfortable notions of ourselves and our world Click & Tweet! . This disruption is valuable because it requires developing a bigger, more comprehensive perspective that can incorporate the new perspectives and experiences of the diverse people we encounter through our travels.
Maya Angelou has given us a precious gift by sharing her life and her art with us. Although we can no longer ask her questions about the new challenges of our day, we can continue to draw upon her wisdom. We are the beneficiaries of Maya Angelou’s legacy and we can commit to making sure that this powerful legacy does not end with us. We can choose to share the courage, wisdom, and love that Maya shared with us Click & Tweet! . We can give the gift of our voice, commit ourselves to lifelong learning and growth, willingly share our contributions with the world, and expand our horizons by engaging people and places outside of our comfort zones. In doing this, we rise to greet the possibilities of each new day with the hopefulness embedded in Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning.” Please listen to the poem below and imagine Maya Angelou speaking to you about the power and potential that exists within you at this moment.
I invite you to share your own reflections on the legacy of Maya Angelou for you below.