December 16, 2012
AHIMSA. n. Sanskrit. A word that encompasses love and compassion for each other. We all crave it. We all need it. Best of all, the gift of love benefits both the sender and receiver. As human beings, we are programmed to feel and express love in all its forms. This time of year emphasizes giving — not only the “stuff” of commercial dreams, but also the feel-good qualities that, while harder to put into words, fill us up with the warmth of a cozy blanket on a winter’s day.
Evolutionarily speaking, love is the glue that keeps us together. It solidifies maternal-child bonding, it underscores the relationship between partners, it feeds attachment to community and it is the emotion that has ensured our survival as a species. In the days before human beings could walk on two feet, those who banded together and cared for each other survived and propagated their positive qualities. Hence the gene for love endures to the present day.
Nurturing love involves benevolence and compassion towards others and ourselves. It is a universal emotion that is experienced by all of us. Unfortunately, we often get so caught up in the chaos of life that what would otherwise come naturally somehow gets lost. The irony, of course, is that love is one of our greatest survival tools.
The next question to ask is how to foster love. Through out the ages, countless painters, poets, artists and even scientists have had their theories. My favorite method is to “fill the bucket,” as found in the children’s book by Carol McCloud, Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? It’s a simple but effective technique. We each carry an invisible bucket that can be filled with positive or destructive feelings. The caveat is that we are each responsible for filling another person’s bucket. Then, on a daily basis, we review our actions and ask ourselves the all-important question: “Have I filled a bucket today?” In this way we learn to give and receive love from others. Once we are open to love from others, it becomes easier to love yourself for who you are, including all your faults, foibles and fortitudes.
As I close my column for the year, it’s my turn to be a “bucket filler.” I sincerely wish all of you a happy, healthy holiday season, and a year filled with an infinite amount of joy, kindness and love.