Who is easiest for you to love?
Erich Schiffmann, an internationally renowned master yoga teacher, posed the question during a weekend intensive I attended a few months ago. He quickly refined the question: It was not about who do you love the most. It is not for whom would you do anything. Nor for whom you would die protecting.
Who is easiest for you to love?
My mind immediately snapped to the obvious answers. Well, my family, of course! My husband, my children, my grandson. Without a doubt they are the ones I love the most. They occupy a vast and prominent landscape in my emotional territory. Their place in my heart is assured. And though I hope I’m never put to the test, I would do anything to protect them.
But... easiest to love? Honestly? Not always. Like most human relationships, my love for family is layered with expectations — mine and theirs. Though it is usually subtle and subconscious, I struggle when they don’t do what I want them to do, or see things in the way I think they should. I judge. We argue. I expect them to be who I think they should be, and I get disappointed when they aren’t.
My love for my family is boundless. Our tethering and the profound connection we share is bedrock. No doubt about that.
But easiest to love?
Well, that would have to be Bodhi Qat.
Schiffmann describes love as the willingness to see and accept what is real in another. In other words, truly loving someone means saying, “I see you. And I willingly choose to recognize and honor what is real and true about you.” With complete acceptance. Without expectations.
I see Bodhi. I never expect him to be anything but a cat.
When he begins to sharpen his claws on the chair in the second bedroom, I don’t explode in anger because he isn’t taking better care of the furniture. Why would I expect a cat to care about furniture? I direct him to his scratching post or trim his claws.
When he jumps on my head at 4:30 a.m. every morning, I don’t simmer with resentment because he won’t let me sleep. That’s the time he wakes up. He wants to eat, and that’s how he lets me know. Bodhi either gets fed, or I put him out and shut the door until I’m ready to feed him. Have I trained him to keep off the kitchen counters and dining room table? I have, while acknowledging that it's his nature to jump up there.
Never have I stewed over why Bodhi doesn’t sleep less and work more. When he bites my elbow while I’m trying to work, I don’t take it personally. I know he wants to play, and I throw him a toy mouse. I never expect him to take my advice, follow my instructions, pay more attention to me, or help around the house. I never expect him to be anything but the feline creature he is.
Bodhi is easy to love because I see that a cat is all he can be.
Since that weekend, I’ve thought a lot about why it is so hard to truly see people in the same way I see Bodhi. Why do I let ego block my ability to see and recognize and honor what is real about people — the ones I hold most dear and those who pass fleetingly through my life? Why do I choose to cling to expectations and slog through a swamp of disappointment when they don’t get met? Why do I expect them to take care of the furniture, let me sleep, take my advice, and behave the way I think they should?
Learning to love people in this way is a practice. Awareness is the first step. With intention, action, and practice, I hope some day to learn to see people as they are, not through the lens of my expectations. I want to love people easily, like I love Bodhi.