Loving Mindfully

How does mindfulness help us to love?

Photo by Carlos Quintero on Unsplash

“The roots of a lasting relationship are mindfulness, deep listening, and loving speech”. Thich Nhat Hanh.

Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) writes endlessly about love and I have read so many of his books I can’t remember which ones I still have left. And would they say anything new either. I understand what Thay means when he talks about love in all its various guises, I truly deeply get it. I have had enough experiences of what love is not to know the difference, and I can honestly say it is far more rare than would be thought considering how many songs, poems and novels are written about it .

I shall use some of Thay most well known quotes to take us through what I now understand love to be, and how we can work towards it.

Love is a work in progress inside each of us. For many of us love is tinged with many other emotions though, which pollute it and can undermine it.


We can all feel sentimental about things in our life but this can get in the way of true love by mimicing it through gestures such a gifts and celerations. I am not saying we should not have these things in our life, but we might want to be wary of their potential to mask something else. Celebrations for mothers day, valentines day or birthdays can for instance make you feel just special enough on those days to tolerate being taken for granted the rest of the year. They can be a bribe, put up with all the mis-treatment and ill buy you red roses on valentines to keep you sweet. They are potentially very empty gestures. Sorry to pull your treasured days down, they are fine in themselves if you want them, just be aware of the dark sides of them. I once had a partner, a narcissist, who treated me very badly but bought expensive treats to keep me sweet. It worked for while until I saw through it and ended the relationship. When I met my soulmate and husband (No. 2) I asked for no sentimentality and rituals and banned birthdays and valentines etc. I suggested we be loving to each other every day, then there is no need for a special day. And this we have done now for twenty six years. If we want a romantic date evening we have one, on any day of the year we happen to feel like that. Its lovely. Every day spent together is wonderful, even the more challenging ones, because we understand the importance of loving communication.


This is one of the most destructive counter emotions, or rather beliefs that keep us apart from experiencing or giving love in its fullest form. Insecurity is the fear of not being good enough or worth enough to deserve to be loved. Sometimes we want to be better than our partner in something because we want to feel worth something, but if we need to put someone down in order to feel better about ourself, then we do not love them. I ws brought up on this behaviour constantly so am also guilty of it, but have learned how destructive it is over time and prefer not to put anyone else down or compete with anyone. We are all unique wonderful individuals and we are all part of the same universe, and of each other. If we use pride to feel good about ourself, we are mistaken, that is not love, not for self or others. I am not proud of my sons, but I am endlessly pleased for them in their successes. I had to learn this one the hard way, and I know it to be true

In true love, there is no pride.” THICH NHAT HANH.

Self respect and humility.

It is difficult to truly love someone else if you cannot love yourself, though many would dispute this as they believe they love others but not themselves. This kind of love can easily be confused as real love, even selfless love, but it is more about lack of boundaries, low self esteem and dependency, none of which are healthy relationship characteristics.
THICH NHAT HANH sums it up when he says “Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish.”

So we need to learn and hone this skill for ourself first and then offer it to others and accept it in return. We need to step aside from our own needs, dreams and desires and allow the other to be fully themself. In return we can learn to be fully ourself too. This is the greatest gift you can offer another the gift of your authentic self. But that self needs to be gentle, kind and selfless, humility is the key, but its not something you can force or act out. It has to come from a mindfulness practice which has reduced the sense of self appropriately.
“If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love.” THICH NHAT HANH

True love comes from a healed and open self. Our capacity to love depends on that process of mindful self awareness and deep inner looking, from open honest communication styles that allow both people to be fully themself. And most of all, reserve your best for the ones you love most, they are not punchbags for your bad days, not commodities to meet your needs and expectations, and not status symbols.