Unconditional love is the decision to never enact emotional violence against yourself or anyone else, ever. It's a decision that's radical and deeply freeing.
You can become free of self-hatred and misery, free from patterns of suffering that keep you stuck. It doesn't matter if your problem is sucky romantic relationships or a job that torments you or a giant creative block or a compulsion to use substances or engage in dangerous behaviors. It just doesn't matter what your problem is because all problems manifest from one thing: a lack of love. If you become willing to apply simple spiritual principles in your life (love; forgiveness; hospitality; generosity; honesty; hope - and the greatest of these is love) without condition and without reservation, then your life can turn into a stunning glitter bomb of joy and possibility and magic.
I know that this is true because I went from being someone who shot heroin every day and wanted to die, someone whose primary concern in life was whether or not I could get enough drugs that day to numb the stunning pain of the problem of being me to being someone who wakes up every morning soaked in gratitude and thrilled to be myself - even when I'm broke, even when I'm single, even when I've failed at major projects that were dear to me. This same self that I literally wanted to murder - I now cherish and delight in, without condition and without limit.
The Unconditional Decision
How did I get to this point? It happened because I decided to give myself huge joy and love and respect no matter what. What does that mean? It means that no matter what I do, no matter what happens - I'm going to feel great. "Carolyn - you mean, even if you kill somebody you're not going to feel guilty, you're not going to feel shame?" And my answer to that is: yes, precisely. There's nothing I could do which I would not utterly forgive myself for, and forgiving myself means letting myself feel happy and wonderful. It means refusing to ever reject or punish myself, for any reason. And the thing is, when I'm willing to give myself unconditional love, unconditional kindness- which really just means I'm willing to never impose shame and regret on myself - when I have that willingness, I'm without violence in my heart. I would never want to hurt someone or kill someone because I feel so damn happy and loving.
Sometimes people think I'm crazy when I mention the unconditionalness and unlimitedness of my love for myself. And that's okay - they can think I'm crazy and they can tell me all about the conditions under which they believe that shame and regret and guilt are appropriate. Usually these conditions are situations of violence. What the people who tell me this don't understand is that regret and guilt and shame are themselves forms of violence: inner violence, emotional violence. The use of them creates more violence. Do you think that people who hurt and abuse other people are filled with self-acceptance and joy? No; they're filled with shame and regret and bitterness and rage. They're inwardly filled with emotional violence and that violence manifests outwardly as harm to others and harm to themselves.
What I've learned over the years is any limit I'm willing to put on the love I give myself is a limit I'm willing to put on the love that I give you and the love that I give the universe. And the smallest, most seemingly reasonable limit becomes a giant dam that plugs up the flow of delight and wonder in my life. So I don't mess around with making up limits on love any more. I just give it all, all the time, without holding back, without trying to play it safe.
A Limit On Love is An Attempt to Control
I realized that any time I'm seeking to limit love, what I'm doing is trying to control. I'm trying to control myself to make myself fit into some "acceptable" mode. I'm trying to control you; to control the whole world. But it's impossible. Any time that I try to control something, I end up in pain. The magic that I am, that you are, that the world is - is quite beyond control. Have you noticed? I did - I saw that no matter how much energy I put into making myself acceptable I always fell short - I always found reason to regret something I'd done, something I'd said, something I'd failed to do. And what I realized is that regret, shame and guilt - they're all forms of violence against myself, they're feelings but they're actually the result of a belief that's a weapon. What is that weapon? It's the belief that I'm not always already fundamentally good, that I'm not fundamentally perfect and whole and valuable and innocent.
By becoming willing to be happy and grateful in all situations - even in situations when I've failed or where someone or something has failed me -- I can practice unconditional love, I can practice the truth that undoes the lie that myself or anyone else is less than wholly good, wholly innocent, wholly wonderful as God created them to be.