I was only four years old when my mother first told me that I was adopted. The news sent me into panic, and something inside me froze.
The shock of the situation was so great that it triggered a drastic change in me. Up until that moment, I had always been a very affectionate, innocent child. Afterward, I started to avoid all physical contact. I wriggled uncomfortably whenever someone tried to embrace me; I hated being touched in any way. I decided that overtures of love could not be trusted, because the people who loved me had lied to me. I came to expect dishonesty from anyone who showed me affection, rejecting all who came too close.
In order to escape, I created fantasy worlds where I would lose myself for hours, surrounded by the vast animal kingdom of my imagination. There the animals would talk to me; they were the only ones whose love I really trusted. Devoid of all human beings, this world became my favorite place. I would run for miles into the countryside in search of my animal friends, often escaping during the night, on the quest to find another world.
Although the circumstances vary, we have all been through an initial shock of abandonment and disillusion in our lives — a situation in which we felt unloved or rejected or that in some way exposed us to loss, change, or the uncertainty of external security. It might have been a schoolteacher telling us off in front of our classmates, the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or maybe something seemingly insignificant that perhaps we don’t even remember. These situations create the feeling of separation that is so integral to this human experience. Then, as we mature, we often find ourselves choosing relationships that create the same response. It is as if we are endlessly striving to prove that we really don’t deserve love, that we are not good enough to receive it.
By healing the accumulated resentment and tension of our past experiences, we can unravel the misunderstandings and reproachful memories that may have left us bitter, confused, or desolate. We can heal the emotional scars left by circumstances that seemed unjust, that made us feel like victims.
If you feel undeserving, unsupported, unloved, unnoticed, or undervalued because of events from your past, the feeling represents an opportunity to move closer to unconditional love and find greater internal completion. Generally, when we don’t know what to do with all these feelings, we learn to repress and ignore them. What happens then? When we suppress our feelings and judgments, we become them. When it comes to our relationships with our mothers, we act out this tendency by emulating the things we most hate about our mothers!
This is because although our mothers may no longer live in our homes, they still live in our heads, pushing us, criticizing us, chastising us. In one form or another, you will find that your mother is always present in those aspects of yourself that you have yet to embrace. Maybe you even gave birth to your mother, or married her. As long as you continue denying the negative feelings within yourself, the same patterns you established in your relationship with your mother will repeat in other relationships.
For most of us, our mother’s love forms our initial understanding of what love is. The service and selfless giving that mothering universally represents are qualities that we all must learn to emulate on our journey to self-realization.
In order to love unconditionally, we must first learn to love and accept ourselves exactly as we are. How can we embrace others in their perfection if we cannot first see our own? If we reject certain aspects of ourselves, unconditional love toward others can never be anything more than a hollow facade. Similarly, in order to mother the world, we must first learn to mother ourselves — to find the beauty and perfection of our own individuality and rejoice in our unique way of being. Then acceptance and love of others will naturally overflow to our friends and family and ultimately to our community and the world.
When we cultivate true love of self, the love that is present within radiates out to all beings, all peoples, and Mother Earth. Many talk about what we should do to better the world — respect basic human rights, care for the environment, and so on. It is nice that we remind ourselves to do these things, but, ideally, wouldn’t it be better if the desire to care and serve arose naturally and spontaneously within us? Then we wouldn’t have to think: it would just be an action. Ultimately, our own inner healing will cause these qualities to flourish — not because we are trying to behave responsibly, but because out of an open heart we are joyfully taking responsibility for nurturing and protecting life.
An individual focused on giving unconditional love is making the greatest contribution of all to the evolution of our planet. This gift to humanity comes through our own inner growth and advancement, a mothering of our self that births our own greatness, even as it brings out the greatness in others.
As you cultivate an unconditional love of yourself, you will find the unconditional love you seek to express for your children, parents, friends, and colleagues. You will become a universal mother: a mother of the world.
ISHA JUDD is the author of Love Has Wings and Why Walk When You Can Fly? She travels the globe teaching a simple yet powerful system that shows how to find the state of mind she calls “love-consciousness,” where every moment of life — even the most challenging and frustrating — can be filled with love, joy, peace, and self-acceptance. Visit her online at www.ishajudd.com.