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How to Love


Thich Nhat Hanh distills love to some of its core attributes and reminds us that we cannot possibly love others until we love ourselves, it takes understanding to love and that love is made of four key elements - loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity

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Key Takeaways
  1. True love is made of four elements: loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity
  2. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself
  3. We can also call it inclusivesness or nondiscrimination. In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person
  4. True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person
  5. There are three kinds of intimacy: physical, emotional, and spiritual
  6. Loving someone doesn’t mean saying “yes” to whatever the other person wants. The basis of loving someone else is to know yourself and to know what you need
  7. True love gives us a lot of space. It is not possessive by any means
  8. True love includes a sense of responsibility and accepting the other person as she is, with all her strengths and weaknesses. If you only like the best things in a person, that is not love. You have to accept her weaknesses and bring your patience, understanding, and energy to help her transform.
  9. Other people’s actions are the result of their own pain and not the result of any intention to hurt you. A wrong perception can be the cause of a lot of suffering. This is why, whenever we have a perception, we have to ask ourselves if our perception is right.
  10. To love is, first of all, to accept ourselves as we actually are
  11. I think of our behavior in terms of being more or less skillful rather than in terms of good and bad. If you are skillful, you can avoid making yourself suffer and the other person suffer. If there’s something you want to tell the other person, then you have to say it, but do so skillfully, in a way that leads to less rather than more suffering
  12. One way we nourish our love is by being conscious of what we consume. Many of us think of our daily nourishment only in terms of what we eat. But in fact, there are four kinds of food that we consume every day. They are: edible food (what we put in our mouths to nourish our bodies), sensory food (what we smell, hear, taste, feel, and touch), volition (the motivation and intention that fuels us), and consciousness (this includes our individual consciousness, the collective consciousness, and our environment).
  13. Our individual consciousness is influenced by the collective consciousness of our environment. We absorb and reflect what is around us.
  14. We should practice in such a way that every moment is fulfilling. We should feel satisfaction in every breath, in every step, in every action
  15. Meditation consists of generating three kinds of energy: mindfulness, concentration, and insight
  16. The notions and ideas we have about happiness can entrap us. We forget that they are just notions and ideas. Our idea of happiness may be the very thing that’s preventing us from being happy. When we’re caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form, we fail to see the opportunities for joy that are right in front of us.
  17. Live in a way that encourages deep happiness in yourself and others. You can vow to bring joy to one person in the morning and to help relieve the suffering of one person in the afternoon. Ask yourself, “Who can I make smile this morning?” This is the art of creating happiness.
What I got out of it
  1. Quick but hugely helpful read about what it means to love and what kind of mindset and qualities it takes to have true, deep and lasting love
Read How to Love
  • Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.
  • Reverence is the nature of our love.
  • The moment love stops growing, it begins to die.
  • When we learn to love and understand ourselves and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person.
  • The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness.
  • Compassion is the capacity to understand the suffering in oneself and in the other person. If you understand your own suffering, you can help him to understand his suffering. Understanding suffering brings compassion and relief.
  • When you know how to generate joy, it nourishes you and nourishes the other person.
  • What happens to your loved one happens to you. What happens to you happens to your loved one.
  • If you can accept your body, then you have a chance to see your body as your home. You can rest in your body, settle in, relax, and feel joy and ease.
  • Hugging meditation is a practice of mindfulness. “Breathing in, I know my dear one is in my arms, alive. Breathing out, she is so precious to me.” If you breathe deeply like that, holding the person you love, the energy of your care and appreciation will penetrate into that person
  • Body and mind are not two separate entities. What happens in the body will have an effect on the mind and vice versa. Mind relies on the body to manifest, and body relies on mind in order to be alive, in order to be possible
  • Spirituality is a practice that brings relief, communication, and transformation
  • The practices of breathing, walking, concentration, and understanding can help you greatly in dealing with your emotions, in listening to and embracing your suffering, and in helping you to recognize and embrace the suffering of another person
  • Sexual desire is not love. Sexual activity without love is called empty sex
  • It’s important that loving another person doesn’t take priority over listening to yourself and knowing what you need
  • The roots of a lasting relationship are mindfulness, deep listening and loving speech, and a strong community to support you
  • To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love. To know how to love someone, we have to understand them. To understand, we need to listen.
  • Practice conscious breathing when things are going well with your partner, then it will be there for you when things get hard
  • Often we can’t love ourselves or others fully when we’re stuck in our own complexes. When you have an inferiority complex, you have low self-esteem, and this is a kind of sickness. High self-esteem is also a sickness, because you consider yourself to be above others and that causes suffering as well
  • A true partner or friend is one who encourages you to look deep inside yourself for the beauty and love you’ve been seeking
  • Offer only the things that can make the other person happy
  • When we shed the light of mindfulness on our habitual thought patterns, we see them clearly. Recognizing our habits and smiling to them is the practice of appropriate mental attention, which helps us create new and more beneficial neural pathways
  • When you love someone, you should have the capacity to bring relief and help him to suffer less
  • In true love, there’s no more separation or discrimination. His happiness is your happiness. Your suffering is his suffering.
  • In true love there is no place for pride.
  • There’s also the deep thirst to be loved and to love. We are ready to love and be loved. It’s very natural. But because we feel empty, we try to find an object of our love
  • When we ourselves can’t generate the energy to take care of ourselves, we think we need the energy of someone else. We focus on the need and the lack rather than generating the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight that can heal our suffering and help the other person as well
  • If you don’t reconcile with yourself, happiness with another person is impossible
  • Before having a child, it would be wonderful if people would take a year to look deeply into themselves, to practice loving speech and deep listening, and to learn the other practices that will help them enjoy themselves and their children more
  • We have to look deeply at our body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. We can observe how much peace, happiness, and lightness we already have. We can notice whether we are anxious about accidents or misfortunes, and how much anger, irritation, fear, anxiety, or worry are still in us. As we become aware of the feelings in us, our self-understanding will deepen. We will see how our fears and lack of peace contribute to our unhappiness, and we will see the value of loving ourselves and cultivating a heart of compassion. Love will enter our thoughts, words, and actions.
  • If you can learn from your mistakes, then you have already transformed garbage into flowers
  • Your good intentions are not enough; you have to be artful.
  • Our true home is inside, but it’s also in our loved ones around us. When you’re in a loving relationship, you and the other person can be a true home for each other. In Vietnamese, the nickname for a person’s life partner is “my home.”
  • When the emotional, spiritual, and physical are in harmony, then intimacy can be very holy
  • you have a deep aspiration, a goal for your life, then your loving of others is part of this aspiration and not a distraction from it
  • Loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are described as unlimited states of mind because they continue to grow and they cannot be measured
  • When our bodies are very close, we feel it will relieve this loneliness. But if we don’t share our aspirations and what’s in our hearts, then even if we live together or have children together, we can still feel very alone
  • When I meet a couple who live together and are happy, I propose that they set up a regularly structured time of deep listening to help them stay happy together. Deep listening is, most of all, the practice of being present for our loved one
  • If you walk with true awareness of every step, without having a goal to get anywhere, happiness will arise naturally. You don’t need to look for happiness
  • This is mindfulness; we become aware of what is happening now and we are in touch with the conditions of happiness that are there inside us and all around us
  • You have your own idea of happiness. But to make someone else happy, you have to understand that person’s needs, suffering, and desires and not assume you know what will make them happy. Ask, “What would make you happy?”
  • To love someone, you have to understand the real needs of that person, and not impose on her what you think is needed for her to be happy. Understanding is the foundation of love
  • One of the greatest gifts we can offer people is to embody nonattachment and nonfear.
  • Practicing to realize nondiscrimination, to see the interconnectedness and impermanence of all things, and to share this wisdom with others, we are giving the gift of nonfear. Everything is impermanent. This moment passes. That person walks away. Happiness is still possible.
  • True love doesn’t foster suffering or attachment. On the contrary, it brings well-being to ourselves and to others. True love is generated from within. For true love to be there, you need to feel complete in yourself, not needing something from outside
  • The most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness.
  • If we have happy parents, we have received the richest inheritance of all.
  • Provides 20 questions to help you look into your relationship
  • The Six Mantras
    1. I am here for you - The greatest gift we can make to others is our true presence.
    2. I know you are there and I am happy
    3. I know you are suffering
    4. I am suffering
    5. This is a happy moment - when you’re sitting together, walking together, eating, or doing something together, breathe in mindfully and realize how lucky you are. Mindfulness makes the present moment into a wonderful moment.
    6. You are partly right - You are not a victim of illusion because you know that you’re not perfect. And when another person criticizes you, you can also say, “You are partly right.”
  • In the practice of compassionate listening, you listen with only one purpose: to give the other person a chance to speak out and suffer less.
  • Hugging is a deep practice; you need to be totally present to do it correctly.
  • When I drink a glass of water, I invest one hundred percent of myself in drinking it. You can train yourself to live every moment of your daily life like that.
  • We are aware that all generations of our ancestors and all future generations are present in us
  • We are aware of the expectations that our ancestors, our children, and their children have of us
  • We are aware that our joy, peace, freedom, and harmony are the joy, peace, freedom, and harmony of our ancestors, our children, and their children
  • We are aware that understanding is the very foundation of love
  • We are aware that blaming and arguing can never help us and only create a wider gap between us; that only understanding, trust, and love can help us change and grow.

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