My oldest son got engaged to be married yesterday. It is such a wonderful happy time in his life and for all of us. Even seeing two people in love feels good. We all love to be in love, but for many love is fleeting and often elusive.

We all want love. I believe that what we are all searching for is to freely give and receive love.

For many of us staying open to love easier to do with our children, if we are lucky we have an unconditional bond with them. But often it is different with relationships that are optional. And it is those optional relationships, lovers, spouses, siblings and friends that enrich our lives and challenge our vulnerability the most. When we freely give and receive love we are vulnerable.

When we are vulnerable we can feel deeply. We deeply feel the wonder and joy of intimacy and also the pain and sadness of disappointment and rejection.

It is our reaction, or habit pattern to that pain that often keeps us from getting what we most want, deep intimate relationships where we can freely give and receive love.

So if we all want love and intimacy, why don’t we have it? I believe it has to do with lies and memories. People, and specifically people in the western culture, are geared toward staying out of pain. When something hurts we do something to try to manage it. The local drug store is a testament to this, with rows and rows of medication to keep us out of pain. Our medical system is also geared toward treating symptoms and keeping people “comfortable” and pain free. So we take pills, drink cocktails, play computer games,eat chocolate or double cheeseburgers to make ourselves feel better. And it works for a short time, at least until the numbness wears off, then we have to start over.

And it isn’t just medicating and numbing out that we do to stay away from pain, we work too much, achieve another degree or skill, talk too much, get angry, buy stuff, keep moving, think too much, blame others, blame ourselves, isolate, cut off, put on a mask, rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic… anything to keep us from being in the moment and feeling the full extent of whatever is there. And these are all easier to see in other people than ourselves. All of these things that we do to keep us safe also keep us from experiencing love.

How does this relate to lies and memories?

Whatever we do to stay away from pain was once an answer that worked for us. And now that same answer is the problem.

When we are children we just adapt to whatever conditions we have in life. Those adaptations become automatic habits in our system and patterns that continue in future relationships. Later, when we experience something that is similar to the pain of our childhood, it triggers our automatic “answer”. We are actually reacting more to a memory of the past and less to the present moment. The belief of being “in danger”, “not good enough”, “too much”, “unloveable” and a host of others are the lies that keep the cycle going. This happens over and over again, time after time, the thing we want the most eludes us.

What we do to keep from being vulnerable is also what keeps us from freely giving and receiving love.

The answer is simple but difficult. Bring in awareness. Look at your habit pattern. Notice the physical sensation that goes along with the memory and the lie that has been triggered. Sit with it, offering yourself non-judgmental kindness and acceptance of whatever is here in this moment. Eventually, with enough awareness, we can see what we are doing. Then and only then can the habit be changed.

Instead of blaming the world, begin to practice observing your response.

But there is a reason we call it a “practice”. Keep practicing. Practice looking at your part of what is keeping you from freely giving and receiving love. Finding those memories and lies can help us let go. ¬†Awareness is the first step toward true freedom, the freedom to give and receive love.