Terms & Conditions DO NOT Apply
I recently looked into the word Maitri, which I’ve come across in meditation and Buddhist teachings. The idea of it has also come up as Metta which essentially is ‘meditation focused on the development of unconditional love for all beings.’
Maitri itself is a Sanskrit word which can be roughly translated as an unconditional friendship towards oneself. Other definitions include loving-kindness, benevolence, friendliness, amity, good will, and active interest in others.
My favourite definition comes from Pema Chodron who describes it as “unconditional friendliness,” toward ourselves. This beautiful terminology got me thinking about the word unconditional and what it can mean for us to live and love more unconditionally.
Unconditional, of course, means not subject to any conditions.
In my personal experience, the word ‘condition’ was the term applied to eating distress, and I’d take it to be relevant for all mental health challenges. This use of the word allows us to speak openly in a way where labels don’t matter, it is simply, the condition. Diagnostic terminologies don’t define who we are or the experience we’re going through and in my opinion, carry very little significance, in some cases doing more harm than good. The idea of living unconditionally then to me, equates in a way, to living in freedom. Living without the conditions of not feeling good enough, not living authentically, keeping ourselves small. It releases us from the suffocating ‘should’s, the expectations of perfection and the exhausting hustle of trying to be whoever we believe we have to be in order to fit in.
So what I want to explore, is how we can live and love in a way that is not subject to terms or conditions. A way that frees us from the fictitious factors that dictate our decisions.
The unconditional friendliness that Pema Chodron speaks of is such a wonderful idea and is exactly how I would hope to always treat myself and for you to treat yourself too. We’ve spoken about self-love many a time here on the blog, but it can be something that takes time to fully implement and cement. Along the journey towards a strong sense of it, ideas like this are really helpful in continually connecting to different perspectives of what it means and how to apply it to ourselves.
The conditions we apply to loving ourselves have no place in true self love, like they would have no place in any truly loving relationship. The notion that we’ll love ourselves when we do ‘x’ or we’ll be kind to ourselves if we do ‘y’ are evidently laden in conditions. Loving yourself when you lose weight or achieve something new or change something is not loving yourself. It’s holding your self-love impossibly out of reach, persistently pushed away by lack of self-worth, acceptance and esteem.
That’s why the word unconditional is so important. It allows us to attain self-love now. It releases us from the barricade of beliefs that something has to happen before we can feel this friendliness towards who we are. No terms or conditions need apply for us to gain our own approval.
You deserve your own love exactly as you are, right now.
If we keep the phrase ‘unconditional friendliness’ consistently in mind, imagine how our self-talk would change, how our feelings of worthiness, self-respect and radical self-acceptance would skyrocket. Imagine responding to yourself with friendliness as a first response. Imagine having the support of a friend always within, always having your back, always ready to reassure, always armed with the force of friendliness to raise your spirits and recharge your energy.
Use the power of unconditional friendliness every time you make a mistake, every time you start beating yourself up, every time you are impatient with yourself, every time you feel inadequate, anxious or in despair. Be a friend. Be the best friend you can be. Be the friend that doesn’t give a shit if you’ve messed up or are imperfect (like every human) but instead, relentlessly loves the person you are.
As we get used to owning our newfound freedom from conditions, we can remove them from other people too. Becoming more accepting, more forgiving and more compassionate to others teaches us how to cultivate a kinder mind-set that we too can benefit from.
Constant fault-finding, criticising and judgement shrinks our capacity for loving others and is only reflected back to ourselves. It cripples our potential for real connections as we seek reasons not to be loving, not to be kind, not to be friendly. Gossiping and bitching is a common currency of communication these days, but this only serves to increase a culture of conditions. A culture that feeds the unfriendly opinion that there’s something wrong with others for simply being, thinking or acting differently to us.
Removing the conditions we outwardly apply requires honesty, self-acceptance and an appreciation for what it means to be human. It can also mean having the courage to disagree with judgement and gossip, not merely contributing comments in the hopes of fitting in. Learning to accept the vulnerabilities and imperfections of others, gifts us the opportunity to soften towards our own.
When we commit to embracing unconditional friendliness, our compassion grows and our sense of inner peace does too. It feels good to have good feelings. Flooding our mind and actions with friendliness will of course give us a boost. When we create a sense of companionship in our inner and outer interactions, our outlook naturally changes. We can feel more connected, more accepted and more free to be ourselves. We can see past the flaws of others and offer them a compassionate, non-judgmental space to simply be, as our own unconditional self-acceptance radiates out.
The affliction of conditions minimises our experience of the world. It robs us of meaningful connections and authentic exchanges. Expending energy to indulge these ts&cs drains the energy we could be using to enjoy, recharge and thrive.
With maitri in mind we can swap comparison for comradery, fault-finding for friendliness and criticism for compassion. This is a profound practice and with repetition will rewrite our world view, dynamically changing the way we interact with life.