More than forty years ago, on Our World, the first live global television link, the Beatles performed All you Need is Love, to an audience of 400 million people in 26 countries. The BBC wanted a song with a simple message that could be understood by all nationalities. It went on to become the #1 single in the UK for three straight weeks. Today everyone can sing the lyrics, everyone knows the tune, and it has become a unifying anthem the world over. Why? Because everyone loves love.
Thirty six years later, the Black Eyed Peas performed their first single Where is the Love? at the Grammy’s in 2004, earning themselves two awards on the night. That song is the 25th best selling single of the entire decade in the UK.
People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send us some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love?
These two songs are not only about romantic love, or the personal love we feel for our children, or our parents, or even our country. They are about LOVE, the Big Love, the love that we all intuit, and admire, and sometimes even deify. They are songs about what our hearts tell us is true, tell us is our real potential, even if that intuition is trampled underfoot each and every day by disappointment, cynicism and disorientation.
But you and I and everyone we know, under our decades of getting hurt, of feeling rejected, of losing our vision time and time again, deep down we all love to love. We may disagree about Sarah or Barack, we may have different tastes in Bach or Eminem, and some may love Polanski more than Judd Apatow, but it’s hard to find anyone anywhere who does not give love the thumbs up. It’s about as universally popular among human beings as oxygen or getting enough sleep. The only reason anyone might have for second thoughts about love is that we don’t always know how to live it in an effortless and easy way.
Over the holidays I read Marci Shimoff’s latest book, Love for No Reason. She originally made her name alongside Jack Canfield with the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and followed it up with Happy for No Reason. Her latest book fires a flaming arrow straight into your heart, with dozens of compelling reasons to live as love now, regardless of circumstance, relationship status, the shape of your body, or any of the other reasons we give ourselves to postpone throwing the gates of the fortress wide open and declaring Open House.
Shimoff’s book sets out to show the reader how easy it can be to shift from being a “love beggar” to a “love philanthropist.”
When you experience Love for No Reason, you no longer need to look outside yourself to get love. You stop being a love beggar and become a love philanthropist, dispensing love, kindness, and goodwill wherever you go.
This simple but profound shift will create remarkable changes in every area of your life. It will improve your health, your relationships, and your success and satisfaction at work. Instead of feeling a little hungry all the time—for love, security, more stuff, more recognition, more everything—you’ll feel full and complete. It will affect how you show up in every moment. In fact, though your life might not depend on making this shift, the quality of your life does.
She goes on to cite the three most common insights that people have had, throughout history in every tradition, when they discover the dimension of universal or unconditional love:
- Love is actually who we are, not just a feeling we feel. We easily forget this simple truth, and get addicted to a mentality of “more for me.”
- Love is why we are here. The initiation into causeless love has frequently been a near death experience, where, on the verge of snuffing it, the initiate looks back on their life and sees that so much was in vain, except, that is, for the exploration of love.
- The Heart is a portal to feeling more love. We all have an antenna in our bodies, located in the middle of our chests, radiating out into two limbs, the same ones which hug and touch and caress, and that is the place where we connect with love in a visceral way.
Shimoff elaborates on these universal and time-tested insights to build a thorough and contemporary guide to how anyone, starting today, can make huge leaps and bounds into a love that has no cause. She interviewed more than 150 contemporary people, including prisoners, priests, business leaders and school teachers whom she calls “Love Luminaries,” about the factors that make the biggest difference to living this kind of resilient love. Some are well-known writers and celebrities, like Marianne Williamson, Melissa Etheridge and Geneen Roth. But my favorite was the story of Johnny Barnes, a native of Bermuda, who in the 1940’s was working as an electrician on the railway. The impulse came to him, out of the blue, to start waving to people, calling out “I love you.” He liked it so much, he started to do this every day during his lunch hour. Now Johnny is 84 years old. He gets up at 3:30 am every day to stand on the Crow Lane roundabout in busy downtown Hamilton till 10 am, calling out “Good Morning, Have a Good Day, God Bless you!” Says Johnny:
God gives us all something to do. If you can bring joy and happiness to others, you keep on doing it. People seem to like my staying power. I just keep showing up day after day, and year after year—they kind of count on it now. In fact, not long ago the city actually put up a statue of me, wide-brimmed hat and all, doing my two-handed wave! I never thought I’d see a statue of myself. Never. But there it is—a life-sized bronze sculpture that stands on the opposite side of the roundabout from me. It keeps on spreading love after I go home.
But this is not just a feel-good book about waving at strangers. Shimoff has condensed her research into 14 tools that any one can use to breathe more Love for no reason into their life starting today. She cites all kinds of research done at universities around the world on the effects of consciously choosing love: effects not only on our immediate relationships, but on our health, our longevity, and even our financial well-being.
I know, there are packed busloads of people who will hate this book with a passion. Long-time spiritual practitioners will want to dismiss this book as pop-spirituality: the easy-to-swallow pill, an attempted short-cut to the real attainment which comes after years of serious practice. And they will have a point, this book is written in a simple, unpretentious style that your mother-in-law could curl up with in the guest room.
Scientists will probably find the research trite and inadequately referenced: the book has neither footnotes nor end notes. And they will have a point too, if you are looking for academic research, this is not the book for you.
Social reformers will take note of the fact that most of Shimoff’s interviewees are affluent, white, middle-class Americans. “Easy for you to experiment with aromatherapy and changing your brain waves,” they might say. “What about the more than two billion people in the world living on less than a dollar a day?” “What about the auto workers laid off in Michigan? What chance do they have for feeling unconditional love?” And they will be right as well. Shimoff wrote this book for the people who can put it to work right away. Some might suggest that is is those living in “developed” countries who have an obligation to breathe more love into the world. If not us, then who?
The poets and mystics of the realms of the heart may dismiss the book as formulaic. “Seven steps and fourteen keys to a life of Unconditional Love? Gimme a break here!” Rumi might get busy with Shams tearing down the house in a frenzy of frustration, calling out “there is no neat map to the wild lands of the Heart.”
But we live in pivotal times. So many people today are feeling Pain for No Reason — Emptiness, Heartache and Loneliness for No Reason. Shimoff feels, from observing her own life as well as everyone else’s she knows, that it is this kind of causeless Love that we are missing. When we are stuck in addiction, or conflict in relationship, or a mysterious sicknesses in the body that dampens our energy, she says it all boils down to needing to experience Love. When that Love is present, she says, we give up trying to control outer things for our own ends, and become instead a source of blessing in our lives. She is willing to put herself on the line to offer us very simple things we can all do to become love itself, right away.
Remember that movie, As Good as it Gets? This is the book you would want to give to Jack Nicholson’s character. Here is the book you would have loved to mail to the White House at the start of the Iraq war. This is a book you might want to give to your harsh employer who keeps you late when your kid is sick, or to your local representative or senator. This is the book, when you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and you know, you just know you can give more than you feel like giving, this is the book to keep handy at such a time, to remind yourself of your Heart’s own song. This book will take you back to 1967 and have you humming All you Need is Love,” all the way to work.