For such a little word it sure has a lot packed into it. Love. Sometimes we throw it around willy-nilly. I love those shoes, I love this cheese, or just the general, Love that. We also use it to express the deepest emotions we have for another human being. It’s a feeling that can make us feel giddy and silly, or connective and expansive, it’s a feeling we can experience so deeply it hurts. We say love is fickle and love is blind. Plato said love is a serious mental disease. Nations have gone to war over love.
At IMS we follow three guiding principles in everything we do: Loyalty, Selflessness, and Love. But when I say love, I don’t mean the happy feeling you get when you eat your favorite food or get a new outfit, and I’m not talking about romantic love, although we’ll touch on that later. What I’m talking about is universal, unconditional love. I’m talking about a state of being called love. As living, spiritual beings, love is our natural state. It’s where we find clarity, empathy, creativity. Universal love is where we find wisdom.
So you might be saying, okay Joey, if love is my natural state, why am I not always in a state of love? The answer to that question is the real irony of the human experience. Because in order to protect our ability to experience a state of universal love, our nervous system developed a defense mechanism. It’s called the sympathetic nervous system, and don’t be fooled by the name. It’s not there to hold your hand while you’re feeling sad. It’s there to tell you that danger is present. It doesn’t feel good to be in a sympathetic nervous state. It’s where we feel edgy, anxious, afraid, and angry, and that’s the whole point. It’s your brain saying, Hey there are shenanigans going on here and I’m not bringing back the happy feelings until you do something about it.
The sympathetic nervous system developed over the hundreds of thousands of years when human existence was brutal, when every day was a struggle to survive. With the rise of civilization, technologies, and large complex social structures, the dangers our nervous system was attuned to no longer exist. Particularly for those of us fortunate enough to live in the developed world. Most Americans don’t have to worry about food or shelter or a herd of water buffalo stampeding through their living room. But that doesn’t mean the sympathetic nervous system packed up its bags and said, Mission accomplished, I’ll show myself out. No, it’s still there and (although no one knows for sure because no one was alive a hundred thousand years ago) I could make an argument that our nervous systems are working harder now than they ever have before.
The dangerous predators of the past have become the pressures of modern life in the present. Social status, career status, body image, race, religion, politics, all of it amplified through the megaphone of social media. Our ancestors may have crossed paths with a saber tooth tiger every couple weeks or so, but we’re being bombarded with challenges on a daily, maybe even hourly basis. None of them will kill us, but our nervous system doesn’t know that. As far it’s concerned, that Instagram post of a complete stranger living their best life on a beach in Belize, clearly demonstrating that your life is some kind of cosmic joke, is as much of a threat as a grizzly bear charging at you.
With so much coming at us from every direction, it can be easy to get stuck with the sympathetic nervous system turned on. A constant state of anxiety, irritability, nervousness. And when we’re operating inside that state it’s impossible to make forward movement. Our nervous system is telling us to either put up a fight or get the hell out of Dodge and, although one or the other is sometimes necessary, fighting and fleeing are not long term strategies for success.
Which brings us back to that natural state of universal love. Where we want to be. I say natural state because it’s where we have access to our highest potential as a human being. It’s where we find connection with the larger world. It’s where we feel expansive. I guarantee that no one has ever hurt another human being, or living thing for that matter, while inside a state of universal love. Aggression, violence, unless being used in self-defense, are the actions of a fear-based state, of unworthiness or shame, a damaged ego. Now, there may very well be times when you’d like to haul off and sock someone in the jaw, but when you’re able to access a state of love at will, you’ll find there’s a solution that doesn’t involve fists being thrown.
We can’t keep the sympathetic nervous system offline forever, and we wouldn’t want to anyway. It’s our security system. And it’s not just watching out for physical dangers. It tries to let us know when we’re doing something careless or stupid, it reacts to social cues, it even reacts to the emotional states of other people around you. But when we’re in tune with our nervous system, and we’re able to understand how and why it’s reacting the way that it is, we can leverage those moments as learning opportunities.
Maybe you’re at the end of your rope with Ted in accounting. The two of you are like oil and water, just getting him to respond to an email is like pulling teeth. Okay, so maybe you and Ted will never be bowling buddies but you can certainly find a way to have a productive relationship at work. You can learn to recognize when Ted’s way of being is pushing your buttons and you can take a moment, shift into your love-based state, and access your higher potential. You’ll be able to ask yourself, What is it about Ted’s way of being that gets me so riled up? Is it triggering something deeper in me? What am I bringing to the party? The only way to answer those questions and reimagine your relationship with Ted is to get back to a love-based state as your point of orientation.
And that’s the whole idea, really. Think of the love-based state as your home base. It’s where we want to be most of the time. We can’t create a life where we never feel sadness or anger or fear, and we wouldn’t want to. Even the shitty feels are part of the human experience and they’re necessary for learning, growing, and evolving. We just don’t want to get stuck there. With training, we can learn to shift, at will, from that fear-based state back to that place of universal love.
Now, romantic love brings entirely different types of favors to the party. Of all the relationships we experience in life, few are as intense, rewarding and challenging as the romantic ones. Unlike the love we feel for family or friends, romantic love changes over time. A long lasting romantic relationship, like a marriage, can sometimes seem to have a life of its own. It waxes and wanes, it evolves, sometimes it seems to be hibernating, other times it’s vital and robust. There are challenges that might sometimes seem insurmountable. But if we’re inside the larger universal love, we have clarity, we can actually leverage those challenges to evolve, revive, and enrich the relationship.
The point is, love is more than just a word or a feeling. It is our natural state of being. But just because it is our natural state doesn’t mean it’s always there or even that it’s always easy to get back to. That sympathetic nervous system, that fear-based state, can be real insistent sometimes. It can be tricky, manipulative, even seductive. Sometimes we think it feels good to feel so bad. But with training, with the proper tools, techniques and strategies, we can learn to recognize when the fight or flight or freeze response kicks in, we can learn to understand why it’s poking its head up, and we can consciously make the decision to shift back into the clarity of universal love.
That’s the space we strive to operate inside of here at IMS. As I mentioned, Love is one of our guiding principles. Our vision as an organization is to eliminate suffering as efficiently as possible, and give people access to lives better than they imagined possible. Our realization of that vision is an act of love for humanity and it’s a cornerstone of everything we do. If you’re ready to start living a life better than you imagined, we are here for you. We provide the training, the tools, techniques and strategies, and just as importantly, the support you’ll need to learn all the ins and outs of your nervous system and how you can take ownership of it. You don’t have to just sit in the passenger seat and go along for the emotional ride. You can get behind the wheel and decide your own destination. Because when you master your emotions, you master yourself, and when you master yourself, you master your life.
Our Power Series is designed to teach you how to access the love-based state and fulfill your vision for the life you want to lead. If you’re already engaged with our Power Series, maybe you’ve been training for awhile now, and you’re ready to take it to the next level, our Apprentice Program might be a good fit for you. Take the tools, techniques, and strategies that you’ve learned and pay them forward!
Click HERE to learn more about the Power Series, or HERE to learn about the Apprentice Program.