Memorability’s Books: True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh
Love helps you to stay healthy.
Love helps your memory. Love helps your mood. Love changes your brain. Even though falling in love makes you fearless and irrational, love is good for you.
Since love helps your brain to stay healthy, how can you love better?
How can you improve your understanding of love?
It can be difficult to get this right.
The Book: True love, by Thich Naht Hahn
This is a brilliant, very practical guide on how to love well (and I think it leads to being loved better).
Why will you love it?
It is super practical and inspires you to make changes. The advice he gives on how to love better, is simple and profound at the same time.
About Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh is a buddhist monk, born in Vietnam in 1926. He has been a lecturer at Princeton, a peace activist and founder of several buddhist monasteries. ‘His life has since been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society.’ (from plumvillage.org)
On the beauty of True Love
He starts by describing the four elements of true love according to Buddhist philosophy
1. Maitri- the desire and ability to bring joy.
2. Karuna- the desire and ability to ease pain.
3. Madita- joy. .
4. Upeksha- a sense of freedom in the relationship.
Simple and profound, right?
What is different about this philosophy?
There must be an ability to bring joy, to feel joy and to ease suffering. In order to do this, more is required than just wanting to bring joy and end suffering. In order to do this well, you need to listen and understand, with no judgement. You need to go beyond your interpretation of events or perceived insults and injuries. You need an ability to communicate. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, ‘Training is needed in order to love properly; and to be able to give happiness and joy, you must practice deep looking toward the person you love. Because if you do not understand this person, you cannot love properly. Understanding is the essence of love.’
Understanding is fundamental. You need to understand when, and how to respond, when to stay calm, and when to encourage.
It may be good to apply this philosophy to yourself as well. What will change for you? You will enjoy yourself. You will be more inclined to celebrate life, and be gentle with yourself. With these changes, your capacity to love others will improve as well. ‘Taking care of yourself, you can support your loved one and reestablish joy in your relationship’ Words of wisdom from the author.
Taking care of yourself, you can support your loved one and reestablish joy in your relationship Thich Nhat Hanh
How often do you fail to appreciate the people you love?
How often do you take their presence for granted? Do you reply to emails, while talking to them. Do you text a friend at work while having lunch with them? Do you watch TV while having supper together? Do you fail to acknowledge the gestures of love? We are all guilty of this, and it is affecting relationships we value. Thich Nhat Hanh opinion on this, ‘When we are loved, we wish the other to recognise our presence, and this is a very important practice. You must do whatever is necessary to be able to do this.’
Relationships can never be only positive. What can you do for those negative feelings and bad experiences? What you perceive to be bad, or negative can lead to positive outcomes.
He supports this with this beautiful analogy. ‘The gardner who is familiar with organic gardening is constantly on alert to save waste materials because he knows how to transform that into compost into flowers and vegetables. So be grateful for your pains, be grateful for your suffering- you will need them. We have to learn the art of transforming compost into flowers.’
This is no a reason to stay in relationships that don’t work or are abusive, but you can use the experience, no matter how unpleasant, to grow and live a better life.
Have you had any experiences that brought you sadness initially but you now know had a positive outcome? Let me know. Let us learn together.
Further reading suggestions on love
There are three novels (there are so many more), which are, simply, just incredible stories of love.
Anna Karenina- Leo Tolstoy
‘I’ve always loved you, and when you love someone, you love the whole person, just as he or she is, and not as you would like them to be.’
A Suitable Boy- Vikram Seth
‘Every object strives for its proper place. A book seeks to be near its truest admirer. Just as this helpless moth seeks to be near the candle that infatuates him.’
Americanah- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
‘She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself. With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size… It seemed so natural, to talk to him about odd things. She had never done that before. The trust, so sudden and yet so complete, and the intimacy, frightened her.’
What are your favourite love stories? Share your favourite quotes from them?
Would like to know how being loved reduces your risk of dementia and improves your memory? Learn more on Memorability’s free course on Social Interaction.
To continue the discussion on love and memory, injustice and empathy- join the discussion next month.
The Book: Memory Against Forgetting. A photographic journey through South Africa’s history 1946-2010
Author: Ranjith Kally
About: A collection of photos and stories of a history we share, and shouldn’t forget.
Who are your guides? Whose words from novels, or autobiographies, have helped during crises?