We have all heard the term "unconditional love." It is that unwavering love offered to someone independent of anything they say or do. When you love someone unconditionally, you love them no matter what because you see and appreciate them for who they truly are. That is why it feels so good to be loved that way. It is a recognition of all that is inherently and unalterably worthy within us. The same is true when we unconditionally love ourselves.
But what does it mean to live unconditionally? And what would be the benefit of doing so? To answer that, perhaps it is easier to think first about a conditional life. That would be a life where you say I can't do X because I don't have Y. Or I'm not enough of this or that to make it work. A conditional life is when you approach it like a prix fixe dinner, where you are deciding among a limited set of options that others picked for you. You don't want to piss off the chef or annoy your dinner mates, so you go with what everyone else is having, even though you know you'll be crunching on Tums later.
In contrast, living unconditionally means it is all on the menu. If you can imagine it and want it, you can create it. When we live unconditionally, we place no dependencies, limits, or caveats on what we see as possible in our lives. We commit unwaveringly to our joy, expansion, and fullest potential, regardless of what others may think or whatever stories we may have told ourselves in the past. The unconditional life is a life of true freedom because we are the sole creators of it.
Swimming with the fishes
We like to think of ourselves as free, particularly in western societies, largely because of the choices available to us. Whether it is what we do for work, who we marry, where we live, what religion we do or do not practice, what car we drive, where we shop, or what we eat for dinner, it seems like we are free to do as we wish. So long as we live within the established laws, we are generally at liberty to go about our days without undue coercion or restraint.
But there is a big difference between being free to cruise a fish tank and being free to explore the ocean. From within the fish tank, we might have the illusion of freely swimming about, but someone else is controlling the food we eat, the music we hear, the trinkets we distract ourselves with, and how far we can go. Someone else has determined what is normal and acceptable and we take our place in the flock. It feels like freedom only because we don't know any different.
Similarly, the fish tank feels safer and more secure than the open ocean because we generally know what to expect. One day is more or less like another. We become accustomed to our routines, focusing our attention on our little corner of the tank without much regard for what is transpiring on a grander scale. So long as the food comes, the water is bearable, and there are shiny baubles to look at, we accept life as being pretty good and don't ask any questions. We accept the conditions of the fish tank as the way life is. We may even come to love it for the convenience of having things decided for us.
What we don't realize is that we have been trained to think that way. From our earliest days, we are bombarded, subtly or otherwise, with reasons to be afraid and thus seek to be protected by those we put in power. We learn that the world can be a scary place, those who are different don't always do so well, everything can be lost in an instant, and life doesn't always seem fair.
From this external messaging arises our inner critic, fed by our ego, who loves to challenge our worthiness and avoid anything that might risk loss, failure, embarrassment, or pain.
The unfortunate result is that we start hedging and negotiating against ourselves. We take options off the table because we can't see a path where success is likely. We rein in our dreams to avoid wanting what we don't think we can have. We learn to fear what we can't predict and trade happiness and self-determination for a sense of certainty and security, particularly when it seems the world is shaking all around us. We limit ourselves, which encourages others to do the same. All of this makes us easier to manipulate and control.
Rising above limitations
Within my life, I had accustomed myself to the fish tank. I was married, lived in a big house, and was working my way up the corporate ladder. I had fully leaned into my career, getting on a plane twice a week to meet with clients and bill as many hours as I could. By all measures, I had achieved the success I thought I wanted, but I didn't feel the way I wanted to or thought I should. I wasn't particularly happy. Somewhere along the way, I had deferred and dismissed my biggest dreams, believing going after them would somehow mean giving something up and ending up with less.
Unlike a lot of people, I actually did something with this realization. Over about two years, I made a series of deliberate choices to prevent or remove what I viewed as limiting conditions in my life. As a result, I now find myself with no spouse, no kids, no pets, no boss, no house, and no debt. I am semi-nomadic, letting myself be guided by inspiration, inclination, and opportunity. Having left my corporate job, I set the schedule and activities for my day. Whatever I decide is my decision alone.
Is that unconditional living? Yes and no. Certainly, I have more flexibility and spaciousness than someone who is married with kids, working for someone else, and locked into a mortgage.
But it didn't take me long to realize that freedom was about more than my external circumstances. I was living my dream but my mind wouldn't let me enjoy it.
As I lied in bed at night, I was still anxious about the future and uncomfortable with what felt like greater uncertainty and ambiguity. Where would I go next? What if the money ran out? Was I making the most of my days? My new life went from a dream fulfilled to a problem to be solved or situation to be managed. About as soon as I cleared the slate, I started looking for something significant to fill it back up, just to have something stable to hold onto again.
The real chains hadn't been my marriage or my job but the mental and emotional habits constantly running in the background. I didn't fully believe that I was worthy and capable of the freedom I had created. I was still living in lack and limitation, placing unconscious constraints on what I thought was possible. I wasn't trusting that I could keep creating what I wanted. Despite all of my courage to step into the new, I had dragged conditional living with me.
To start living unconditionally, I had to release the fear. There was the fear that no one would be interested in what I had to say, that I wouldn't make enough money to live the way I wanted to, that I would be judged and ridiculed for my opinions. I had to get comfortable living with the openness and ambiguity of infinite potential and learn to celebrate, not worry about, the unpredictability of life. I had to want my freedom more than I craved the illusion of certainty and stability. Perhaps more importantly, I had to believe I was worthy of my dreams.
What helped me drop the fear was understanding that not only was it holding me back, but there actually was nothing to fear.
Sure, some things may not go the way I planned, but so what? I have risen to every challenge in my life up to this point and am only getting wiser and more skilled at choosing what is best for me. The more I listen to my intuition, follow the inspiration of my heart, and honor my discernment, the more I align to what is in my highest good. Similarly, the more I appreciate the journey for who I am becoming and what I am learning, the better I feel along the way. The conditions I put around what success looks like fall away because I am happy in the now, which is all I ever wanted.
When I truly believe that I am the creator of my creation, the author of my life's script, and the architect of my life's path, I am claiming my power as the master of my destiny. I am exercising full authority and sovereignty over my experience. That is freedom--seeing myself as limitless in what I can create and knowing that ability can never be taken from me. All I need to create a life I love is within my consciousness. I create through my thoughts, which affect my emotions, which determine how I feel, which drives what I will experience in physical reality. The mechanism through which this happens is rooted in quantum physics. As Nikola Tesla famously said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
Neuroscience is catching up to this idea, explaining that the brain creates its experience of reality in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Essentially, we start with a belief or condition, like I'm not good enough. Then our brain looks to the world around us to gather evidence to prove the conclusion is correct. With our conclusion appearing valid, we behave as if it were true, such as talking ourselves out of what we want to do. This sets the stage for how others will behave in response to us, such as not having confidence in us, which offers more evidence of our original conclusion. This is how patterns form and conditional thinking takes hold.
I chose to write a new script. Every morning before I get out of bed I ask myself, "What would I love to create today? What experiences do I want to have? How do I want to feel?" Then I feel my way into that space and make choices throughout the day that lead me there, knowing that what comes my way will be a product of what I am putting out. To stay aligned, I become more aware of the mental and emotional habits I typically slide into, like focusing on what I don't yet have or something I wish I did differently, and catch myself before they can derail me. I bring myself back to my own agency.
Waking up to what's possible
As humanity starts to awaken, we are glimpsing life beyond the conditions and constraints of the fish tank. We are questioning how "normal" normal really is and poking holes in dominant narratives that have kept us playing small. We are coming face to face with our discontent and realizing how deep some of this programming runs, as well as how deeply flawed it is. We are seeing how much it has cost us. Brewing in the collective consciousness is a desire for something better.
The key to building something better is to shift our perspective higher, above the fear and conditions, and choose to set ourselves free.
As we individually find our courage and worth and reach for our fullest potential, we shine a light for others to see and get curious about. Without saying a word, our lives can serve as an example of what it looks like to put joy and excitement first. We show them what is possible when we believe anything is.
It doesn't mean we don't get nervous or apprehensive sometimes as we stretch into the unknown, but we keep going anyway. We see through the false conditions and limits that we have placed on ourselves and adopt the mindset of a creator. A creator knows that life is one creation after the next, with each experience enriching our lives in some way. Even the ones that make us squirm or cringe offer the opportunity to make a different choice.
Unconditional living is the art of being free. It is liberating ourselves from the terms other people set for us and the constraints we put on ourselves through limiting beliefs. To live unconditionally is to be prolific with choice, not just in the options we see before us but in deliberately choosing what we want for our lives. In this way, to live unconditionally is to love ourselves unconditionally because it is affirming that we are worthy of whatever we desire. It is giving ourselves the gift of a beautiful, inspired life.
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