Found this on Brain Pickings. So beautiful I had to share!
At the heart of Nhat Hanh’s teachings is the idea that “understanding is love’s other name” — that to love another means to fully understand his or her suffering. (“Suffering” sounds rather dramatic, but in Buddhism it refers to any source of profound dissatisfaction — be it physical or psychoemotional or spiritual.) Understanding, after all, is what everybody needs — but even if we grasp this on a theoretical level, we habitually get too caught in the smallness of our fixations to be able to offer such expansive understanding. He illustrates this mismatch of scales with an apt metaphor:
“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.”
“The question then becomes how to grow our own hearts, which begins with a commitment to understand and bear witness to our own suffering: When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness. Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”
When I shared this on my Facebook page, the wise Lauren Rosenfeld responded with this:
“Sometimes we stubbornly refuse to understand because we believe that understanding is a zero sum game: If I reach out to understand you, I must give up a part of my self that I am clinging to as if it were a raft on turbulent river of life. But, in reaching out to understand, what I truly give up is self certainty, which is ego driven and illusory. I let go of the raft of self certainty and find that the flow of the river of Life will carry me and you together.
Understanding is infinitely expansive and illuminating — and in this way — as Thay explains — it is equivalent to love: it casts light on our true nature, our interconnectedness, our infinite and infinitely expansive being.”
I have read these quotes over and over in the last couple of weeks, letting it sink into my heart as deeply as it can go. It’s becoming a bit of a mantra – Understanding is love’s other name… And so I’ve been practicing lately – to get more curious, to let go of being right in favor of understanding. Sometimes it’s as easy as slowing down and reminding myself that all I need to do is listen.