20 December 2010

Ian Gawler Blog – Love and its Conditions

Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christ quite literally represents the embodiment of pure love, unconditional love.

Now there are many forms of love in this world of ours. There is love for a parent, for a child, for a lover, an animal, a thing, a cause etc.

These worldly loves often have an element of the relative about them. Relative in the sense that there are conditions: I will love you if… (you love me back, make me laugh, look after me...etc). I will love you when… ( you have a better job, loose some weight, do not get so angry…etc). I will love you if…etc, etc.

It is easy to observe many people are confused by these different aspects of love. This was often apparent after people came to any of the Foundation programs, particularly the residential ones.
The fact is that these programs reliably bring out the best in people. Participants quickly come to really care for each other. The staff consistently put their own issues aside and really care for the participants, People begin to feel something of that unconditional love.

As an aside, it is my sense that it is just this, the experience of unconditional love, that often explains the wonderful, positive and often profound transformations that occur during the programs in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing of participants.

But then, as these people  head home, often they experience the confusion that many others feel independently of attending such a program. If pure love is unconditional, and I want to love all, how do I manage the difficult people in my life?

The key resides in understanding the difference between relative and absolute. This is one of the great gifts of examining our minds. When we do so, we realise there is relative and there is absolute. On the absolute level we all have an intrinsic goodness, an intrinsic purity. In Christianity we say we are made in God’s image. Cannot get much purer than that. In Buddhism we say that in their essence, everyone has Buddha nature – again that notion of fundamental goodness and purity.

Yet on the relative, worldly level it is clear peoples’ actions, emotions and thoughts can be complex and often problematic. The fact is some relationships can be very difficult, even quite toxic and there may well be a need to discriminate about whom we hang out with!

Now it is true that difficult relationships can teach us so much about ourselves, about patience, tolerance, compassion etc. And enduring some relationships can lead to healthy outcomes for all. However, in some situations it can be clear that to remain in a relationship will only create more problems and it may well be the loving thing to avoid such a relationship.

Personal awareness requires discrimination. It is not about suffering endlessly, it is not about neglecting the treatment of illness or the working on difficulties. It is about right action. Working as much as possible from a position of unconditional love, recognising the fundamental goodness in all and so having a deep respect and real compassion for all, while at the same time recognising the limitations of others and ourselves. Doing the best we can and making every effort to continue to learn and to be a better person. To be increasingly comfortable with our own capacities and those of others.

Christmas then is a perfect time to contemplate the place of love in your life. To consider when for you love is unconditional, when it is more like a deal with its conditions, and when it is better avoided. Christmas often brings families together in a way that these issues are brought to the fore, so be gentle on yourself and others, take time to contemplate and meditate and may you experience something of the true meaning of Christmas – unconditional love.

Next Blog: I had pre-empted writing something about 2011 for this post, but love just took over! So there will be a short break until the New Year and then, all being well, some thoughts on the year to come.

May you have a joyful Christmas and a meaningful 2011.


  1. Ooh I am very glad love took over, because this is very well put. And of course I look forward to your next post, Dr. Gawler. Thanks, and happy Christmas.

  2. This issue has been a real problem for me. For many years I struggled to have decent boundaries around people I thought I was meant to love but who were horrid to me. What you write here Ian makes the best sense I have heard and it will help me to distance myself from one problem person at least. Many thanks, this will be of great benefit.

  3. Hey there, i hope you also take time to reflect on the impact, that you Ian have had on many lives. I did your 3 month course with Robyn Jones at Hawthorn this year. It is hard not to scream what i got out of it from the rooftop! But its not everyones journey,it should be though... Wayne Dyer says dont die with your music still in you... Your music has changed my life xxxx Merry Christmas, regards Kerry Rowe x

  4. When I opened your post to read and found it to be based on Love and It's Conditions spun me out. This past week I have been contemplating on a few issues (people) who are standing on the last step of my bus before being asked to hop off. Thank you Ian you have clearly out lined the boundaries here. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and I look forward to your next post. Wendy Perth

  5. I would have read this if you didn't bang on about god and jesus. The opening line put me off. Shame, you might have had something interesting to say but you alienated me from the off.

  6. If you want to keep in touch with what Christmas is really about, go to Youtube and listen to the various verions of the carol "O Holy Night". Then, listen to the various versions of the French version "Cantique de Noel". The English version is ok but the French is very much better. Go to Wikipedia and look up the French and the English translation. Then give yourself a real treat and listen to the Swedish version - O Helga Natt. Particularly Carol, Tommy Korberg, Peter Joback and Roger Pontare. Listen carefully and feel what each of the singers gets out of the carol.