[From our bookshelf] :: How To Be An Adult In Love

From the bookshelf at Shakti Shiva Academy:

How To Be An Adult In Love
 – a brilliant book by the legendary David Richo, a psychotherapist, teacher, workshop leader, and writer based in California. (www.DaveRicho.com) He combines Jungian, poetic, and mythic perspectives in his work with the intention of integrating the psychological and the spiritual.

The excerpt below is a particularly poignant one during this month of matters-of-the-heart.  The conundrum of relationships has historically been, and likely always will be, how do I love you (regardless of who you are in my life: partner, parent, child, friend, boss, et al) AND still stay in loving connection with myself.  This can be a huge & agonizing challenge for so many of us!

Dave Richo gives a refreshing perspective that lines up so nicely with Shakti Malan’s teachings and the teachings here at Shakti Shiva Academy — that we are ultimately not separate or alone, we are inherently lovable, and that letting go of the fearful ego is an act of enormous self-love.

Dive in and discover more of just how to be an adult in love.  The world needs more adults, especially in love.

From our bookshelf to yours!
Claire & Rhianne
Co-directors, Shakti Shiva Academy


Scottish philosopher David Hume, in A Treatise of Human Nature, stated, “For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other.” A way to approach loving ourselves is to see we have no separate self. We know this because we notice that the self never appears alone. It is always experienced in connection with someone, something, an idea, a feeling, a mood, a condition. There is no naked I. There is only I as the one who is here rather than there, I as the one feeling of this not that, I as the one in relationship to a specific someone or something. There is really no “I and you.” “I-with-you-here-now” is the only I there is. There is no self without connection. This is another clue that love is what we are.

This mirrors the Buddhist teaching that there is no separate self. Separate in this context means not existing independently but being entirely interdependent, not freestanding but contingent on, connected to, everything else. We have a unique personality, body, and ego, but they too are interactive and interdependent. We are separate bodymind beings but are not separated from all other beings. We have to speak of ourselves and others to make useful distinctions. To awaken is to penetrate more and more deeply into the truth that there ultimately is no “me” or “other.” In the Diamond Sutra, we read, “Although the Bodhisattva saves all sentient beings, there are no [individual] sentient beings to save.” The word self is, after all, merely a useful designation, not an indicator of a separate existence. In fact, our sense of separateness is our central illusion. It opposes connectedness, which is what love is all about.

When we adjust our perspective in this way, we understand that we are not isolated selves but selves-in-relationship – which is love. Our suffering comes from believing that we are separate, which is the opposite of love, a contradiction of our real nature. Our sense of an enduring autonomous self is nonetheless understandable. It happens because of the continuity of our name, our body, our memory, our personality, and most of all, our thoughts. In this sense, Rene Descartes’ statement “I think, therefore I am,” is actually “I think, therefore I think I am.”

Love as compassion for others also presupposes our seeing clearly that we are not separate. This is why in Buddhism, prajna (wisdom), our direct perception that we do not have a separate existence, is necessary if we are to feel compassion. When we are not isolated from others, we are responsible for them, connected to them.

Psychologically, we have two basic drives: to be independent and to be interdependent. We want to be alone and with others. We want relationship in which we can maintain our own individuality while we connect intimately. We do not want to lose ourselves in order to relate to others. We do not want to lose our relationships in order to preserve our autonomy.

Our fondness for the companionship of pets tells us a lot about being alone-and-with. A man is sitting and reading with his dog quickly lying by his side. Whether we are introverts or extroverts, we appreciate non-interfering companionship. Our pet is present but not making demands, passing judgments, or interrupting us. Not everyone wants a partner, but we all want companionship of some kind, at some time, from people or pets. This need is yet another indicator of our interdependence. Through it we find what we are: love.

Thus, true love requires that we surrender any attachment to rugged individualism and total independence. It means gladly embracing the teaching of universal interdependence which is what we discover in spiritual consciousness. We can see, therefore, why love develops optimally with a spiritual practice. Our higher self – the no-separate-self – is ready for that development. It is usually our ego, frightened by surrender of any kind, that puts up a fight. When our very identity is equated with control, the prospect of giving it up can infuse us with panic. To let go of control can feel like dying, like not being anybody anymore. An unconditional yes to the unpredictable givens of life is a radical leap for an ego that has nothing to fall back on but its habit of controlling.

Any work we can do on letting go of that fearful ego is therefore an act of great self-love, because it readies us for caring connection. We work on our ego so it can leap into the arms of our higher self – that is, our real self, or enlightened loving nature.

Embracing the teaching that there is no separate self shows us our place in the human community, equal in stature to and just as loveable as anyone else. The sense of coherence we feel as we maintain our own identity while loving others makes us more likely to love and trust ourselves. This will be quite a task to an ego that has to be superior.

Once we affirm that we were made for love, it becomes easier to love ourselves without feeling that we are being selfish. That bias was introduced to us by family or religion or whatever source feared our full emergence. When we don’t love ourselves, it is not because we are unlovable but because we were repeatedly taught not to.

Early in life, we might have noticed we were different: “I am like this; everyone else is like that.” That semicolon stood for immense disconnection, a loss of the chance to be included, placing in jeopardy the only way we knew of feeling loved. The cost to join may have been our true self. “If I remain what I am here, I am in danger of disconnection, so it is better to be like everybody else.” As we mature, we cherish our uniqueness and offer it to those who can receive it. That is how disconnection begins to feel like connection. Now the semicolon joins.

Any of us may doubt that we are lovable: “If they knew me, they would not love me, because I am not like them, as good as they are, and so on.” The irony is that to become lovable to loving people when we show ourselves to them just as we are, no matter how different we are from the mainstream. Those who don’t love us for who we are deserve our compassion for missing a many-splendored thing.”

How To Be An Adult In Love by David Richo, pp 47-50

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