I spent this past Sunday with a new friend of mine enjoying an incredibly beautiful and much-needed sunny day in San Diego. It has been foggy here for the last two months, very typical of this area in during May and June, so the sunshine is a welcome change! (I have been wondering if I brought the Northwest with me during my relocation from Seattle a couple of months ago!) That being said, I am still mastering the appropriate sunscreen-to-skin ratio and again returned home with a bit more of a pink "glow" than I had initially set out for.

As I am getting to know people and making friends in my new location, I have become very aware of what I will call the art of listening. Simply bringing your full presence and full awareness to someone else can generate feelings of love, understanding, and empathy. It is such a simple practice, but it yields tremendous benefits for everyone involved. So this post is focused on the fact that love happens first, and that everything else then follows. And the "art of listening," both to yourself and to other people, can help you experience the love that is your birthright.

Love Happens First, Greatness Follows

It is becoming well known that happiness is not something we achieve at some later date. In fact, numerous studies have been done showing that people think they will be happy when they have the perfect relationship, make a certain amount of money, achieve a certain level of success, or whatever it is they desire. It has been proven, however, that these externals have very little to do, in fact, with ongoing happiness. For example, if you were to win the lottery you might have a short-term surge in happiness, but within a year you are back at the same level of happiness you had before you won the lottery.

Most of us are born with a happiness "set-point" and external achievements won't change it. There are many internal practices, however, such as gratitude, that can shift this set-point. As your happiness set-point shifts, your external world will begin to improve AND to reflect your new state of being.

Now here is a very interesting piece to the puzzle:

Did you know that many of us play the same cognitive mind-game when it comes to love? We think that when we achieve something, then we will be loveable; that when we accomplish certain things, then we will receive the love we desire.

Here's what your internal dialogue might look like:

"When I make more money, THEN I will be attractive (i.e. loveable)."
"When I get a better job/career, THEN I will be loveable."
"When I lose weight, THEN I will be attractive."
"When I look younger, THEN I will be deserving of affection."

Here is the reality:

The reality is that Love happens FIRST. It is not contingent on doing "x" (fill in the blanks), having "x", or being "x" in particular. Here's the real FACT: Love is not something that you deserve. Love is not based on anything external. Love is an attribute of your very being; it is an attribute, in fact, of the cosmos.

And the more loved a person feels, the more likely he/she is to live a beautiful, inspired life. Love happens first, and success comes second. Love happens first, achievement comes second. Love happens first, meaningful relationships come second. The most important thing is to feel loved, to feel truly loved. Then you will feel inspired to live, inspired to love, inspired to give, inspired to be the very best you, not because you should - not because you have to - but simply because you feel loved and want to make your life a living expression of this love.

Picture a small, new baby. You don’t love a baby because of its accomplishments. I mean, really, they are usually chubby, hairless, crying little tender entities that are completely helpless. In fact, these little beings can’t do anything at all! They are infinitely loveable simply because they are, simply because they exist. The more loved, nurtured, and adored a child feels, the greater her chance of accomplishing her heart's desire. Love happens first. (It's the same for all of us!)

So here is the question: How do you create this feeling of being loved, both for yourself and others? Life is filled with examples of not feeling loved. Maybe you suffered childhood abuse, maybe your husband left you, maybe your wife cheated on you. Maybe your best friend abandoned you.

But NOW is the time to feel (and go after) the love that you deserve, and NOW is the time to share this love with others. Now is the time to discover your greatness and allow others to discover theirs.

Here is a simple technique that yields profound and valuable results:

Practice conscious listening.

Here is how it works:

When you are having a conversation with someone - be it parent, a child, or a partner, a friend - bring your full attention to the person and to the conversation. It is natural and you will probably notice that your mind is constantly distracted and will tend to wander. While you are listening, you might find yourself thinking about how you are feeling, what you need to do, what you ate for lunch, etc. This is natural - so simply bring your awareness back to the other person. Set a conscious intention to fully listen to him or her. Try actively focusing on being in the moment. Look into the other person's eyes and make a commitment to simply be completely present and listen to what they are saying. As your mind wanders, bring it back. In this age of multi-tasking and frenzied doing, simply listening is a beautiful gift of love that you can give.

And sometimes we need to listen - not to other people - but to ourselves. Many of us have a habit of ignoring our own needs - whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual. In fact, it takes practice to learn to listen to ourselves.

Here is another technique you can utilize to give yourself the gift of listening and create a feeling of being loved:

First, find a place to sit quietly. Close your eyes and visualize someone that you respect, admire, or love. This can be a spiritual figure, a family member, or anyone else. It is helpful to visualize a wise, loving, compassionate version of yourself to play this "listening role." Visualize this person listening attentively to everything you have to say. Be sure to check in with yourself - maybe it is your body that needs to be listened to, maybe it is your heart, maybe it is the part of you that is stressed out, perhaps that part that is lonely. Allow this being whom you have visualized to be a fully attentive, compassionate listener, giving you the gift of full attention and awareness. The beautiful thing about this exercise is that you can go to this place any time and anywhere! Anytime you are wanting to feel loved, nurtured, and supported, visualize a loving being offering this unconditional love and acceptance. Many studies have been done showing the profound benefits of visualization on our psycho-physiology - and this is definitely worth imagining!

For those of you interested in bite-size communication - you are welcome to follow my Twitter updates: http://twitter.com/SarahMaria

Peace, Love, and Beauty.

Author's Bio: 

Intent.com
Intent.com is a premier wellness site and supportive social network where like-minded individuals can connect and support each others' intentions. Founded by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika Chopra, Intent.com aims to be the most trusted and comprehensive wellness destination featuring a supportive community of members, blogs from top wellness experts and curated online content relating to Personal, Social, Global and Spiritual wellness.