Book notes: “How to Love” by Thich Nhat Hanh

“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.”

“Love is a learned, emotional reaction. It is a response to a learned group of stimuli and behaviors. Like all learned behavior, it is [affected] by the interaction of the learner with his environment, the person’s learning ability, and the type and strength of the reinforcers present; that is, which people respond, how they respond and to what degree they respond, to his expressed love.”

“If our parents didn’t love and understand each other, how are we to know what love looks like? … The most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness. Our parents may be able to leave us money, houses, and land, but they may not be happy people. If we have happy parents, we have received the richest inheritance of all.”

Loving-kindness

To know how to love someone, we have to understand them. To understand, we need to listen. The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand.

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person.

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.

Compassion

When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited. We can’t accept or tolerate others and demand that they change. But when our hearts expand…we accept others as they are and then they have a chance to transform.

Joy

If you have understanding and love, then every moment — whether it’s spent making breakfast, driving the car, watering the garden or doing anything else in your day — can be a moment of joy.

Equanimity

In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person. Suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters. What happens to your loved one happens to you. What happens to you happens to your loved one. In true love, there’s no more separation or discrimination.

We are the stories we tell to ourselves.