The most intense “love holiday” in America surely has to be Valentine’s Day. On this day, millions of men and women eagerly anticipate a fresh and exciting encounter with love. With this in mind, I went searching for a good book about love, and ran into Love for No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love (Freepress, 2010), whichis bestselling author Marci Shimoff’s latest book.Her previous effort, Happy for No Reason (Freepress, 2008), sold 14 million copies. Shimoff, coauthor of six of the top-selling titles in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, writes that she felt compelled to write this book after encountering people who were “more than just happy.” While travelling around America to promote Happy for No Reason, she started to meet people who seemed to be “…radiating a palpable quality of open-heartedness that was impossible to miss.” Over and over, she heard from these folks that they were experiencing a “sense of unity” with those around them and the world in general that they described as being “filled with love.” But how did they do this?
“…In a small percentage of cases, the person had had some kind of spontaneous awakening; you might say a divine intervention. But in most cases, I was able to identify something specific that he or she had done to set up the condition for full-time love. I was so excited: there was actually something I could do to experience more love in my life … So I set out to learn more about love — not romantic love, but the expanded, more universal love that connects us all and gives meaning to life — and write a book about it,” Shimoff writes.
According to Shimoff, there exists inside each person a “state of unconditional love.” What is her definition of unconditional love? This is such an important premise of the book I want to give a full quote here:
“What if you could live in that state of unconditional love all the time? The kind of love that allowed you to not only feel compassion for a stranger but that also let you bring the highest and best part of yourself to your family and friends, your work, to your community, and even to the things that you find challenging in your life? Imagine loving people, not because they fill your needs or because their opinions match your own, but because you’re connected to a state of pure love within yourself. I’m not talking about a Hollywood or Hallmark-card kind of love, but about love as a state of being: the kind of love that is limitless and doesn’t ask to be returned.”
Why Don’t More People Experience Unconditional Love?
Shimoff notes that all the major spiritual traditions teach that God is love, human beings have access to this love, and that we are all supposed to love one another. What is her explanation as to why not enough people are living this way? “It’s only clouds of stress, negative habits, ego, and fear that block this pure state of love and prevent us from experiencing it,” she writes.
Love for No Reason offers a “new paradigm of love” that will allow anyone and everyone to access his or her own inner reservoir of unconditional love so “…you’ll become the most powerful, peaceful, and loving person you can be.” Combining her life experiences with insights gleaned from personal interviews conducted over a three-year period with one hundred and fifty individuals she identifies as “love luminaries” (individuals who consistently radiate “higher love”), Shimoff believes her “revolutionary seven-step Love-for-No Reason program will increase your capacity to love and propel you into the state of Higher Love.”
A key component to this program is what Shimoff calls “The Love Continuum.” The following diagram taken from her book illustrates this new paradigm of love:
Notice the heart symbol on the far right of the continuum. This heart symbolizes the place of our “inner being” where, according to Shimoff, Love for No Reason resides. This kind of love is entirely different from our old, limited concept of love:
“This is Higher Love, and inner state of pure love that doesn’t depend on other people, external conditions, or circumstances … When you’re in a state of Love for No Reason, you experience freedom, peace, joy, openness, and deep fulfillment. When you ‘Love for No Reason,’ you don’t need a reason—you love just because.” She continues, “Embracing this new idea of love as an independent state and learning how to experience it on a continuing basis [emphasis mine] is the key to living a life of unconditional love.”
In Shimoff’s seven-step program, she provides a “Love for No Reason Self-Assessment” to help readers determine their current experience of unconditional love, fourteen “Love for No Reason Exercises” that help readers establish habits supportive of deep and lasting love, and personal stories shared by twenty-three “heart people,” who describe for us how they are living a rich life in the “gifts of the heart.” A resource section at the end of the book lists the websites of the one hundred and fifty “love luminaries.”
Love for No Reason, is comprehensive, upbeat and relentlessly positive. The author promises that by accessing the tools and putting into practice the techniques explained in the book, readers will have more fulfilling relationships, live longer and healthier, recover more quickly from stress, be more effective and creative, be a better parent, and finally, be a magnet for more love in your life. If one sincerely follows the program put forth in this book, likely his or her life will be richly rewarded.
A Unificationist Perspective
Unificationists may applaud the author for deciding to take on the challenge of identifying and explaining the meaning of unconditional love, a key theological notion for them, and then supporting this with a concrete program people can follow to experience it. Conspicuously absent from Shimoff’s approach is reference to any religious system, set of tenants, theology, dogma, or doctrine. Perhaps the closest she gets to any of this is the acknowledgement that God is love, and that all spiritual traditions call upon human beings to “love one another.”
Shimoff asserts that anyone can experience higher states of love and transcend limiting beliefs by adopting special techniques, habits, and practices that allow one’s heart to be “opened up” and “blocks” to be removed. Such a claim will appeal to many.
The roots of the program Shimoff has developed can be traced back to the Human Potential Movement (HPN) of the 1950s and ‘60s, a period of unprecedented Cultural Revolution. During this time individuals and organizations earnestly sought out more effective ways to explore unrealized human potential, emphasizing “individual self-growth,” freedom, creativity, and transcendence. Powerful influencers of this movement included Zen Buddhist teachings (emphasizing spiritual growth, escape from materialism, and subjective experience), along with Gestalt therapy (focusing on “being here and now” and taking personal responsibility).
One recent emphasis in Unification culture regarding how to access God’s unconditional love and make oneself better able to consistently experience it in one’s life, is being expressed through the “Holy Spirit healing sessions,” conducted at the International Headquarters in Seoul, Korea by Rev. Hyung jin Moon, International Unification Church President. Rev. Moon is telling his congregation that if believers want to experience more of God’s unconditional love in their personal lives, within the larger Church community and the world, they will first need to repent.
In a video currently posted on our Family Fed USA website, Hyung jin Nim is shown delivering a speech in which he explains about some of the core elements of these recent healing services.
“No matter how perfect we think we are… we are not. We have sin. This is so important for us to admit. This is critical. Because if you cannot admit you have sin, you can never be open to ask for forgiveness. If you cannot ask for forgiveness, you cannot receive forgiveness. And if you cannot receive forgiveness you cannot receive the grace of God, and you will not know the love of God.” He continues, “The truth is we are all children of God. The difference is repentant children and unrepentant children; Grateful children and ungrateful children; Children who continue to sin and scar God, and children who don’t — or who try not to sin and scar God. Do you see the difference? It’s a huge difference.”
Both Rev. Moon and author Shimoff are talking about the importance of unconditional love and how to access it. Both advocate it is possible to experience this higher love. Both take note that there are certain barriers preventing this true love from flowing in our lives, and that specific steps must be taken if we want to see significant positive change occur in our lives.
Shimoff tells us it is “clouds of stress, negative habits, ego, and fear that block this pure state of love and prevent us from experiencing it.” She advocates that through our own resourcefulness and potential we can remove various bad habits and fears from our lives and come in intimate contact with this unconditional love that is and always has been dwelling in our innermost heart. Hyung jin Nim is taking the approach that human effort, resourcefulness, and techniques alone are not enough to enable people to break free from the “chains” that bind them. “If you cannot ask for forgiveness, you cannot receive forgiveness. And if you cannot receive forgiveness you cannot receive the grace of God, and you will not know the love of God.”
My decades of life experience in following the path of spiritual discipleship incline me to believe that overcoming the “defect of sin” is the key to encountering unconditional love, and that “divine intervention” is needed in conjunction with human effort in order to sustain and multiply such Higher Love. Without a doubt that has been the continuous message of True Parents, and now Rev. Hyung Jin Moon. Yet, it could be that in this 21st Century something new is in the air, and perhaps folks without any religious understanding can reach within and pull out the unconditional love and radiate it every day: if so, what’s not to like? I say, “Bring it on!” But, my bet is that the fount of Unconditional Love today is the life and teachings of Rev. Moon.
Arguably, the Unification Church has a lot of hard work ahead in the area of refining its teachings and effectively branding its message to a wider audience. One fertile field just waiting to be nurtured and cultivated is that of our “True Family Values” material. This material has tremendous potential to be crafted into a comprehensive and cohesive message of hope, inspiration, and practical application on how to bring about healing, positive transformation, and the experience of unconditional love.
One may hope that Unificationists will creatively design programs of practical instruction that can be marketed in a format similar to how Shimoff has done in her excellent book, and by so doing, reach a broader audience of people and help them experience more “Love for No Reason.”
Love for No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love, Marci Shimoff. New York: Freepress, 2010. 353 pp.
Contributed by W. T. D. Cooter