Maintaining a relationship of love isn’t easy. There are sometimes emotional potholes, traps and stumbling blocks along the way that can trip us up and send a treasured relationship spiraling away from a place of love and toward an unhealthy, unwanted place that breeds unhappiness and suffering.

On the other hand, there is an endless list of healthy, positive emotions that one can nurture to help nurture a state that not only maintains love, but enhances it; potentially creating a positive feedback loop that continually amplifies love in our lives. Love is available to us in infinite quantities–it is up to us to identify the ways in which we can tap into it and build a system of love within ourselves and with others. Love is limitless, and I find that essential nature of love is such that the more I give it away, the more I receive.

This diagram (formally called a Causal Loop Diagram) is an exploration of love that I drew for a Systems Thinking class at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (now called Pinchot) on Valentine’s day back in 2011: Systems-of-Love2

On the left side of the diagram, you will see a set of interrelated systems involving contempt, indifference, stress, jealousy, fear and stagnation–a set of emotions that are often detrimental to maintaining a relationship with love within ourselves and with others.

On the right side, we have systems involving respect, compassion, insight, compersion, faith and creativity that have the potential to generate a continual cycle that creates more love in endless quantities through understanding and nurturing them within ourselves and others.

Nestled between these two polarized systems are states of peace, balance, mindfulness and our capacity for learning. I believe that using these central states to process our emotions provide us spaces wherein one can begin to make a conscious choice about how they want love to flow through their lives.

This diagram was inspired by countless life-changing past and present experiences I’ve had with love in my personal relationships (if you’re reading this right now, you know who you are!), and an ongoing dialogue about love with a special someone that is opening up incredible new layers of richness and understanding about the meaning of love in my life. I am infinitely grateful.

I leave you with a prayer I wrote once upon a time:

May I remember the journey that brought me here,
the kindness and love that nurtured me,
the incredible stillness nestled deep within my soul.
May I dwell in a space of ever-growing gratitude,
and seek to bestow upon others

the blessings that I have received.

This is a re-post from my personal (and somewhat dusty) artist blog, La Fermata on March 17, 2011.