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    5 Ways to Feel Loved - With or Without a Valentine!

    Like Charlie Brown's perennially card-free Valentine's Day mailbox, February 14 can sometimes seem empty. But what if a deeper love already fills the vacuum? Here are five ways that can help to feel that love.

    Like Charlie Brown I'm a veteran of the Valentine's-Day-disappointment wars.

    When cartoonist Charles Schulz drew the Peanuts character peering into an empty mailbox - futilely asking "Any love letters for me today?" [1] - he was portraying me, as I was in my teens and early twenties.

    It's amazing how much unfulfilled hope you can invest in an inanimate object like a mailbox!

    Eventually I stumbled on something that changed things for me. It was the idea that love is something always present that we are divinely designed to feel and express, rather than a hole in our hearts we are trying to fill.

    Such love is good for one's wellbeing, according to a study which established that "providing tangible assistance to others protects our health and lengthens our lives". [2]

    Understanding that "love is a be, love is a do" - as a treasured friend put it - has enabled me to find health and healing without drugs for the past three decades. It also helped me sort myself out emotionally, paving the way for me to get married. So each February 14 is now happily taken care of!

    But regardless of whether we expect a heart-shaped (and heart-sent) card to arrive, there are things we can do to open our hearts to an unconditional sense of being loved.

    1. Make space to feel an inner assurance. Like many, I've found that pausing to create a "sacred space" can play a pivotal part in bringing out love's possibilities. Yet so many things seems to conspire against the reflective time needed to nurture a healthy - and health-giving - compassion for ourselves and others. I've found I need to take a stand and insist I can take time to "Be still and know that I am God", as a favourite Bible verse puts it. I've also found it helps to have a writing pad handy to list all the to-dos insisting they need to be done now. Instead I can calmly complete the items on the list after that spiritual "me time".

    2. Happiness is here and now. Recent research has shown that "the single-minded pursuit of happiness actually leaves people less happy". [3] Even "materialists" who get what they want find the satisfaction "short-lived", according to another study [4]. Is it possible to find happiness without pursuing it? A colleague's kitchen wall plaque suggests it is. It says: "The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here." These words are a spiritual nudge. They remind her "we own no material past to regret, no material present to be aware of, and no material future to be anxious about". Instead, as spiritual thinker and author Mary Baker Eddy [5] put it, whatever vacuum we seem to feel in our hearts "is already filled with divine Love".

    3. "Conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart". These words, by the same author, offer a "true north" when looking for "true love". She adds that nothing can satisfy that hungering heart except conscious worth. In a song about a relationship's aftermath singer Michelle Armstrong asks, "Must I be told I am beautiful, to be? Must I be compatible, to be complete?" [6] It's liberating to glimpse that "conscious worth" is not dependent on someone else noticing or commenting. It depends on us recognising our inherently divine nature and agreeing to disagree with thoughts (or words) suggesting anything less.

    4. It's better to give than to receive. Love is a boundless, beautiful idea that we become more readily aware of as we put the emphasis on expressing it to others. That can include a partner and family, of course. But it doesn't need to be limited to our nearest and dearest. In many Latin American countries Valentine's day is 'El Dia del Amor y Amistad' - a day for appreciating friendships as well as love. We can make it an everyday goal to touch a broader array of lives and we shouldn't be surprised if some of that love finds its way back to us.

    5. Don't wait to cross thresholds. Jesus was a man of unconditional, selfless love. From that perspective he saw a heaven "at hand". This suggests finding health, harmony and happiness is possible now, rather than a future promise. His words are equally a wake up call if any sought-after satisfaction appears to be waiting over a threshold not yet reached. Our solution can be as close as a changed thought away if we're willing to look in a different direction and find that: "Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind and happiness would be more readily attained and more secure in our keeping if sought in Soul". (Mary Baker Eddy)

    Love certainly flows to us from others and can light up our lives. But when it ebbs, through grief or breakup, loneliness can leave a gap as unhealthy as it is unhappy - even fatally so, according to a six year study by the University of California [7]. So familiarity with how to express a more consistent, divinely sourced compassion, support and affection might literally be a lifesaver.[8]

    For those lacking a Valentine and needing a more figurative "lifesaver" this February 14, instead of Charlie Brown's empty mailbox syndrome think Snoopy's joy and gratitude - sitting on a pile of gifts, snowed under by cards and saying to himself "It's nice to be somebody's sweetie!" [9]

    Perhaps thats not how you are seeing yourself. But it is how the divine always sees you - surrounded by love.