05/21/2014 04:55 pm ET Updated Jul 21, 2014

The Path to Love

It is extremely cliché to say "love conquers all" or "anything is possible with love." It is also cliché to say, "What the world needs is love." Of course, there's the ever-popular "God is love." Are these just slogans? Or is there at least an element of truth behind it? The assumption is that love is unconditional, which means that if you feel and express love in its authentic form, then it doesn't matter what others do or say to you and those close to you, you will always respond with grace and kindness and gentleness, and in the spirit of peace.

That's extremely difficult. But it is not impossible. A Jewish guy by the name of Jesus of Nazareth had this capacity. A Hindu man by the name of Mahatma Gandhi had this capacity. A Catholic woman by the name of Agnesë Bojaxhiu (Mother Teresa) had this capacity. The Tibetan Buddhist Dalai Lama has this capacity. The Anglican Desmond Tutu has this capacity. Others have had and have this same capacity, in various degrees.

I'm not sure exactly how they developed the capacity to love with such perfection or near-perfection. But here's a path that seems to make sense to me.

First, you have to allow yourself to quiet your mind, seek silence. This silence is obtained through meditation or contemplative prayer, or simply stillness. I've found that silence has a way of enabling your ability to listen. Listening is probably the hardest thing for us humans because it requires us to withhold judgment, opinions, criticisms, righteousness, getting in the last word.

But listening (the deep kind) is an immensely important step because it leads to awareness of your true self and the world around you. It enables you to realize that you are not your mind, your physical body, your possessions, your ego, your desires. It enables you to fully understand that you are not the center of the universe and that you are... impermanent. It allows you to see that you are not alone, but rather merely a part of a greater whole. Once you observe that you are not a separate entity, you are more likely to start observing with enhanced clarity all that which is outside of you.

This greater awareness has a way of moving you toward engaging more with other people, pushing you out of your safe environments, fortresses (i.e. churches), and isolated mental states. The more aware you become, the more you are inspired to want to establish relationships with people for no other reason than to get to know them, be with them. This is pure engagement with no hidden agendas.

Engagement has a funny way of leading to empathy -- a capacity to put yourself in the body and mind of another person and feeling what it is to walk in their shoes.

Empathy is just a short hop, skip and a jump away from feeling compassion.

Compassion stimulates your desire and willingness to act on behalf of another.

The more you act out your sense of compassion, the more you perfect that thing we call love, the more you allow "God" to manifest and be present.

In summary... Silence leads to listening. Listening leads to engagement. Engagement leads to empathy. Empathy leads to compassion. Compassion leads to Love.

And of course love is the way you change the world.