The Kind of Love That Can Change the World


by Barry Michels

It’s not easy to give up your childish expectation of fairness. In my experience, it’s only when you feel something bigger, better, and more powerful than fairness that you stop waiting for it. I first experienced this by accident when I was a small child.

I was about five years old and my parents took my older sister and me to the snow, which should have been exciting for someone living in sunny Southern California. But somehow my father hurt my feelings in the car on the way—I can’t remember how. What I do remember is that I went into the Maze. I sat in the back seat behind my father and burned holes in the back of his head with my eyes. I wished every possible torture on him. If hatred were flammable, his head would’ve exploded.

When we arrived at the snow, my family piled out of the car, but I refused to budge. I folded my arms across my chest and sat there. My mother tried gentle persuasion. My sister sledded down the hill a couple of times and came back to tell me how fun it was. Even my dad tried to tempt me out of the car. But the harder they tried to persuade me, the more I dug in my heels.

Eventually, they gave up. That’s when the strangest thing happened.


I glanced outside the car and saw a little puppy sniffing around, lost and shivering in the parking lot. Before I had time to think, I opened the car door, rushed out to gather him in my arms, and brought him back inside the warm car with me. He licked my face. Suddenly everything changed. I was overwhelmed with love for that helpless, scared puppy. I felt my heart unclench, expand. Everything felt so different; it was as if the universe had suddenly tilted on its axis. I didn’t hate my father—I loved him, even wanted to be like him: he had taught me to be protective of animals. And that stubborn, cranky, bratty feeling that had possessed me was gone. I felt more grown up—as though I was better than all that petty childishness.

I rushed out of the car and called for my dad. He came and helped me find the dog’s owner, and he told me how proud he was of me. I’m still amazed at how abruptly everything changed. My family cheered for me as I sledded down the hill. I was crying and laughing at the same time. I felt like I’d broken out of prison. All the way home I was singing and laughing. I even managed a kind of inarticulate, five-year-old apology for the jerk I’d been.

Even as a child, I sensed that this incident was about more than my love for the puppy. I’d had an overwhelming experience of a higher force, so powerful it carried me out of the Maze, beyond my petty hurt feelings and stubborn rage. I felt a powerful wave of love for everything and everyone—it gave me the strength to overcome my injured pride and anger.

I had experienced something that was completely different from what we normally call “love.” Most of us think of love in its lower form. You feel this type of love only when the other person is pleasing you. You feel it for your child when he smiles at you adoringly; or your partner when she looks particularly attractive. This form of love is weak because it’s a reaction to outer circumstances.


The trick to getting out of the Maze is to generate a form of love that’s independent of your immediate reactions. After all, your reactions put you in the Maze in the first place. That’s what I experienced when I was five years old. It was bigger than my personal reactions, bigger than me. That’s love in its higher form. We have a name for this kind of love: “Outflow.”

Outflow is an infinite, spiritual force that gives of itself without restraint. It’s like sunlight, shining equally on everything and everyone. The moment you feel this force, you’re lifted above your petty hurt feelings. You no longer need a remedy from the offending person because Outflow is its own reward. Unlike fairness, it’s a reward that has real value. It lets you go on with your life.

Please be clear: tapping into Outflow doesn’t mean giving in or being passive in the face of wrongdoing. We’re not counseling that you roll over and let people mistreat you. Outflow changes your inner state; in an outer sense you’re still free to respond however you want to. In fact, you’ll find that by tapping into this higher force, you’ll be free to be more aggressive should you choose to confront someone. As long as you’re in the Maze, you still need something from the person who wronged you. This gives that person an intimidating power over you. In Outflow, connected to a higher force, there’s no one to be afraid of.


Think of Outflow as a huge tidal wave of bountiful energy, bestowing itself on the world. Although it surrounds you at all times, you can’t perceive it until you’re in a giving state yourself. You have to be in sync with Outflow just like a surfer has to be in sync with a wave he wants to ride. When you give from the heart, you let yourself be carried by Outflow the same way a surfer does when he paddles forward to catch a wave.

The trick is putting yourself in that state whenever you choose, especially when you’re so hurt or angry it feels impossible. At those times, you can’t wait passively for something to open your heart, like the puppy did when I was five years old. You have to make a conscious effort to generate love when someone has just wronged you. For most of us this feels unnatural. Like children, we expect love to be effortless. Part of growing up spiritually is understanding that it takes work to be truly loving.

For most of us it’s not natural to work at love—we need a tool. The tool is called Active Love exactly because it combines love and effort. The work you do when you use the tool creates a miniature flow of love inside you. That puts you in sync with a larger, universal wave of cosmic Outflow.