Look at the one right beside you

It's very common for single people to spend their time searching and searching for the "right person." Zen suggests that we stop running around and instead see what is right in front of our eyes.

Look at a person who is close to you in your life right now. Whether this is a friend, a potential mate or more, notice the ways in which you push him away. Stop doing that. Just allow the two of you to be together in whatever way you are. Accept everything about your relationship as it is.

Do the same thing tomorrow with someone else. This doesn't mean that you have to consider marrying every person who crosses your path. It's just an exercise to see how commonly you might dismiss people who are already in your world because you're busy waiting for the "right one" to appear. But the more "right" you can be with everyone, the more you can open up to the very real possibilities of the present.

Stop playing around with love

So many singles complain that they are not loved. The reason for this can be quite simple. They are so busy playing games that potential partners never get to know who they really are.

What roles or games do you play in relationships? What roles do you expect others to assume? Chances are, you follow a pretty clear pattern, but the question is: Are you falling in love with the person, or with the role that he plays? If you're not sure about your roles, turn them around for a little while. Try playing different roles. Experiment with someone who plays roles that you are not accustomed to. Notice how that feels.

The goal is to become aware of the difference between who you are and the roles you play. Eventually you'll be able to let the roles go and simply be who you are -- which is a Zen-like state of being. Who you are is always lovable and beautiful. It's the roles that get in the way.

Let partners come and go

One major obstacle in living a life of love is the tendency to hold on. We grasp and cling to each other, preventing the freedom of love from rising on its own. Zen asks us to let go.

When someone comes into your life, let him come. Welcome the person, whoever he is. Enjoy what it is he brings, even if it's only for a short time.

When it is time for a person to go away, let him go. Do not turn the person's leaving into an experience of rejection, loss or abandonment. Realize that his leaving has nothing to do with you. It is simply time for him to go.

Do this with yourself as well. Let yourself come and go freely in life, and don't get caught in unnecessary chains. The more you free yourself and others, the more easily you fall in love.

Put your baggage down

Many feel that love is not possible unless all their demands are met. However, these same people are repeatedly amazed when they find that these demands don't lead to happiness. Instead, the demands are just obstacles to falling in love.

What are your "must haves" for relationships? If you're not sure, write out the list and take a good look at it. Realize that this is baggage that may be keeping all kinds of people and possibilities away. This baggage may also make you fearful, rigid and closed off to what is available for you right now. Zen asks us to break free of old demands.

Try letting one of these demands subside for just one day. Notice how you feel without it. (Remember, you can always take it back again.) Then try it another day. As you do this many times, you may find that things you thought were crucial for your life were really getting in the way. The more you do this, the more light and happy you will feel. Plus, this openness allows all kinds of new people, possibilities and situations to start coming your way. You will have made room for them by putting your baggage down.

Give gifts

Giving and receiving are at the core of every relationship. When we are in love, this is never a problem. We naturally give and are happy with whatever is offered in return. If you want to open up to falling in love, adopt this state of mind and start giving naturally.

What gifts do you give others in relationships? What do you hope to receive in return? Now take a moment to consider what else you can give someone. Then give it. Do this every day. Each day, give something else. It does not have to be fancy or expensive -- or even a material object -- just something that will add to his or her day. Then do this with all kinds of different people. Zen is about doing this kind of thing quietly without great fanfare and without expecting something in return.

Do this with yourself as well. Take a moment to find out what kind of gift you would like. Simple examples are taking a walk in the park, buying a new lipstick or spending time with someone you care for. Now give yourself a gift each day.

Although this exercise is simple, it is extremely powerful. Doing this daily can turn everything around in your relationships. When you give, remember not to look for anything in return (not even a smile or thank you). Just give to give, with no expectations, no demands. By living with this open, generous mind, all kinds of other gifts come to you naturally.

Make friends with yourself

Many people say they are lonely, even when they have a partner at their side. This is simply because they have not yet made friends with themselves. According to Zen, once you come to terms with yourself and appreciate who you are on a personal level, it is impossible to be lonely anymore.

Make friends with yourself. Spend time noticing who you are. Accept all parts of yourself. Stop judging and rejecting what is going on inside. Be still and look within.

Start with this exercise. Pay attention to your breath and just notice what is going on. Let it be. Accept it, and return to the breathing. Understand that, breath by breath, underneath the clamor, you are perfect just as you are. Can you choose to be this natural self in relationships? Can you choose to have relationships with those who want and appreciate just what you are? Making positive changes in your life -- and your relationships -- can start with something as simple as taking off your shoes.