Friday, January 20, 2012

What Is Love?

It's time to talk about love again. What is it exactly that we're talking about when we talk about love? What is this feeling? Do you really know? Let's dig into it.

What Is Love and What Is Entangled With It?
Initially, love is like so many other things in our lives. It is simply accepted in the original form first supplied. This means that our general idea and sense of the feeling of love is coming from our family. Then we add a layer of social ideas from friends and mix in some very strange notions reinforced through media. Sprinkle in some passing encounters with different romantic partners, and here is one recipe for "love:"

  • Desire
  • Sexuality and fulfillment through physical release and sensations
  • Specific emotional feelings and sensations
  • Social obligation to someone
  • Expectations of certain behaviors
  • Pain (often verbal or physical abuse)
  • Projections onto the other person of who you think they are
  • Having only a few, specific situations where love is permissible to be felt or expressed
Somewhere in there, there might actually be real love. True love is unconditional acceptance. But in today's society with all the stories wrapped up in love, what people commonly think of as love is anything but unconditional. No, there are stories upon stories layered on this feeling, which we only allow ourselves at certain times and in certain ways. The depth and beauty of real love is lost in this mish-mash of endless expectations with a total lack of vulnerability. If you are wearing a suit of armor, how can you ever feel close to anyone? The other way many people go is to become open doors--to be victims--and let everyone do whatever they want because you think this is what you're supposed to do for a partner.

So, quite simply, the current idea in most people's minds about love is flat-out wrong, and it's why so few people are feeling nourished in relationships. It's also why we can't get very far in a conversation about spirituality until we take this thing apart to get to what's real and true.

The Real Truth About Love
I'm not going to call love in this regard as "spiritual love." I'm just going to call it love. Love is in everything. Calling it romantic love or brotherly love or whatever to label specific aspects gets in the way. The real truth about love is that it is available to you all the time with everyone. This doesn't mean it has anything to do with romance. Love has millions of ways of expressing itself, and each way is just as beautiful as the next. Sometimes, love is loud and strong when something is not healthy and someone is being hurt. Love is no push-over. Total and complete acceptance is not total and complete passivity, but only as you do your work to listen to your inner guidance will you know what's right for you to manifest in the way of love in any given situation.

Consider that you saw a child being beaten in the street by a man. Loving action may be a strong intervention in that situation. This may be a perfect unfolding of what's supposed to be happening at that moment, but you know in your heart what role you have to play. We are all extremely powerful beings and what we say and do shapes the world. To take those actions and say those words from a space of love re-shapes situations in ways that you can't possibly imagine, and when we're cut off from love, all the worst kinds of things can happen. I think the recent history on this planet has shown that.

Delving Down to Your True Love
There's probably a lot standing in your way to love. Love, as I said, isn't a push-over. Loving your father who beat you as a child doesn't mean you don't hold him accountable for those actions. There's a penance he'll have to pay at some point--if not to you, then to God and to himself. But you will only exhaust and deplete yourself with anger and shame. It's time to let those go. It's time to forgive and to learn how to love him for who he is and what he could offer. It really is an imperfect world, and no one is going to be coming through this shift cleanly. The spiritual path is a really messy path, and there's going to be the need for a whole lot of forgiveness and compassion to all the people and all the mistakes that will get made along the way. It is far better and ultimately easier to learn to forgive them then to harden your heart even more against people who don't know any better. And even if they do know better, forgive them anyway.

One of the spiritual teachers to whom I occasionally listen talks about many of us being the wayshow-ers and pioneers of this time period. If you have been drawn to this blog, you are very likely to be one of them. To do this work of showing the way means that we are delving into our hearts and finding love for both the people who help us and the people who hinder us. We are working our way to all the spaces in our hearts that are still cut off from us because of past grudges, shames, angers, fears, and sadnesses. It's time to clear that out and connect even more deeply to the vastness of love within us.

Exercises for the Heart: True Love Is Within You
Part of the core delusion people have with love is that they think it's outside of them. So they chase new lovers constantly trying to get from them what they already have inside them. It leads to a lot of disappointment because no one can ever have your love. As you learn to look inside and expand the love that you already have, the demands and expectations you place on a prospective romantic partner start to diminish. In turn, you may suddenly find it a lot easier to draw in amazing new loving partners as you find this inner abundance.

To start digging through all the junk in your heart, here are a couple potential exercises to consider:
  1. Rip up the checklist. Every item on your checklist for a perfect partner or for when it's okay to open your heart is a way that you're cutting yourself off from yourself. It's one thing to be discerning about the people with whom you choose to share yourself. It's another thing to constantly be bottling up your love and suffocating your heart. It will only lead to regular, daily suffering. Time to open up to love on a daily basis.
  2. Tell someone you love them every day. If you don't have an intimate partner to whom you can say this, find a friend. Tell your children. Make new friends to whom you can tell this. Heck, tell me. I can always use more love in my inbox. The point is to un-make the practice of saying, "I love you," something that only happens once in a blue moon and which brings with it a huge amount of neediness.
  3. Forgive someone. It may be time for that phone call, email, or in-person chat to let someone know that you forgive them. It can be a super healing moment for both of you. Even if the other person can't hear it (because they don't think they did anything wrong or whatever), the point is to open up your heart. You don't have to renew the relationship; you simply have to let go of the pain you're carrying so that you no longer suffer.
The Canvas That Holds all Colors
Here's one last metaphor for the nature of true love. Love is the canvas that holds all colors. It never rejects any paint no matter how dark or light the color is. It really gives us the freedom of choice in what colors we choose to make part of our life portrait. But even deeper, love is these colors too. When we start mixing colors together, new ones appear as old ones disappear. This represents the fluidity of love and the fluidity of life. Everything is always changing, but we do have our choices to make in terms of the colors we are creating and using. True love encourages us to make those choices consciously with a responsible and open heart.

The Wealth and Abundance of Love Grows
I can tell you that in my own life, I feel so much more love in me and around me than I ever did before awakening years ago. My heart has grown quite considerably, and in truth, I'm still finding out just how big it is. I encourage you to find out how big yours is. Tempered with the wisdom of the intellect, love is a potent agent of change. Much change comes simply through the power of our loving presence, and much can also come through loving action. You can't do any of this, however, until you know what love is. You need to go back. Go back into your seminal ideas and feelings of love, and do the work to peel away the untruths and lies that have gunked it up. Go back and return to that beautiful core in you that comes freely, easily, and without expectations or obligations. Go back and reclaim your heart. In so doing, you will reclaim your power, your soul, your life.



Thanks to a friend for her picture of the hearts today.
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