Love is a driving force for many people. People generally want more of it, and they go searching for it in a whole host of places. Other people don’t really know what love is. Their quest may be to figure out what love is since it drives so many other people to great lengths.
Let’s start with that question too. What is love?
People put an enormous amount of time, energy, and money to find it, but what is really being sought?
On this spiritual awakening blog, I regularly talk about true love and loving kindness, and I will offer some explanation of the differences between the two. But before I get to them, let’s talk more about what people are actually seeking, and–spoiler alert–it’s not love.
People have a lot of different beliefs about love, and all those beliefs start in childhood. Whatever was told and taught to them was “love,” and that’s what love will generally be for that person for the rest of his/her life. That understanding of love will be unconsciously used as the yard stick (or meter stick if you prefer) to measure experiences against. This will happen unless someone lives in such an unhappy situation that they never learned what love is, and this lack of a yard/meter stick will generally cause the individual a lot of consternation whenever anyone talks about love much less tells the person that they love the individual.
So what is love to you?
As always this is a great journaling activity, but generally speaking, this is what someone finds after they peel away the beliefs and specific interactions:
- An emotional and physical sense of safety
- A sense of validation and appreciation for who they are
There may be more basic elements to love, and there are certainly a whole bunch of different physiological responses that can arise. If you think of other aspects of love, please feel free to leave a comment below.
But these are certainly 3 of the biggest for people with a healthy orientation towards love and other people. When someone has had a lot of pain in childhood, love can become a scary thing, which makes many people feel conflicted about love. Love and a feeling of obligation can also be intertwined. However, the key point here is that these all these aspects and experiences of love are feelings.
Your Feelings Come From You
One of the central illusions of the ego is that what you really want–whether it is love or something else–is out there somewhere. This illusion drives people to go on all kinds of journeys to find the best job, best romantic partner, best spiritual teacher, best friends, best athletic feats, best massage therapists, and so on. This quest is never-ending because our feelings are always changing. Even as the ego is dissolved, the body–which is the source of our emotions and sensations–has good days and bad days. Some days the body doesn’t produce the same cocktails of hormones and neurotransmitters that made a person feel in love with a romantic partner. Is that the romantic partner’s fault? No. They can’t make you feel your feelings.
And neither can anyone else.
Certainly, we can manipulate our body’s chemical balances to achieve certain feelings, but that’s a real slippery slope that leads down into addiction. Drugs and all the ways our ego tries to manipulate us and life are going to create–at best–momentary contentment and enjoyment amidst all the striving and craving. More often than not, this craving and desiring will get in the way of love.
The point in all of this is that we choose most of our emotions, and the ego is doing most of the choosing.
Ego Beliefs and Limitations on Love
It is important to understand that the spiritual path isn’t about constantly feeling good all the time. There are deeper forms of love. But when we begin to understand our ego self, we begin to realize that we won’t even let ourselves feel enjoyable love without trying to meet a whole bunch of ego beliefs first.
Our ego beliefs decide when, how, and with whom we can offer love. Think about that. Think about how many rules you have that stop you from experiencing love in everyday life.
Keep thinking about it.
Okay, do you get a sense of how few opportunities your ego allows just for loving kindness? Most people will have many, many rules against love. They can be beliefs such as:
- You aren’t allowed to feel love driving in your car because that’s just a boring commute.
- You can’t have it studying at school.
- You can’t have it cooking dinner.
- Your relationships have to do and say things before you can have it, and
- You certainly can’t share love with a stranger or receive it back.
Obviously, these ego beliefs are wrong, and these are just the tip of the ego iceberg. The reality is that there are NO LIMITS on when and how you can experience love. Understanding that your craving for love is equally being thwarted by your ego rules is important if you want to invite more love into your life.
Loving Kindness and True Love
Okay, here are two forms of love that must be understood on the spiritual path:
Loving kindness–Receiving or sharing a sense of appreciation for another through words or touch that elicit a sense of happiness and safety. There’s probably a sense of relaxation in the body as well for someone who is emotionally healthy.
Loving kindness if very much subjective, and how everyone feels it is different. This form of love also comes and goes. It is unlikely to be present at a funeral or after a car wreck.
True love–The unconditional acceptance of what is.
In the space of true love, nothing is rejected. Everything is accepted. When a parent approaches a petulant child from true love, they address the child as they are in the midst of their tantrum. The parent doesn’t need to be angry. The parent doesn’t need to try and offer loving kindness unless they feel it is appropriate. They don’t need to manipulate the child’s feelings. They accept that the child is upset. Sometimes, the child needs a time-out or some form of non-violent tough love, meaning that the child won’t necessarily like their parent’s response but s/he is not hurt emotionally or physically. So tough love is absolutely NOT spanking or yelling at the child. True love gives the parent a full range of conscious possibilities in how to approach the child.
In the same way, true love gives ourselves the permission to be as we are. In turn, that tends to unlock more possibilities for the expression and experience of loving kindness with others and within ourselves.
Maturing love is a reference to what happens to us the more we let go of the ego and stay in the space of true love–the space of awareness. While loving kindness is generally about enjoyable and comfortable experiences, true love has space for so much more. Because of that, our sense of how to interact from love changes to incorporate more and more difficult and uncomfortable situations.
Consider getting fired from a job. To most egos, this is a bad thing. For others, they may try to turn it into a good thing, but that becomes another ego game. Instead, true love accepts the reality, and this, in turn, creates space for ease and a peaceful parting. Most employers and managers don’t enjoy firing people, and to have an employee facilitate an easy transition can be a powerful experience for everyone involved. People remember these things, and if the organization does better in the future, they could hire you back. They’d hire you back, in part, because of love–the love you shared with them by being at peace with the end of the job and helping things go smoothly.
While not all jobs are worth going back to and there are all kinds of different job situations people have, take the above example for what it is; it is a metaphor for how true love evolves us and creates a more mature version of love beyond the loving kindness we are used to seeking.
One quick note about craving: craving is an ego desire. Desires, in and of themselves, ultimately need to be investigated. Here’s a blog post to help you go further in letting go of craving, which generally can never be satisfied and will keep finding things to desire until it is let go:
The ego creates reasons about when we can love others. The spiritual inner work we do takes those reasons away. Without those reasons, we can be happy for no reason at all.
Think about that.
You don’t need a reason to feel love. You also don’t need to a reason to share love.
To be sure, we don’t generally go laughing and skipping along with a friend who just had a bad divorce and lost a relationship they truly believed would have lasted their whole lives. While their feelings are also choices, the space of true love within us makes us wise. You can still be happy when someone is sharing their pain, but how you express love in that moment is different than in another. Thus, a mature sense of love doesn’t get trapped in having to be expressed in the same ways of affection. There are many ways love can be expressed, and true love gives people the ability to access them.
And none of that love needs a reason to be experienced. That is the beauty of learning from the space of unconditional acceptance within you–true love. You can open your heart and express love now. There’s no need to wait.
As you learn to unreasonably love everything, you can then find new and more mature ways of sharing love, including those expressions that might not have seemed like love before.
To help you continue your journey to understand love, here are a few of the many posts on this blog: