What is love after all?

Love, in order to flow, does not need your acknowledgement or approval; it’s like the sun, always shining—whether you see it or not

Women enjoying sunset by beach

I used to think that love was a feeling brought on by other people. When I got that feeling, I would be generous to my lover, but secretly I would dread the day that he would stop giving me that feeling. I would say, “I love you,” but I really meant, “Don’t leave me.” With each failed relationship, my definition of love would warp slightly.

Suddenly after my mask came off, love was all that mattered. I knew it like a child knows that she can walk. There was only one problem. Although I knew I wanted it more than anything I’d ever wanted, I still didn’t know what it was. I wanted answers and I wanted them badly. At this point, I started carrying a voice recorder with me. Everywhere I went, my question went with me. I asked, “What is love?” in hopes of, one day, running into a definition that made any sense to me. This went on for several months. After months of furious obsession, during which I consumed hundreds of ideas from just as many sources, clarity came to me in the strangest of packages.

A drunk brings clarity

That fateful afternoon, I was nestled in the sand when he came up to talk to me. He was covered in dirt, smoking a cigarette, and reeked badly of alcohol. He was extremely angry and gesturing wildly. Over the course of the next half hour, he revealed to me that he’d been released that very same day from the mental health wing of a prison. His grammar was poor and his words slurred. He alternated between yelling and crying. He told me that he’d just come home to find that, in his absence, his wife had left him for another man. She wouldn’t let him in and told him he’d never be able to see his daughter again. He told me how he’d spent the last 20 years counting down to the moment when he would be able to see his family again. Now he could go home but he didn’t have a home to go to.

After months of furious obsession clarity came to me in the strangest of package

After a while, his movements became less aggressive and he seemed to have released his pent up frustration. We sat in silence as he stared towards the horizon. After a few minutes, he said that he should probably go. He thanked me for listening and turned to walk away. Suddenly, he turned back and asked me if there was anything he could do to thank me. He suggested a shot of whiskey, holding out his flask. I politely declined and instead pulled out my voice recorder. I asked him to tell me what he thought love was. He thought for a moment and then he said:

“Love is the most important thing.”

I smiled politely and was about to push the little red button to turn my recorder off when he said,

“Wait, I’ll even explain.”

He paused again, and then continued speaking slowly, enunciating clearer than he had throughout the past hour:

“Love’s when you meet somebody and you look at them, and there’s a moment right there. You just pick up on it and you just know. There’s something there. You know it. You actually feel it going through your body. You grasp it. You keep it safe.”

After that, he left. I’ll never forget the way I felt as I sat there in the July sunshine. Suddenly, I felt clear. Rapidly, everything started making sense. I just sat there half-paralysed for hours while I played the incident over and over in my head and the recording over and over in my ear. Love, I realised for the first time, was a form of unity. In the absence of all similarities, love remains dominant. Everything that isn’t love is just like tassels—decorative and irrelevant.

Love is like the sun

Love does not depend on us to sustain it, nor is it something we’ve created. It is ever-present and abundant. It is we who are confused. Yet our confusion does not change love.

The sun was not dimmer before we understood its function. Love is the same way. No matter how much we ignore it or pretend it does not exist, it does not fade. No matter how many times we say ‘love’ when we mean sexual attraction, addiction, or some other little thing, love does not change.

Love comes and goes like the sun rises and sets. The sun doesn’t really disappear when it goes down. It simply goes out of view. Every day, the sun rises and every night the sun sets. The sun, however, stays in the same form. It is not the actual sun that rises and sets. It is not the sun that turns red or orange. It is our perception of it from where we’re standing that changes.

Love is like this too. It flows abundantly and eternally. What changes, however, is perception. Our awareness changes depending on where we’re coming from and, thus, love takes on all sorts of adjectives, meanings, and forms. We feel a connection and we call it love, but this does not mean that we’re referring to the unifying power of love. We’re just referring to our understanding of it from where we’re standing.

The sun was not dimmer before we understood its function. Love is the same way. No matter how much we ignore it, it does not fade

Our position determines our attitude. We can stand in the dark cursing the sun’s absence, in the light catching its rays, in the dark knowing it is still present, or in the light within the shadows of blindness. When we are trying to look at something that involves us so deeply and directly, our own position has much more power over our awareness. We cannot see the whole universe while being a tiny speck within it.

Love, in order to flow, does not need your acknowledgement or approval. The sun doesn’t care if you dislike its rays on your face. It will keep shining. The sun also does not care if a neighbour’s tree is casting a shade over your garden. Of course, that situation may be frustrating. It may cause you to get upset and scream. Ultimately, however, you can yell all you want, but the sun will shine as it shines. If your garden is not in the sun’s rays, no amount of blaming the sun will solve the problem. Its rays will not go around objects or through them. You can never expect the sun to change itself for you. It will shine as it shines, completely oblivious to whether or not you’re attending to it or using its rays to your best ability. It shone the same when we clubbed one another over the head and communicated only in grunts, and it will continue to shine the same now that we’re “civilised.” And so it goes with love.

Can our awareness of love be fine-tuned?

Our collective awareness of the unity that binds us is in its budding stages. Just like our opposable thumbs were weak when we first received them, our possibility for awareness is weak. In order for us to capitalise on our new found gift from evolution, we must first understand it, train it, and sacrifice the comfort of our old patterns for the vast possibilities of new ones.

We have evolved into our ability to love like we once evolved into our ability to nourish ourselves with food. There are no other animals who think so far ahead about food as we do. No other species has such complex systems of growing, harvesting, packaging, and delivering food. Once upon a time, getting food was a problem for us. The process of feeding ourselves once consumed most of our time, closely followed by escaping predators and finding a place to sleep. Thousands of years later, it only crosses our minds a few times a day and is easily fulfilled. This is how we evolve.

Now, we’re finding love like we, at one point, found agriculture. It’s new, fresh, and exciting. It’s unfamiliar, frightening, and full of promise.

The entire practice of agriculture is what gives us the power to do most of what we do with our time these days. We would not have careers, hobbies, or arts if we were all too busy looking for food. That one simple discovery—the discovery of how to harness the power of a constant, ever-present source of livelihood to our advantage—has made a monumental difference in our lives. Learning to harness the power of love will also make a monumental difference in how we live our lives. It will completely change the way that we relate to one another and to our own selves. The next stage of evolution is the evolution of perception, the evolution of the mind. The future of our personal, spiritual, and communal development lies in expanding our awareness of love.

Adapted with permission from The Love Mindset, published by Soulux Press

A version of this was first published in the April 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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