“Love expects no reward. Love knows no fear. Love Divine gives – does not demand. Love thinks no evil; imputes no motive. To Love is to share and serve.” – Swami Sivanandaadvertisement - learn more
Much is written about love. Countless songs have love as the main theme and thousands of movies include love and romance as the underlying premise. Religions talk about love and kindness, battles have been fought over love and it seems almost everything we do, say and feel, has undertones of love intertwined throughout. When it comes to describing love it can be very difficult to articulate.
Some common definitions of love found in the dictionary mention feelings of affection and attachment for another. Feelings of connectedness and goodwill, warm affection or devotion, sexual desire and attraction are also used to describe love. When you feel love it is hard to describe; it is a warm fuzzy feeling that just makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do.
Neuroscience has studied the brain and discovered that various chemicals present in the brain are involved with influencing how humans experience love. Oxytocin is responsible for sexual arousal, bonding and maternal behaviours, while serotonin impacts on the well-being and happiness levels of individuals.
A host of other influential chemicals such as testosterone, oestrogen, norepinephrine and vasopressin are also responsible for attraction, attachment and bonding of couples. While the scientific community continues to delve deeper into understanding how the brain works in relation to love, many questions remain unanswered.
One could argue that human beings have one sole purpose, that is to love and be loved. It seems we do many things that have underlying themes of love and affection, our primary motive of seeking some form of love and happiness. Is our desire to experience the ultimate feeling of love the most important theme of our lives? For many, somewhere deep inside of us is an insecurity, a feeling that we are not good enough. This feeling makes us do things in the hope that we will be loved.
The marketers in the world thrive on this insecurity and our need to be loved. Hence why we see a plethora of advertising geared toward making us feel lousy and that we aren’t good enough and we need more to be truly happy and feel loved. That’s why in almost every advertisement everyone is happy and in love and having a jolly time. Yet the reality is that the people who buy these items, as a generalisation, are seeking nothing more than recognition and love.
Born to Love
“Love is something eternal; the aspect may change, but not the essence.” – Vincent van Gogh
Nothing is more natural than love. Unfortunately we get distracted along the journey of life, forgetting what it is like to truly love unconditionally. If we act with love and compassion throughout life we will discover that our paradigm changes and we are free to engage in a more meaningful way with others. It sounds clichéd but John Lennon and Paul McCartney summed it up with their hit song ‘All you need is love.’ Presently, as individuals and as a society, we are living in a state of fear. Love is timeless, shapeless, separate from nothing, enduring, constant, non-judgemental, kind, not jealous, giving and removes all boundaries. We are scared of the uncertainty that comes from political, economic and environmental change. Only when we turn this fear into love, do we see a shift in humanity, certainty and the coming together of all, as one.
How much do you love yourself?
“Real love, true love is unconditional, love that places conditions on another is counterfeit, not real at all.” – Neale Donald Walsch
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? For most, this question has never crossed our mind. What does it truly mean to love yourself and what are the implications? The conditioning we receive over the course of our lives leaves us questioning ourselves. We compare ourselves to others and question a whole range of other physiological, psychological and emotional aspects of our lives. We beat ourselves up, wanting to become better, stronger, faster; we compete in an attempt to get approval, respect and love. Finding fault with ourselves we spend the rest of our life trying to live up to some kind of expectation that exists in our mind. This yearning to be something else, someone else, is a complete waste of our energy.
Love Yourself Before You Can Love Another
“Nurture your true nature. Only talk the truth. Make love your gift to others” – Lao Tzu
The bible frequently talks about love and compassion. One of the most significant teachings that Jesus promoted lies in his answer to the following question. What is the greatest commandment in the law? He answers: “Love the lord, your god with all your soul and with your mind,” the second most important commandment he says is “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” These verses are effectively saying love is the most important thing there is, love is all there is. We must love ourselves completely, in mind, body and spirit. By doing this we can realise our true nature and potential and our connection or oneness with all.
By being connected with a higher power, that is, your higher self, you unleash and tap into the power of the universe and the laws of nature. By loving your neighbour (not just the guy next door), then you are respecting the highest law, the law of love. If everyone lived this way there would be no need for laws, controls and systems to apprehend and punish and there would be no need for war. Yet we spend much of our time living in fear and the opposite occurs. Ultimately we end up sabotaging our relationships due to our lack of self-esteem and self-worth. We have to be at peace with ourselves before we can truly love.
So what happens if we let go of everything and start to love ourselves for who we are?
We understand we are perfect just as we are and that there is no need for external influences to make us feel good. By understanding and loving who we are, we can move towards a place of compassion not only for ourselves but for others. If we love ourselves then fear disappears, there is no need for our ego to hold us hostage to its fanatical desire to attain perfection. With this realisation we are free and open to a whole new range of possibilities.
Anthony De Mello raises an interesting point about love in his book ‘Awareness.’ He illustrates that people are “never really in love with anyone.” Instead he believes “people are only really in love with a prejudiced and hopeful idea of that person.” Many people are in love with the idea of another person. They love how they look, their status in society, their intellect and what they do. There may be a myriad of things that they love about another person and sometimes the idea of being in love confuses love itself. We find love only by seeking out a reflection of ourselves in someone else. When I look at you I see me, that is what we are really saying when we find a partner whom we love. By only loving ourselves can we let ourselves love. If we do not love and understand ourselves then it is difficult, if not impossible, to have any kind of lasting loving relationship with another. If there is no clarity around whom we are, then how can we expect to find, appreciate and truly love someone else.
Loving Without Condition
To love without condition starts and ends with you. To love unconditionally requires some effort and practice. It is what the Buddha talked about when he spoke about living with compassion. It is emanating the feeling or vibration from within. It can be manifested as simply as projecting loving thoughts to another being, animal or plant. Before we do anything we must empty ourselves of all negative thoughts and attachments, forgive and let go of all that holds us back from experiencing pure unconditioned love. We must choose to focus only on the good in each and every person; no matter how deeply this ‘good’ may be buried.
Unconditional love is love without condition, that is, you don’t want or expect anything in return for your affections, efforts or counsel. The great masters and teachers of the world loved everybody without condition; Jesus, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Buddha, they saw everybody and everything as they truly were. They saw past the physical into a deeper realm of potential, that of unconditioned love. All the great masters know that love and compassion exists within us all, with the physical world clouding our judgment. Masters know that unconditional love is the most important thing we can give as humans.
To love unconditionally we must be selfless, without wanting, needing, we are in a state of complete giving. James Hillman in his book The Soul’s Code writes, “When we fall in love, we feel super important because we are able to reveal who we truly are, giving a glimpse of our souls. When we love unconditionally we are free to let go and share with others our true being.”
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