“Certain things in life simply have to be experienced and never explained. Love is such a thing.”
To paraphrase Coehlo, Love can be quite an esoteric concept to attempt to discuss and explain. His quote explains a lot, however. Love in its purest form is an extraordinary phenomenon best understood by experiencing it.
In the Introduction to this book, I share an incredible Love experience that led me to begin to conceptualize the Periodic Table of Spiritual Elements. From that experience, I realized that a healthy heart will not hold jealousy, and this revelation radically improved my understanding of Love. Love, in its purest form, has nothing to do with whether or not the person you love is with you, or with whether or not that person complies with your desires and expectations in any way. Love is simply the experience of absolute adoration, without expectation or qualification.
In any kind of relationship with someone you love, when you are experiencing other feelings in the mix, like jealousy or anger, then you are not experiencing Love in its purest form. There are other dynamics involved that might feel like Love but which, categorically, are not. This doesn’t mean that you don’t love the person at all— only that your love is being muddied and obscured by passing negative emotions. Your ego— an aspect of your Humanity— is threatening your ability to express pure Love— an aspect of your Divinity.
The message for me was that Love is not about possession, nor is it about the other returning Love in any way. Love is uncontained, free and is a force within itself.
This ecstatic feeling of Love in this manner was new. It was global. It was healing. It was mind-expanding. I felt like I was bursting out of my chest; like I was radiating. The feeling was life-changing. The experience of it informed me in that instant of just what I was capable of and what Love, without barrier or hindrance, can be both in power and scope.
My takeaways from all that happened (besides the compulsion to writing this book) were as follows:
-Love is global and divine in its power.
-True, pure Love will connect you to a higher power.
-We are Divinely charged to fall in Love with everything, all the time, as much as possible.
To truly Love somebody is to have no agendas or expectations around that Love. Love’s purpose is to Love— that is it. Love in its purest form need not be requited. Love has no ego-bound or hidden agendas such as security or healing one’s wounds. Nothing but happiness is desired for those we Love once we reach the capacity to Love in this manner.
Many of us have no idea what Love really is. We maintain barriers to its pure expression.
True Love is not a problem to be solved. It doesn’t hurt. It is simply to be given and let flow.
Love is liberating. When it is expressed in its purest, truest form, all barriers to its full expression have been eliminated. We, and the Love we feel, have become “uncontained.”
“As long as we possess, we shall never love.” -Jidda Krishnamurti
Sometimes when someone says, “I love you,” what they are really saying is “I want to reenact my attachment issues with you.” Ouch.
Our early caretaker relationships have a lot to do with what we come to think Love is in our adult lives, and how we form healthy relationships and truly Love as we get older. What feels like Love might instead be an expression of patterns of the unhealthy attachments we developed in our formative years.
In psychology, Attachment Theory says that we as humans need to form healthy attachments and to bond with our early caregivers. We need to be made to feel loved and safe while being granted gradual autonomy from those caregivers. This process teaches us to let go, and that we are loved even when our caretakers are not physically present. When we don’t experience healthy bonding in our early years, our ability to form healthy attachments and love others throughout our lives may be hampered. We can be clingy or dismissive, or we may dance back and forth between these two opposing dynamics. We may have a fear of intimacy, or feel inadequate. These internal realities create fertile ground for egoic energy to step in and continue the pattern of unhealthy attachments into adulthood.
Without forming healthy attachment to others in our early years, we can come to think that the hampered dynamics of our unhealthy attachments is Love when in reality it is merely the reenacting of old patterns and of the desire to have our childhood needs met. It can play out with an addictive quality, such as constantly trying to have others meet our needs. Some can come to feel that drama and Love go hand in hand.
In the above scenarios, Love will seem to hurt. Whatever hurts in our lives, however, is not Love. It is a childhood wound of feeling unsafe or unworthy of love that has been reopened, waiting to be healed. When Love hurts and we suffer in this way, or when we fail to enforce boundaries to protect ourselves, it is often an invitation to explore within. When we do the inner work that heals childhood wounds, we can then Love freely again.
“Try not to confuse attachment with Love…. Attachment is about fear and dependency. Love without attachment is the purest Love because it isn’t about what others can give you because you are empty. It is about what you can give others because you are already full.” -Yasmin Mogahed
Boundaries: Unconditional Love vs. Love without Expectation
It may just be semantics, but I prefer the phrase Love Without Expectation instead of the phrase Unconditional Love as I have found many people who have difficulty enforcing boundaries with those they Love need to set up conditions, a.k.a. boundaries. For me, Love Without Expectations is what we get from God and what we give to babies, ideally. This kind of Love is self-explanatory. It is given freely, with no qualms and qualifications. We expect nothing back from the recipient whatsoever, including changes in behavior, while we can still take action to protect ourselves.
Unconditional Love might falsely imply we should put up with any and all behaviors from those we Love. The reality is that people we Love will sometimes engage in behaviors that hurt us even when we have worked to heal our own wounds around Love. When this happens, we have to have boundaries. Those boundaries, in effect, become conditions of our Love and in many ways are an expression of our Love. Examples of creating healthy, loving boundaries is practicing Tough Love with young people as a way to guide them into a different choice. The reality is that when we choose to have boundaries with those we care about, our Love hasn’t necessarily waivered. Instead, it is coupled with the realization that we simply cannot subject ourselves to the daily behaviors of someone who is displaying destructiveness, such as addictions or explosive anger. Loving others does not mean that you have to put your needs last while you take care of, heal or rescue those you Love.
We sometimes have to Love people from afar as a matter of self-protection and self-Love. That distance is a condition as well. Love Without Expectation allows for conditions that nurture self-respect and self-Love. With boundaries in place, we can Love that person without the expectation that they will ever change or that they may return Love in some fashion─ and at the same time we can take care of our own needs.
“All human behavior is one of two things: either love or a call for love.” -Marianne Williamson
Family Love, in most instances, starts out seeking to emulate the Unconditional Love we are (hopefully) given as babies and toddlers. Ideally, no behavior should be held against us, and we should be made to feel safe and loved. As we grow, Love that is doled out within the family can become conditioned on complying with family expectations. As we grow up, we are expected to perform to meet those expectations. We are expected to comply with the family’s cultural and religious standards, for example, as well as the micro-dynamics of our nuclear family.
The implication for not meeting the expectations that parents and other caregivers lay out for us is the withdrawal of “Love” until we perform in compliance with what our family wants. In theory, such a dynamic will keep us away from truly devious behaviors, but what about the young person who simply has different ideas about religion, the career they want to pursue or their sexual orientation— ideas that contrast with family expectations? In following the path that feels right for them at the time, this person will risk the withholding of family Love or may be subjected to some form of banishment, shunning or abuse.
What about the child who expresses emotions in a family where that kind of expression is frowned upon? Or the child that is upset about something and demonstrates this in public, in a family where there is an expectation of keeping up appearances at all times? The outspoken child will likely receive subtle or even not-so-subtle messages that they may not speak until they are “in compliance” with the program. If they don’t “get in compliance,” they will face some form of punishment— even if this “punishment” is subtle and indirect, such as the silent treatment or a “coincidental” canceling of fun plans, presents, etc..
Gifted children (for example, a child that is gifted in music or academics) will often grow up to feel that receipt of Love from others is contingent upon demonstrating their gifts, in lieu of them simply being themselves. Well into adulthood, these individuals may continue to confuse “doing” with “being” when it comes to self-worth and Love. As we grow up and go out into the world, we can continue to believe that Love is about compliance, performance and pleasing others instead of just being who we are.
Validation is Love 101
Validation is the consistent, overt and/or subtle message to others that they matter and that their needs and feelings matter. Acts of validation do not prove that one person is more important than another. It simply tells others: YOU MATTER and I/WE CARE. Providing safety and basic survival needs for another is a primary form of validation. After that, we listen and we are present; we are sincerely concerned with how the other is feeling. We don’t respond reactively or grant all wishes to appease others. Instead, we try to understand where they are coming from, which means taking the time to engage with them. We endeavor to not let them feel like they are somehow less-than others in any way.
Telling and showing others that we love them is validating because feeling loved is validating.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” -Rumi
We are born to love, and we are born able to love. From that point on, there is a great potential to take on barriers to expressing this innate part of who we are. A major task in our lives, as the poet Rumi says, is to find and heal the barriers within ourselves that keep us from experiencing Love in its purest form.
The task of removing barriers to true Love flowing through our lives involves a lot of work. We need to look at our attachment issues. We need to look at and work towards healing any old wounds relating to Love. We need to identify and remove the messages of inadequacy that were imprinted upon us when we were children, the ones that say that we are not lovable or that love has to hurt. We need to examine if we have a fear of intimacy. We need to discern how society and the media has shaped our views of Love. We need to learn about the differences between infatuation, crushes, lust, love addiction, co-dependency, romantic love, platonic love, intimacy, mature relationships, healthy attachment, and pure Love.
Regarding intimate relationships, as we progress spiritually, we can learn about soul-mates, soul contracts and twin flames. There is much to explore and learn in Love, and what a field of study!
We also need to know where we stand with self-love. We want to be able to say, “I Love myself and who I am.” And we want to be able to say, “I am worthy of Love” and really mean it! The reality is that you are worthy of Love because you are Divine. You are worthy of Love because you are Love.
To help us identify the barriers that each of us has to Love, we must make a conscious choice to open ourselves up to Love. Each relationship we engage in in our lives opens us up to more learning and, thus, to lessening the barriers to Love.
Remember, Love doesn’t hurt. It is the keeping up of old patterns of unhealthy attachment as well as the identification and removal of those barriers to Love that hurts. It is the expectation that those we love behave accordingly that can be hurtful. Looking at our patterns in Love and expectations from it, While the tendency to avoid this work is strong, the investment to do so provides overwhelming returns.
A broken heart is a healing heart. The more we Love others, the more we heal. To hide from Love is to not heal.
We have an infinite capacity to create Love once we discover it that is. We also have the ability to radiate Love to another with no expectations. When we do this, we heal ourselves and others.
“A mature person does not fall in love, he or she rises in Love.” –Osho
Love as a Religion
If you do not have a solid frame of reference for a spiritual practice, Love certainly makes for one to build upon and can serve as a guide for daily living. This daily practice can be as simple as asking yourself: Are my actions based in Love right now?
“Love is the light that dissolves all walls between souls, families and nations.” -Paramahansa Yogananda
Love and Passion
When we integrate Love into everything we do, we develop passion. Love as passion transforms and motivates us to follow our dreams and bring more of these elements into our lives. When we feel Love for what we do, we break down the barriers and inhibitions that hold us back from being our highest and best self. When we associate Love with a desired goal, it can motivate us.
Let me give you an example of how Love served to ignite passion and motivated me to write this book:
I Love writing this book. Each and every chapter provides me with Joy and new insights that keeps me writing. Looking to the future, I am going to Love completing this book and sharing it with the people whom I Love. At this moment, I feel Love for myself in having honored my Truth in writing it. When it is completed, I will feel Love for the Divine for having guided and assisted me in getting it completed.
Kindness as Daily Love
Kindness is the daily allotting of Love in smaller doses. Kindness may be considered less intimate than pure Love but it is still powerful in that it opens the door for connection to occur because it honors the Divinity within others. We can be kind to strangers, loved ones, animals, the planet and ourselves. Kindness spreads Joy as well and begets more kindness. Kindness pays forward.
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” -Henry James
Divinity directly informs Love as Love is a direct expression of our own Divinity along with the other Soul-Caliber elements (see Creating the Table).
Joy is typically attracted to and is surrounded by Love.
Equanimity creates a peaceful plane for Love to exist within and emanate from.
The practice of Non-Attachment ensures that the attachments we do have are healthy and that our Love is free from a desire for possession and control.
Courage helps us to act on Love.
The element of Healing helps us to remove barriers to Love while at the same time Loving helps us to heal.
Devotion is Love of God and serves as a tremendous heart-opener. Devotion can present itself as a safe venue for Love which can enhance our abilities to Love and be Loved elsewhere.
Acceptance, Non-Judgment, Empathy and Respect helps us to Love freely. Gratitude, Generosity and Service are everyday heart-openers that foster Love.
- Engage any activities that are heart-openers, such as Gratitude (thanking those around you, doing small favors for them if you can), Generosity (giving away things you don’t need to the less privileged, being generous with your time when a friend needs a shoulder to cry on) and Service (volunteering or otherwise contributing directly to society without financial gain), and be proactive in removing barriers to Love, such as fear of rejection or lack of empathy.
- Set the tone for each day with a query of: How can I be more loving today?
- Set an intention of Love by practicing kindness throughout the day. Be consciously kind in your interactions with all other beings, and with yourself. Be giving and of Service to others as opportunities present themselves. In traditional bible-speak: Love thy neighbor, thy enemy and thy self. Give compliments, and abstain from insults or harshly delivered criticism.
- Conduct a survey of your past love relationships. Choose a relationship from your past or one you are in right now and answer the following questions: 1) What do/did I do well in this relationship? 2) How might I do better/have done better in this relationship? 3) How do/did I feel in this relationship in general? 4) How have I behaved in general when conflicts arose in this relationship?
- If you are able to, ask a former romantic partner for the same information about the above. Former partners can often be quite compassionate with ex-partners who are sincerely working on relationships issues and will give valuable information for working on negative patterns.
- Explore childhood experiences of trauma, including those having to do with abandonment and abuse, as these may relate to your ability to give and receive Love in relationships. Seek professional counseling to work through these memories if you need to. You don’t have to do it alone.
- Identify five activities that you love to do. Make a plan on how to more fully integrate these activities into your life, then do them! Paying attention to the feelings of Love and passion you may experience while doing them.
- Develop a self-care regimen for your Body that is intent upon cultivating self-Love. (See Body element.)
I Am a Warm and Loving Person; I Have a Warm and Loving Heart.
My Ability to Love Abounds; My Ability to Be Love Abounds.
Today I Will Be More Loving to Everything That Is.
I Graciously Accept the Infinite Love of the Universe.
I Am Worthy of Love and Being Loved.
I Am Infused with Love. I Radiate Love.
Please Let Me Love with the Full Capacity My Heart.
Please Help Us to Love with the Full Capacity of Our Hearts.