“Love is a fabric which never fades, no matter how often it is washed in the water of adversity and grief.”—Unknown
The cards and flowers and chocolates of Valentine’s Day can certainly (though not inevitably) act as visible expressions of love. But can you look past them to determine how that loving feeling manifests in your life every day of the year?
How do you experience love? Here are some definitions that cover the perceived spectrum of this indescribable emotion, from the idealistic to the comical to the profound:
“Love is the beauty of the soul.”—St. Augustine, Theologian and Writer
“[Love is] two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one.”—Fredrich Halm, Poet
“Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you can never tell.”— Joan Crawford, Actor
“Love is friendship set on fire.”— Jeremy Taylor, Poet
[Love is] to me a delicious torment.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson, Writer/Philosopher
“Love is the enchanted dawn of every heart.”—Alphonse de Lamartine, Poet/politician
“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”—Robert Heinlein, Writer
“Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and our delight in the recognition.”—Alexander McCall-Smith, Writer
“Love is Strange”—Sylvia Robinson, Mickey Baker, Bo Diddley, Songwriters
And here are a few wise philosophies and commentaries on the subject:
“True love begins when nothing is looked for in return.”—Antoine de St.-Exupery—Writer/Pilot
“In real love you want the other person’s good. In romantic love you want the other person.”—Margaret Anderson, Historian
“The most powerful symptom of love is a tenderness which becomes at times almost insupportable.”—Victor Hugo, Writer
“I love you, not only for what you are, But for what I am when I am with you.”—Roy Croft, Poet/Translator
“The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.”—William Shakespeare, Playwright
“If you have love, you don’t need to have anything else. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have”—Sir James Barrie, Playwright and Novelist
A good working definition of love, whatever it is, certainly includes kindness, consideration, patience, but also involves a willingness to admit to the possibility that we may not know what love really is.
Personally, I find that every time I get into a comfort zone of thinking I know all about love, wham! The world changes, I change, my relationships and circumstances change, and I actually have to surrender into the idea that sometimes I really don’t know a darned thing about it.
That’s when I know I have to love myself enough to surrender another little bit of fear (the other face of love; as wise counselor Gerald Jampolsky has said, “It’s really impossible for love and fear to occupy the same space.”)
Releasing fear has the effect of opening our hearts in proportion to the amount of fear we release.
Opening our hearts also allows us to see ourselves in others, and to allow goodness to come into our lives.
So, again, how do you want to love and be loved? Many of us would answer “unconditionally,” but have we ever experienced unconditional love?
Many people speak of unconditional love as love that has no boundaries, but until that concept is truly understood and embodied within us, we definitely need to have some boundaries!
We can’t pretend unconditional love if it’s not there; we can only hold its ideal in our hearts and observe it in relationship with what’s actually happening. We can’t force unconditional love through protective boundaries established in the past by anger, fear, sorrow, or regret.
So how do we create loving boundaries, ones that will protect our hearts while giving us the freedom to learn how to do without them?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself about your loving, whether it involves a significant other, family members, friends, fellow workers, or all humankind:
1. Does the love you give and receive make both you and the other being(s) involved feel joyous and uplifted, or nervous and insecure? If the latter, you may want to use your meditation skills to help you locate any physical or emotional manifestations of that insecurity. Do you really need to maintain that insecurity, or will a careful and loving watchfulness suffice?
2. When you think of loving another being or beings, does it make you smile? If not, you can look within yourself to where your smiles originate—a lovely meditation—and trace any disconnection between that inner place and your outward smile. Explore what does make you smile. Practice thinking of people and things you love, and smiling. Let your outer smile reflect only your inner feeling, rather than the feeling that you have to “project” a particular degree of emotion. That said, smiling has been scientifically proven to improve one’s mood.
3. The French have a saying: “In any relationship, there is always one who kisses, and one who presents his/her cheek to be kissed.” Can you give as much love as you receive? (No, it’s not a contest.) If not, can you identify the boundaries or the inequalities in perception that prevent you from doing so? (Loving-kindness meditations are great for working on this, or perhaps you just need to re-evaluate a personal relationship.)
4. Can you fearlessly allow yourself to be loved? If not, and especially if you feel unlovable, this is another good reason to explore your inner boundaries. Whose perception are you maintaining? Who didn’t/doesn’t love you enough? Can it be you? Practice loving yourself consciously while evaluating your inner perceptions and voices, and see if this makes it easier for you to accept love from others.
5. Can you love others the way you want to be loved? If not, check out those boundaries (see above).
6. Can you love yourself (or are you bound in all directions by self-imposed limitations)? If not, what are you waiting for?
We can go beyond Valentine’s Day to give to ourselves and to each other an ongoing gift: taking the time and the space to become aware of and release our limitations on loving.
Blessings ~ Melinda