Mindful Minute: What is Love?

What is Love

“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides."

~David Viscott 

Have you noticed how many songs, books, poems, and articles are written about love? For years, love has been linked with feelings of pleasure. We hear people using it to describe a multitude of things. But love is used without a full understanding of its meaning beyond the current dictionary definition. There are many opinions about love within society and from specialists like psychotherapists, priests, gurus; our spouses and partners; and of course, ourselves too. Many people connect love with desire; a desire for something often leads people to remark that they "love" that thing, whether it be travel, food, homes, sex, work, friendships, family, or God.

Throughout this article, let’s reflect on this idea of “desire” together - is this actual love? Let us observe mindfully and understand the nature of pure love.

Desire

We must first understand that desire is related to the senses. When the senses are awakened, there arises a possibility of desire. A person may see a beautiful landscape in a foreign land, a beautiful person, an image of God/Krishna/Buddha, a property, meal, home, beautiful relationship . . . the list is endless. Pleasing sensations often lead to thoughts of, Oh, how beautiful that is. I would like to see, hold, taste, hear, or smell that beauty again. The senses can only experience beauty in the moment. When reflection becomes attached to an experience and wants more of it, desire is born; this desire wants to be fulfilled. Is this love? Any awareness of the senses can be a beautiful experience and bring about desire; once this desire becomes ingrained in us, we may become attached and feel pleasure from the mere idea of it. Is this love?

Our conditioned minds will often not allow us to deeply understand the profound meaning of pure love, so contemplating this sincerely requires a true and honest intention to understand. Let’s reflect deeper and look at the nature of attachment.

Attachment

If we are attached to things that we desire, there surfaces uncertainty and inner conflict which often manifests as various types of fear. The more attached to something one becomes, the more a fear of losing it arises. A person may fear losing a home, a job or career, money, a lover, a relationship, a vacation, meals, sex, company, etc. This fear may cause that person to become even more attached, possessive, controlling, and demanding. For example, if one loves the only local restaurant available in town, they are likely to express anger, irritability, and disappointment if it closes down. Now, change the "love" of this local restaurant to the "love" of a person. The potential loss of a friend, lover, or partner becomes even more emotional. Such attachments often result in demands and controlling or possessive thoughts, words, and actions from each partner that can escalate and create conflicts in relationships. We see this through regular breakups in dating and divorces in marriages.

Fear of loss brings questions such as, "Where were you last night?" At the beginning of a loving relationship, this question may contain care and concern about the safety of another (from a parent to a child or from one spouse to another); but over time, it may arise from a need to assert control, and from suspicion with a spouse. We can imagine it being like one person saying to the other, "I love you, and as long as you come back at a time that puts my mind at ease, you will make me happy." Such communication happens quite regularly in many homes. Is this love? 

Perhaps now is the time to consider love as it relates to pleasure in relationships. As humans are social creatures, let us see what it is that brings love into our partnerships. We’re all familiar with “loving” things that bring us joy. Is love pleasure? Let's explore this idea.

Pleasure

A new employee, for example, may say they “loved” their boss when they were supportive, or a wife “loves” her husband of 20 years because he is communicative and attentive. We see in these examples, that when pleasure (positive feedback) is combined with an impression, the experience is wanted again and again. This experience creates the desire discussed earlier, and satisfaction of this desire brings pleasure. Is this love? This can happen for other memories connected with pleasure in the mind as well, which can unfortunately lead to addictions and unhealthy demands. 

In another example, a new parent may hold their newborn child with a great deal of affection. They raise them with the utmost care to ensure their safety, good education, and support them in various ways. After a time, when the child is grown, the parent is ready for them to be more independent physically, financially, and emotionally. Is this love?

Asceticism

Priests, monks, gurus, and ascetics of all sorts say, "Have no desire, and no sex, as this will help you let go of all attachments." This is what people think of as a religious or spiritual life. Pious individuals may suggest the avoidance of looking at beautiful people or images, and if this cannot be avoided, to think of them as a sister, mother, or brother, or find the deep “Divine Essence” that is in each. Yet, many have done this only to find that the outward expression of desire may be controlled, while an inner yearning is still present. Is this love, even if for the divine?

Pure Love Just Is 

Male or female, God or human, we all possess pure love, and pure love does not need a reason to express itself. Dictionary meanings that include love tend to reflect the time and space they are created in but pure love is not limited in this way. Love does not need an event or experience to be expressed.

Love is not desire, attachment, or pleasure (yet from love, all of these things are possible). Ideas, sensations, and words are not love either. Pure love is undoubtable and unmistakable; it may be beyond what the human mind can comprehend, but it’s something that each person truly knows.

Perhaps this article has helped you understand this gift just a little deeper. May we all enjoy the nature of pure love by expressing it consciously.

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