We can look at love in relationships with others, in our relationship with ourselves, in our relationship to life in general, and in the context of what we are and our true nature.
Love in relationships with others
Most or all of us seek to love and be loved in a conventional sense, in relation to a partner, children, friends, family, and so on. It’s one of the most basic impulses in life, and one we share with other mammals and probably many other types of animals.
And our wish for love goes beyond this.
A loving orientation to ourselves
Without knowing it, we seek love for ourselves, for all parts of us. We want to know we are OK, lovable, and loved. If the adults in our life didn’t model this for us when we were children, we can learn to do it for ourselves. We can learn to be a loving parent to ourselves and internalize a loving relationship with ourselves, a loving orientation and internal dialog.
This takes intention, time, and some guidance, but it can be done and we just need to step outside of the conventional worldview just a bit.
Our potential for love goes beyond even this.
Love for all phenomena
We can find love for all phenomena as they are. We can find a loving orientation to all phenomena as they appear to us. This requires more work and deeper exploration.
It ultimately requires and leads us into noticing what we are.
Finding ourselves as love
We may find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and that all phenomena – all our experiences – happen within and as what we are, and this makes it easier to find genuine love for all phenomena.
We may find that the true nature of any phenomenon is the same as ours. And we may notice that to us, all is one.
And here, we may find that we are love. What we are is love.
What we seek is what we are
We seek to love and be loved. What we seek, at a deeper level, is to be a loving and wise parent to ourselves. Beyond that, we can find love for all phenomena. And we can find that as what we are, as that which all our experiences happen within and as, we are love.
Two first two – love in relationships and for ourselves – fit into a more conventional worldview, and we are all familiar with how this love is sometimes covered up by our reactivity, fearful beliefs, wounds, emotional issues, identifications, and traumas. (All names for variations on the same.)
The next two – love for all phenomena and finding ourselves as love – go beyond a conventional worldview, at least in our European culture. And yet, it’s what we all seek at a deeper level. We seek to love all phenomena and to notice that our true nature takes the form of oneness and love.
What we seek is what we are.
Finding it for ourselves
Since they are outside of mainstream views, the last two may seem like philosophy or something unattainable.
In reality, we can explore all four for ourselves, and they all work beautifully together.
In terms of relationships, we can notice that our stressful beliefs, wounds, and so on sometimes cover up our love. So how can we relate to these differently when they come up? Can we relate to them more intentionally when they come up? Is there a way where we don’t need to act on them? And what happens when we explore these stressful beliefs and emotional issues and perhaps find healing for them?
In terms of being a loving parent for ourselves, we can explore this in a similar way. We can notice when we shift out of a loving relationship with ourselves and what’s behind it – the painful beliefs, unmet fears, and emotional wounds that makes it happen. We can learn to notice and relate to these in a different and more kind way. We can dialog with these parts of us and learn how they experience us and the world. We can come to see they all want to protect us and come from care and love.
Taking this one step further, we can learn to find love for all phenomena, and the process is similar. We can notice what sometimes prevents this love and explore it. We can notice when stressful beliefs and so on cover up the love and relate to these and the triggers differently. We can notice that all our experiences – all phenomena to us – happen within and as what we are.
And this brings us to finding ourselves as love. We find ourselves as capacity for the world. We notice that the world to us – all our experiences – happens within and as what we are. We notice that this is oneness. We notice that thoughts make distinctions, and holding thoughts as true is what created a temporary sense of being something within our experience: an ultimately separate being with the rest of the world as other. And as oneness, we find we are love. Another word for oneness is love. It’s a love that’s not dependent on any feelings or states. It’s the love that’s expressed as the left hand removing a thorn from the right.
The same practices and explorations can help us uncover this love at these four levels and in these four forms. These are the practices I have written about in many other articles, and mostly different forms of inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries, Headless experiments, Big Mind process) and heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta, inner smile).
All expressions of the same love
There is a beauty in all of this. It’s a process of love covering itself up and then discovering itself as it all.
There is a beauty in how all of these are tied together and expressions of the same love.
I am aware that the last two may seem unrealistic. The good news is that we can explore it for ourselves. We don’t need to take anyone’s word for it, and it wouldn’t do us any good if we did.
And it’s an ongoing process. There is always more to discover and explore, and always further to go.
Even if we lived for thousands of years, there would be more to learn and discover about how to live from and as love.
Each situation is different and living from love will be different, and it will likely always be mixed in with some of what covers up love for us. And that’s one reason it’s always fresh.
In reality, it’s something that only happens here and now. If we have a memory of having lived from love in the past, that’s a reminder of seeing how we can do it now, and notice if we don’t do it and see what’s behind it. And the same if we have a thought about living from love in the future.