L is for love
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
In the words of the Howard Jones song “What is love anyway?”
There are multiple words to represent the word love, in the many languages of the world, but love is not just a word, or an idea limited by our own thoughts and understanding it is infinitely more than that.
“What do you know of love except the name?” Rumi
To attempt an absolute definition of love is impossible because it has many facets and cannot be limited by our projections and perspectives. Although love cannot be defined absolutely, love is something that can be recognised and known by everyone, without exception, if we pay attention and open ourselves up to it.
“Only Love itself can explain love” Rumi “Let your teacher be Love itself”
“I like to think of the word love as a door. If you only look at the door, all you get is an idea about what love is; but if you are willing to move closer to the door, to open it, and to walk on through, you get to have an experience of what love is. To be intimate with love, you have to move beyond words, leave behind self-concepts, empty your mind of learned ideas, stop being so religious, and let yourself dissolve into love. Now we are really getting somewhere. Now, at last, we can stop trying to define love, and we can let love define us.” Robert Holden
Love is a primary emotion and can be experienced by all. We all need to be loved and to love in return and that is one of the reasons why many songs are written about love, to try and capture its essence and how the lack of love feels i.e. loneliness e.g.:
“Love, love me do, You know I love you, I'll always be true, So please, Love me do”
“I want to know what love is” Foreigner
“One love, one heart, Let's join together and a-feel all right” Bob Marley and the Wailers
The importance of self-love
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” Lucille Ball
We are all loveable; whether we believe it or not, whether we feel it or not, there are no exceptions. When we make being our true selves our purpose in life – being an embodiment of love – we are fulfilling our destiny as part of the shared purpose of humanity and can connect with others authentically.
“Love is a joyful dance that cultivates intimacy with yourself and empathy with another. As you connect consciously with your Unconditioned Self, every persona, mask and self-concept falls away and you experience intimacy with your true nature. This intimacy in you extends itself and is translated into empathy with your family , your friends, your lover, your children, your colleagues and everyone else. Intimacy and empathy are non-ego states. They are expressions of oneness. They are the basis for real openness, honest communication and true friendship” Robert Holden
Love is exponential; the more you love the more you grow and the healthier and happier you feel.
“Love is your original energy. It is the heart of who you are. It is the natural expression of your Unconditioned Self and your eternal loveliness. When you remember this, you realise that, in truth, you already know how to love and be loved” Robert Holden
It is often said that only when we learn to accept and love ourselves completely that we can be truly and fully present and love others. In each moment we are either practising self-acceptance or judging ourselves.
Self- love is tied up with self-acceptance which often necessitates de-fusion, it requires self-discipline and the practice of self- care which is the foundation of our strength, stability and ability to love ourselves.
“Identify with love, and you are safe.
Identify with love, and you are home.
Identify with love, and find your Self” Robert Holden
So what is self-love?
I think that to love oneself means to know your worth, have self-respect and not let others opinions about you define your actions. Self-love also means having unconditional self-acceptance, being self-effacing and coming to terms with those aspects of yourself that you cannot change .i.e. accepting that I am good at certain things but also accepting that there are areas I am not so good at but that is still ok.
Compassion is love's holding environment. It is how love communicates with us,
"I will remember the truth of who you are, even when you cannot remember this for yourself." Robert Holden
Loving oneself is also about accepting that although I should still always aim to do my best and grow towards a better version of myself celebrating my progress on the way (i.e. positive action as opposed to inaction), I don't need to push myself constantly and struggle to be that better person I can also relax, enjoy and be grateful for what I am and do have in the present moment.
Basically, for me, it's all about balance and being in alignment with yourself, your thoughts, emotions, and opinions without judgement. It is about accepting who you are and how you are i.e. aiming to live a congruent life.
Loving yourself is also about pro-actively doing what’s best for yourself in the long run rather than the short-term (immediate gratification). It means taking responsibility and not blaming others or circumstances for our lot. Self-love means prioritising our physical, emotional, and psychological needs. It means actively taking care of our physical health by eating healthy food and exercising, plus ensuring that you get sufficient rest in order to function optimally thereby having a positive sense of well-being. It means taking care of our moods by establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries and by doing things that make us happy, focusing on positive things and employing a quality control with regards to how we spend our time, what we watch, read, listen to etc (i.e. choosing things that are uplifting) and with whom we spend our time. It also means forgiving ourselves as no one is immune from making mistakes.
“In love lies the seed of our growth” Paulo Coelho
By loving ourselves we will become the best version of ourselves, not only benefiting ourselves per se, but benefiting others too and making the world a better place for everyone.
“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
Why is love important?
“Be nice to people... maybe it'll be unappreciated, unreciprocated, or ignored, but spread the love anyway. We rise by lifting others.” Germany Kent
We are all part of the same creation and a shared humanity. What we do to one affects us all.
"It is the force of love that will lead beyond fragmentation, loneliness and fear" Sharon Salzberg
Love is something that benefits both those who give out love and those who receive it. I think that Chief Dan George sums up ‘the why’ very well:
“Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we become weak. Without love our self esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we can no longer look out confidently at the world … Instead we turn inwardly and begin to feed upon our own personalities and little by little we destroy ourselves.
You and I need the strength and joy that comes from knowing that we are loved. With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it, and it alone, we are able to sacrifice for others.” Chief Dan George
Types of Love
“Love is one. It has no separate parts and no degrees; no kinds nor levels, no divergences and no distinctions. It is like itself, unchanged throughout. It never alters with a person or a circumstance” Robert Holden
The Ancient Greeks spent a lot of time trying to define and describe love; they divided it up into 8 different types
Agape - an altruistic, universal, selfless, unconditional love.
Eros – romantic, physical and passionate love.
Philia – affectionate love e.g. platonic love felt for friends. Aristotle described philia is a “dispassionate virtuous love” that is free from the intensity of sexual attraction.
Philautia – self-love. We cannot give to others what we don’t have, therefore we need to love ourselves to truly love others.
Storge – familiar love e.g. parent- child i.e. where there is a strong bond and familiarity between people.
Pragma – a love that has endured and developed over a long time.
Ludus – playful love – e.g. feelings of infatuation in the early days of a relationship
Mania – obsessive love. This is usually when something is off –balance e.g. experienced by those who have lack of self-esteem and can lead people to do things which are not helpful to a relationship driven by anger, jealousy etc or fear that a relationship is breaking down and they are compelled to say or do “crazy” things.
The languages of Love
Dr. Gary Chapman states that Love has a language of its own. In his book ‘The Five Love Languages’ he identifies five love languages. Everyone gives and receives love differently. People put different store on these different manifestations of love. If people don’t hear the words or receive the actions or gifts they need then they might feel unloved despite the reality being very different. Some people are also more capable of experiencing certain types of love than others. Chapman argues that the language of love can be classed into the following five categories.
Words of Affirmation - i.e. “I love you” or other positive compliments
Acts of Service- i.e. simply doing nice things for other people aimed to help make the other person happy
Receiving Gifts - Some people value giving and receiving gifts
Quality Time - Other people measure the quality of their love by how much time their significant other wants to spend with them. If they don’t get enough “together time,” then they might feel unloved.
Physical Touch- The final language is where individuals associate love with physical touch.
The problems we have in relationships sometimes simply come from not understanding which ‘language’ we are using to feel loved. It is useful to learn the love languages to identify both the way you naturally give and recognise love. Once you are aware and understand this then loving and receiving love becomes easier.
“Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be Possessed; For love is sufficient unto love.” Khalil Gibran (The Prophet)
How can we love more?
“We can only learn to love by loving” Iris Murdoch
We can only know how to love and be loved when we make a conscious decision to become an embodiment of love. Being aware and setting our intention to be loving is a first step
Fear is the opposite of love.
“The principal effect of fear is that it prevents you from seeing where love is present, whereas love helps you to see where you are afraid. Love makes you conscious. It switches a light on in your mind. This light brings everything into view. You can see into every corner of your mind. Love does not judge, so nothing is hidden. Love does not condemn, so there is no deception. Love does not censure, so all is revealed. Love exposes the fears you identify with, the secret shame you haven’t forgiven, the old wounds not yet released, and every other unloving thought that blocks the awareness of love’s presence.” Robert Holden
We can use the tools of self-acceptance, forgiveness and non-judgment to help us love more and undo the blocks to love created by fear.
“All the happiness, health, and abundance you experience in life comes directly from your ability to love and be loved. This ability is innate, not acquired.” Robert Holden
We do not have to ‘find’ love so much as to uncover it, know it and be it. Love is already present we can start here and now, from where we are by looking inwards at ourselves, without judgement so we can then look outwards, with love, towards others.
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
What does loving yourself mean to you?
Which language of love do you use with others?
Think about your friendships and relationships. Thinking about the five different love language categories, do your friends and family express their love in different ways?
“Instead of trying to stop thought when you meditate, focus your attention on love”
If you are interested in some more reading on the subject, here are a few links to get you started:
"Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous or boastful, proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being right. Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8