So what’s this thing called love?
There seems to be as many definitions of love as there are people. Everyone appears to be looking for it out there. Many people claim to have found it, at least for a while. Then, like the morning mist, it can dissipate. So whats this seemingly elusive thing we so desire?
How often have you pleaded, begged or cried to hold onto love, only to have it slip through your fingers? My journey has involved the desire for love. I have sought it here and there. My analytical mind has attempted to define love, thinking that if I understood what it was, it would be a lot easier for me to find it. I read romance novels and watched romance movies but still no answers. I questioned my friends at length about their experiences. The more I asked, the more confused I became. Some people were able to give an explanation, which never really answered the question of what is love for me. The most profound answer I received was, If you have to ask, then youve never experienced it. It got me thinking, but less about what love was and more about the answer being profound yet without substance. I came to an understanding that love was probably one of the intangibles of life, something along the lines of what is the colour blue? It appeared love meant different things to each person I asked.
At the same time, all the answers people gave had something in common: when they talked about their experiences of love it most often related to someone or something extrinsic. Also, for most people, following the period of love was a period of pain when the beloved person or thing went from their life. I felt uneasy with the concept or reality of something external having such a profound effect on me. It didnt seem right that love required having an attachment to an external source. It seemed rather fragile and very impermanent. It all sounded very risky to me, so I left it alone for a few years.
One lovely day I was reading a book on personal development and came across the phrase self-love. What on earth is that? I thought. As a concept it didnt really register. As a reality, well, it wasnt even showing on my meter. Self-love sounded all very new age and hippy. My belief at the time was that it was hard enough grasping an understanding of this thing called love without bothering about such a concept as self-love. But, like all good lessons, it kept putting itself in my face.
Me and them
At a very significant time in my life I came across the works of Carl Jung. As a result I started embracing the concept of the shadow side and, more interestingly, the notion that everyone is a reflection of me. I have to admit, though, I had trouble accepting that the person begging was me, the person fighting was me, the person drunk was me, the person who hurt me was me, the person who never supported me was me. They were doing it, not me. I was the victim here. They made me happy and they made me sad. I was just meeting the wrong people all the time! I never felt I deserved what was happening but it just kept on happening. People would go from my life and the same sort of people would replace them. It was some sort of cosmic conspiracy to make my life as hard as possible I thought. Not according to Jung, though, who believed that others are a reflection of you, or that you can only see in others what you have in yourself. I wasnt hurting myself; they were doing it. I just wanted to forget the past and find some love and happiness. Someone out there, surely, could love me and make me happy and send all those hurtful people away.
I looked and looked but the happiness makers were nowhere to be found. I got so tired of looking that I stopped. I had a sense that the answers werent all out there, so I decided to be still and see if they would come to me. I resigned from my job and from society and moved to the most appropriately named place I have ever lived: Mt Glorious. I lived, as I describe it, on top of a mountain in a rainforest. Time did not exist for me during that period and Im not even sure how long I was up there; approximately 18 months I would guess. I walked every day for hours. I got to know the birds of the forest. I got to know what their calls meant. I got to know when a bird was out of its normal area. I got to know the animals of the forest. I was soon able to sit quietly in the forest and have those amazing little animals and birds wander around me, accepting me as part of their world. I learned trust from those beautiful little beings. They trusted me so wonderfully and all the while I remembered, You can only see in others what you have in yourself. I got to know all the trees and ferns of the forest. I watched them just being, moving with nature, bending in the wind, not trying to do anything, just being.
In my first few days on the mountain, wandering the trails, I was drawn to a fern. A beautiful new growth was forming. When I passed every day I would stop to talk and admire this magnificent frond as it slowly unfolded. I called it The Baby and felt an amazing connection to it. It was like we were both starting out on a great adventure at the same time and were encouraging each other on our journey. I watched it grow strong, tall and proud and contemplated that it didnt need anyone to make it happy. It did it all by itself, among all the magnificence of the forest. All the while the words, you can only see in others what you have in yourself drifted through my thoughts.
A dry winter came and dragged on for months and my concern for The Baby grew as her fronds became brown. I even contemplated carrying buckets of water up to her. We were on a journey together and she couldnt leave me now. We had just started and we had such a long way to go. At last the rains came and all was green again. One day she succumbed to torrential rains and I found her slumped and bent. In my despair I ran home, got some string, tied her back up again in her rightful place of magnificence and asked her to stay with me. And she did. I felt a bond, a bond of support between us. We were supporting each other, which was something I hadnt experienced up to that point in my life. My relationships hadnt done so, and here I was getting it from a fern frond and all it was doing was just being and showing me how to be.
It was the most significant relationship Id had up to that point in my life because it was the beginning of my supportive relationship with myself. That mountain and all on it showed me so much about myself. It showed me the might and power of a mountain, which is my might and power within. It showed me the amazing calmness and stillness of nature, which is my calmness and stillness. It showed me the flexibility and being of the huge trees and therefore my own flexibility and being. It showed me the cycles of nature; it showed me that everything is cyclic.
So whats this thing called love? I had grown to love the mountain. I had grown to love the fern. I had grown to love the amazing words that flowed from me and formed the poetry that still makes me cry when I read it. I had grown to love the paintings that seemed to appear on the canvas in front of me as if the brush were moving with an energy of its own. I had grown to love the book that flowed from me with concepts and words that were unfamiliar to my conscious mind. I realised that I was using the word love a lot in my everyday thoughts. I was seeing love reflected in nearly everything and I kept remembering you can only see in others what you have in yourself and it felt real. Maybe Jung had something after all.
My spiritual journey was firmly interlinked with my personal journey and a significant aspect of my spiritual journey was to have a tangible connection with the spiritual aspect of my life. I suspect I had been treating the spiritual and personal journeys as separate up until some point in time. Fortunately, I came to the understanding that they are one and the same.
I started venturing down the mountain and re-acquainting myself with society, catching up with old friends and making new ones. I met some truly wonderful people who were kind, caring and supportive. Then, one amazing day, my heart was truly opened in aisle three in the supermarket of all places! An angel walked past me down the aisle and I experienced what I describe as a marshmallow explosion in my heart. My heart and life changed so wonderfully. I had a knowing there was so much more.
I still pondered other peoples experiences and mine in the supermarket and mused on the intensity of these feelings of the heart. What is it that we see in other people, when others are simply a reflection of ourself? It is like a huge, powerful, white, warm light. It seems to be the thing we all search for, but what is this thing that causes so much intensity on so many levels? If we can only see in other people what we have in ourself, maybe we are seeing the ultimate within.
The following words came to me one day: The search for relationships is the search for love; the search for love is the search for spirit. So if others are a reflection of ourself, shouldnt it follow that when we are in love with another, we are actually seeing the love we have within ourself? This may explain why, when that other goes away, we feel the love go away. However, if that other is simply reflecting our own inner love, the love can never go away. The reflection was there to remind us to look within to find the love. But what is love? If my inner words serve me well, I believe that love is connection with our essence, our soul, our spirit, call it what you will. It is our magnificence. When we fall in love with another, we are actually catching a glimpse of who we truly are, in all our glory.
So whats this thing called love? I believe it is the moment we come to an understanding of how powerful and amazing we truly are. It is the moment we see a reflection of our true essence. It is the moment we remember whence we came and where we will go after our earthly experience; it is the remembrance of home. We might think love is something that exists in another, something extrinsic that we desire, but love is in ourself. Our journey, our destination to see and acknowledge the magnificence within, this is the thing called love. We all have it. We have it all the time. All we need to do is look inside. All we need is to know self-love.
When we know self-love we see it reflected around us.
We see it in nature, we see it in art and we see it reflected in wonderful people. When we know that the love we feel for another is our self-love being reflected, it is then, I believe, that we can truly love and embrace that person. What we are really doing is loving and embracing ourself, which is our goal achieved. All we are is love. We just need to remember that.