Love: Don’t Make It Complicated

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think or hear the word “love?” Compassion? Romance? Familial? Food? The family pet?

Words have meaning, but when a word’s meaning becomes so broad that it takes more time to figure out its nuances than to appreciate that it was even said, the intention of it can get diluted. Or lost. But perhaps we’re putting too much emphasis on the word itself. Isn’t love more of a feeling? An emotion?

I mean, yes. It’s all of all of that. It’s the stuff, the people, the events, the pets, its emotion, its intense feeling, its compassion, its empathy, its kindness. It’s so big and so vast it may just be impossible to define.

But I have some thoughts anyway.

Romantic Love. Perhaps this is more about passion, that giddy, hungry urge to be so close to someone else that it hurts when separated, even by a few feet. I’m not discounting this type of love, not by a longshot. It is so important to have this sort of strong and healthy emotion so that the heart opens. This is vulnerability at its finest. It hurts so good kind of love. But in the long run it isn’t sustainable.

But vulnerability has opened the door to the universal field of love.

Familial love. There is this edict floating around the stratosphere that says we must love our families. The ones we were born into or raised by or maybe even our chosen ones. I don’t suppose it matters which people you call your family, you are just expected to love them. Period. The overly political, underly informed uncle, the strict grandmother, the sociopathic sister. You. Must. Love. Them. All.

Uncomfortable? You bet, but we’ll circle back to that.

Compassionate Love. Perhaps this is the truest form of the concept of love. Philosophers and yogic sages have waxed poetic about love in its truest most altruistic form since the beginning of time. So deep have the conversations and teachings gone that love becomes something else entirely, which doesn’t really help us define this nebulous concept.

So, let’s try this: consider that you ARE love. That love is a state of being, not simply an emotion. You know how in yoga we talk about how another person’s opinion of you is none of your business and has nothing to do with you? No? If you haven’t heard this before, let it sink in. Their opinion is theirs. It is coming from their perspective, their history, their lens of right, wrong, whatever. It is their opinion of you. It is their reaction to you or something you have said or done. It in no way is who you are. It may be good information, it may cause you to rethink whatever it is you have said or done, but it never defines you. Only you can do that. But the inverse is also true. Your opinions on ANYTHING or ANYONE are yours. They come from your past conditioning, education, traumas, experiences. When two people of differing opinions meet, one will rarely change the opinion of the other. A lot of energy – usually outside the cushy, sweet boundaries of love – is spent trying to control how another thinks. It’s exhausting. Let it go.

In the way that our thoughts and opinions about anything are our own, come from us, really affect only us, couldn’t love be the same? Couldn’t love be within us? Couldn’t we be love?

When we lose a special person – even if they just move away – or a beloved pet, don’t we still feel the love? Isn’t grief love in disguise? When we see a young child take their first steps full of joy, don’t we feel that joy too? That’s love. Tearing up when friends get married, when soldiers come home, when you finally flow through sun salutations without thinking about it…all love. When you love another, you are feeling that love. You are feeling it. When we give love to another – like any other emotion we feel – we are receiving it as well.

It is you. You are love. Your only job is to be love.

A note about the crazy family you feel forced to love: if they are in your life, love them. This does not mean you have to condone their behavior, agree with their politics or lend them money, it simply means, be love. If they need it, they will feel it. If they have not yet tapped into their own infinite wellspring of love, you can lead the way simply by being love.

But how do I cultivate love, how do I become love, you may be thinking. Gratitude. Walks in nature. Committing random acts of kindness. Meditation. Yoga. Getting out of your head. You got this.

Allison Andersen is an owner of Red Sun Yoga, a global wanderer and a philosophy geek. She is the author of two blogs: where you will find stories and photos of her travels, and a place for her to ponder life’s intricacies, inconsistencies and magic.