What is Love?
by Diane Linsley

In our confused modern world, most people have the mistaken
belief that love is a feeling. If you practice mindfulness meditation,
you will soon learn that feelings come and go. They flow like ocean
waves, in and out. They arise and then pass away.

Is this the kind of love you want in your relationships? It's nice to feel loving, but it's not enough. What if you could develop the ability to act with compassion, no matter how you are feeling? This requires awareness, self-control and willpower. It also requires the development of relationship skills, which can be learned and practiced every day to develop new habits.

Love is Understanding

In a beautiful little book called True Love, Thich Nhat Hanh says that "understanding is the essence of love." In order to love someone in a way that will be beneficial, you first need to practice "deep looking." This is observation with the intent to understand the other person and their needs.

People dream of finding the "right person" who will understand and love them unconditionally. That's a childhood fantasy. However, it is possible to find someone who has enough awareness that they will make a sincere effort to understand you through close observation and communication. When I found such a person (my current husband), I married him.

Clients sometimes ask me how they can make another person love them. They want to control the process. I tell them that you can't make another person love you. If someone loves you, it's because of who they are. Likewise, your ability to love is a reflection of your own developmental maturity.

In The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm says that learning to love consists of two parts: learning the theory and then practicing until you become skilled.

"Here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art .... In spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power - almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving." ~Erich Fromm

Love is Compassion

The word compassion literally means "suffering with." It's the recognition of our own humanity in other people. Every one of us will suffer as a human being and ultimately die.

Most people try to deny this obvious fact. They keep themselves busy chasing money, fame, possessions and relationships - all in an attempt to escape from the pain of looking closely at suffering.

The more you embrace the human condition, instead of turning away from it, the greater will be your capacity to love. This is the secret of the great lovers of the world - and I'm not talking about romantic lovers. Mother Theresa was a great lover of humanity because she worked very hard at it.

In a letter to his daughter, Albert Einsten said, "There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe .... This universal force is LOVE .... After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces of the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energy …. If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer."

You can begin to embody love by practicing self-compassion and then extending that love to other people. Try Loving Kindness meditation and Tonglen meditation.

Love is a Choice

One day, my daughter was talking to me about her sister, whom she deeply loves, and she asked me, "Why do I love her so much?" My immediate, intuitive response was, "Love is a choice." Then I added, "We could talk all day about the psychological reasons why you love someone, but the ultimate answer is that you choose to love. Then you act on that choice by doing something loving."

I believe that the purpose of incarnating as a human being is two-fold. First, it is to individuate, which requires freedom and the ability to make choices. Second, it is to learn how to love.

We choose in every moment whether to be in the vibration of love or a lower vibration. On the Emotional Scale, which is a tool I use with clients for emotional healing and Law of Attraction coaching, Love is the highest vibration, along with Joy, Knowledge, Freedom, Empowerment, Gratitude and Peace.

These 7 emotions are like different flavors of the same vibration. The goal of coaching is to learn how to move up the emotional scale and live at the highest state. Clients usually come to me in a state of fear, depression and powerlessness. This is the lowest vibration on the emotional scale.

When you move up the emotional scale from the lowest vibration, you pass through 20 emotional states until you get to the highest vibration of Love. Anyone can experience love as a momentary feeling, but it takes practice to emobdy it consistently as your set-point.

Intentionally changing your vibration requires awareness. Bill Harris says, "Awareness gives choice."

With enough awareness, love is no longer something that just happens to you (or doesn't happen). You choose to love or not love in every moment. The more you practice, the easier it gets.

Love is Action

In couples counseling, therapists help people improve their listening skills and other relationship skills. How can you understand someone if you don't listen to them?

Listening requires us to humble ourselves and set aside our own egoic wants for a brief time in order to understand another person's perspective.

After going through a marriage and two more relationships with men who simply walked out of the room or gave me the silent treatment whenever I tried to talk to them, I was very grateful to find my soulmate. He is a great listener.

The next step is to act on what you have learned from listening. Consider this quote by David Whyte: "Courage is what love looks like when tested by the simple everyday necessities of being alive."

Courage requires willpower. To increase your willpower, practice making conscious choices. Keep your promises, and develop good habits. Over time, habits build characer. Not only will you be a better lover - you will also feel better about yourself, and your self-esteem will increase.

Love is Who You Are

Some people have the experience of being the embodiement of love. This often happens during the Third Rank of Tozan, which is a stage of enlightenment. The awakened person might say that it doesn't make sense to talk about love as if it were a concept or something outside of you. Love is who you are.

From my perspective, I define love as the manifestation of your true self. Where does the love go when you are not acting in a loving way? The person who has mastered the art of loving doesn't often think about the concept of love. Rather, they ask themselves questions like, "How can I serve others and alleviate suffering in the world?"

We embody love in everything we do and say whenever we are acting from our true self. You don't have to wait for an earth-shaking spiritual realization before you start doing this. Enlightenment usually happens to those who practice.

People are Mirrors

Everyone in your life is a mirror to you. I recently had a client who questioned this teaching. She said, "What about so-and-so?" I replied, "It's not a question of whether or not someone is a mirror to you. The answer is always yes. A better question is, how is this person a mirror to you?"

Stop focusing on what the other person is doing wrong, and look at yourself. This isn't denying that the other person is doing something wrong. But you have no power to fix them. You can only work on yourself. If you want to love more deeply, you must break the habit of codependency.

The most empowered thing you can do is take responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings and actions. Somehow, even if you can't see it, you are attracting all the relationships in your life. The Law of Attraction is not about wish fulfillment. It is simply the natural result of your vibration.

People are attracted to those who match their own vibration. It is uncomfortable to be with someone who operates at a much higher or lower vibration than you do. If you want to attract more love into your life, you need to raise your set point. I teach clients how to do this with Law of Attraction processes.

A true love relationship requires skill, patience and practice. There's no end point at which we can say that we have achieved the goal. There's always more to learn and do. It may seem overwhelming at times, but it's the most worthwhile thing I know of. And you can practice it today with anyone in your life, including yourself. You don't need to wait for the right person to come along.

Here's a guided meditation for attracting love.

Be well,
Diane Linsley

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