Valentine's Day is the day we celebrate love, but what exactly is it that we call love? We talk about it and certainly have a general idea about what it is, but how many of us truly contemplate and are able to describe, and more importantly live love?
We usually think about romantic love when we think about Valentine's Day. Romantic love often has to do with a physical and/or an emotional attraction towards another and involves the bittersweet emotions and actions of passion, jealousy, romance, and attachment.
Though it may be intriguing to explore the subject of romantic relationships, I would like to go deeper into the meaning of love, and explore with you not necessarily love in regards to interpersonal relationships, but rather love as a state of being.
The love that I am referring to expands beyond romantic endeavors and comes primarily from the soul level. It is a love that tunes into the flow of life and connects us to all that is. It is a state of being beyond the mind that permeates everything around us and connects us to the Divine.
Anthony De Mello in his book, The Way to Love, describes this love by using analogies. He writes, "What is love? Take a look at a rose. Is it possible for the rose to say, 'I shall offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people?' Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks to walk in its light? It could only do that by ceasing to be a lamp. And observe how helplessly and indiscriminately a tree gives its shade to everyone, good and bad, young and old, high and low; to animals and humans and every living creature--even to the one who seeks to cut it down."
I would like to expand on what I see as some of the most important characteristics of love. The following attributes are woven into the very fabric of love. However, words can only go so far in describing the intricacies of love. Love is subtler than words can ever describe!
Essential Attributes of love:
Will and Discipline ~ We have been given a free will to choose to love or not, making it so much more precious when we do. Though love is an innate quality within us it takes willingness and discipline to work our way through the muck of our prejudices, our beliefs, our projections, and our limited way of looking at life so that we can remove the obstacles and realize the love we are.
Letting Go ~ There is a saying in AA, 'Let Go, Let God.' Letting go of all that keeps us separate from the Divine, and trusting that whatever happens in life is happening to help us further our connection with the Divine. The ability to let go and trust the Divine frees us up to love deeply.
Grace ~ Through grace we are given the opportunity to choose love. It's like the sun shining down on all. Sometimes there are clouds in the way so that we are unable to see the light. Trust that, like the sun, the grace is there for us; we just need to do our part and open to that grace. Prayer, meditation and other spiritual practices can help us access the grace to choose love.
Forgiveness ~ During our lifetime we are going to feel devalued, misunderstood, abused and hurt by others. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what the person did. Forgiveness allows us to release the pain and move forward with love to live a more healthy and meaningful life.*
Humility ~ Arrogance and pride are the opposite of humility and keeps us from the love we so greatly desire. Humility is unpretentious, and has to do with the truth of what is. By realizing and acknowledging our God-given talents, as well as our mistakes, we can more readily see ourselves as we truly are, and our place in the general scheme of life. Humility is an essential aspect of love, helping us to be vulnerable and open to love.
Kindness ~ When a person is kind they are caring, empathetic, compassionate, gentle, thoughtful and considerate. They are more authentic in their approach. To be kind takes clearing the mind of all negativity about the other and coming from the heart. Kindness is an aspect of love that allows us to stay present when we are with others, and truly listen to what they have to say.*
Listening ~ This requires putting one's desires, beliefs, opinions, prejudices, and preconceived notions aside and really hearing what is being said from the other person's perspective. it is also important to listen to our deeper self - our intuition.
Integrity ~ The quality of consistently being honest, and having strong moral values. It is also about being authentic and trustworthy.
Self-love ~ Recognizing our value and our natural abilities, and not letting others define us. Realizing that love is available to us in every moment because we are love. We know that we will make mistakes and we accept responsibility for them. We make every effort to be the best version of ourselves.
Selfless service ~ Helping others in need without expecting something in return, and without ignoring our own needs. Also, by adopting a non-judgmental attitude and realizing that we are all a part of the human predicament. Eventually, as we grow in love, selfless service becomes simply an expansion of our love.
Conscious Awareness ~ Love brings us more into the present moment. We become more acutely aware of both our inner and outer environment. By being mindful of such emotions as anger, jealousy, envy, or fear we can recognize them in our body by feeling the sensations that arise and then releasing these painful emotions rather than ruminating about them, projecting them onto others, or repressing them. As a result, we feel more alive and experience more of the love that we are.
Gratitude ~ There is absolutely nothing that we have that isn't a gift from the Divine, even the difficulties in life. ...Seeing the light and love in life and being thankful is the key to a peaceful and joyful life. *
Peace ~ Freedom from disturbance, quiet and tranquil, serenity, mentally quiet. Peace gives us the ability to listen to what the Bible calls 'the still small voice within.'
Joy ~ Holding life lightly allows us to be joyful and loving. Recognizing and opening to the incredible wonders of life we experience the joy. Fear is the primary emotion that keeps us from our deeper joy. When we can stay in the moment fear dissipates, and we can then appreciate what is, and trust in the Divine flow of life.
These are the attributes of love that I resonate with. Jesus saw love as essential. He told us to love God, and to love one another.* He said that these two were the greatest of all the commandments. Actually, I believe if you love in this way you will automatically keep all of the commandments.
I would like to end with another quote from the Bible having to do with the essence of love. It's a quote from Corinthians 13;4-8 "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.'
May you all enjoy the true essence of Valentine's Day!
Love and Peace,
*Revised from the blog The Challenge of Love II 1/12/18
*Taken from the blog The Forgiveness Factor 3/12/17
*Taken from the blog Being Nice vs. Being Kind 9/12/16
Taken from the blog, Having the Attitude of Gratitude this Thanksgiving 11/12/16
*1 Corinthians 13:4-8
*Picture by Gloria Williams
Mary Mohs LVN, MA, RYT,