Why Love Is Not A Feeling

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lovePost written by Vironika Tugaleva.

Love is eternal – the aspect may change, but not the essence. – Vincent van Gogh

I used to think that love was a feeling brought on by other people. When I got that feeling, I was ecstatic. I felt worthy, beautiful, and alive. I would be kind and generous to my lover, but secretly I would dread the day that he would get tired of me and stop giving me that feeling. I would say, “I love you,” but I really meant, “Don’t leave me.” With each failed relationship, my definition of love would warp slightly. First, love was just a rumour. Then, love was the blood in my veins and the air in my lungs. Then, love was a drug. Then, love was an addiction. Then, love was pain. Then, love was a lie.

Suddenly, after my mask came off, love was all that mattered. I knew, without a doubt, that what I had felt for myself and for all those people around me, what I had awakened to – I knew that was love. I knew it like a child knows that she can walk. I knew it was love and I knew I wanted it back. I wanted to keep it for the rest of my life. Love, I knew, was the answer.

There was only one problem. Although I knew I wanted it more than I’d ever wanted anything, I still didn’t know what it was. My greatest goal in life was to attain something that I couldn’t define. If that’s not setting yourself up for failure, I don’t know what is.

I developed a few theories. For a while, I thought of love as a verb. I thought it was something we did to each other like kissing or holding hands. Then, I thought that love was a choice. I thought it was something we made the decision to do even in hard times. Neither of those really seemed to fit. They both explained love as this thing that we do and if we stop doing it, then it disappears. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that explanation because I thought I was doing all the same things as before. I just couldn’t seem to reproduce that feeling of blissful connection. Out of my confused frustration grew the seeds of obsession.

I wanted answers and I wanted them badly; however I was unwilling to look in the only place where they lay. I searched psychology up and down. I looked in relationship books. I trusted science and I looked deeply into study after study for answers. Yet none came. Then, I looked to philosophy and I still had nothing to sink my teeth into. Once in a while, I’d come across spiritual ideas, but I’d ignore them. For me, spirituality was out of the question. I grew up being admired for my IQ, my ability get high grades, and reason logically. I thought all of that “look into your heart” stuff was the brain food of the uneducated. I thought the answers to my questions would come in the form of numbers and concrete facts, because that’s the only way I knew to receive answers. I drove myself crazy looking for answers to a spiritual question in the material world.

At this point, I started carrying a voice recorder with me. Everywhere I went, from the city street on a Friday night to the isolated cabin up north, I brought my question. I asked, “What is love?” in hopes of, one day, running into a definition that made any sense to me. This went on for several months. The definitions I received fit the entire range from roll-your-eyes immature to deeply profound. People’s definitions of love are as infinite as their personal experiences of it. The definition that came to have the largest impact on me came from a stranger on the beach. After months of furious obsession, during which I consumed hundreds of ideas from just as many sources, clarity came in the strangest of packages.

That fateful afternoon, I was nestled in the sand (writing a chapter of a very different sort of book) when he came up to talk to me. At first glance, he didn’t look like the bringer of epiphany. He was covered in dirt, smoking a cigarette, and reeked badly of alcohol. He was extremely angry and gesturing wildly with his open flask of whiskey. Over the course of the next half hour, he revealed to me that he’d been released that very same day from the mental health wing of a maximum-security prison in Northern Ontario. His grammar was poor and his words slurred. He alternated between yelling and crying. He told me that he’d just come home to find that, in his absence, his wife had left him for another man. She wouldn’t let him in and told him he’d never be able to see his daughter again. He told me how he’d spent the last 20 years in and out of prisons and hospitals. He spent each day counting down to the moment that he would be able to see his family again. Now, he was finally free. Now, he could go home, but he didn’t have a home to go to. He apologized to me for crying.

After a while, his movements became less aggressive and he seemed to have released his pent up frustration. Calmer and more settled, we sat in silence as he stared towards the horizon. After a few minutes, he said that he should probably go. He thanked me for listening and turned to walk away. Suddenly, he turned back around and asked me if there was anything he could do to thank me. He suggested a shot of whiskey, haphazardly holding out his flask. I politely declined and instead pulled out my voice recorder. I asked him to tell me what he thought love was. He thought for a moment and then he said:

“Love is the most important thing.”

He swayed a bit and went silent. Having heard this before, I wasn’t enthused. I hadn’t really been expecting much in any case. I smiled politely and was about to push the little red button to turn my recorder off when he said,

“Wait, I’ll even explain.”

He paused again, and then continued speaking slowly, enunciating clearer than he had throughout the past hour:

“Love’s when you meet somebody and you look at them, and there’s a moment right there. You just pick up on it and you just know. There’s something there. You see it. You know it. You actually feel it going through your body. You know it’s there. You hold it. You grasp it. You keep it safe.”

After that, he left. I’ll never forget the way I felt as I sat there in the July sunshine. Suddenly, I felt clear. Rapidly, everything started making sense. I sat there half-paralyzed for hours while I played the incident over and over in my head and the recording over and over in my ear. Love, I realized for the first time, was a form of unity. It was a connection – the only connection that we all truly have in common. In the absence of all similarities, love remains dominant. Everything that isn’t love is just like tassels. It’s decorative and irrelevant. Love is the foundation for equality, peace, and harmony. It really is the most important thing.

Staring at his path after he left, I realized that I loved that man. I watched people walk by on the boardwalk in the warm summer sun and I realized that I loved them too. Listening to his words again and again on my recorder, “…when you meet somebody…and you just know.” I got up and walked, dozens of strangers becoming that somebody. Everyone I looked at, there was a moment and I just knew that there was something there. There was that feeling that I’d spent my whole life, especially the past few months, desperately searching for, thinking I had to fight or beg for it, igniting with stranger after stranger. It wasn’t lust or desire or envy. It was love. Real, true love.

*

Love is unity. It is a spiritual web that ties together all living things. In any given moment, there is a densely interrelated harmony, an interdependent unity, between all the elements of any ecosystem if that ecosystem is to thrive. In any environment, there is a background of unified, self-perpetuating cycles that keep each element in that environment full of life. Love is the origin of life and the purpose of life. It is where all things come from and what they return to.

People tend to mistake love for something temporary and elusive. They even represent their love with temporary, elusive things like roses – things that are vibrant one moment and dead the next. This is not the true nature of love. Love is like the sun. It does not depend on us to sustain it, nor is it something we’ve created. It is ever-present and abundant. It is we who are confused. Yet our confusion does not change love. The sun was not dimmer before we understood its function. Most living things, in fact, do not have the capacity to understand such a thing as the sun’s (or any other thing’s) “function.” This does not affect the sun one bit. Love is the same way. No matter how much we ignore it or pretend it does not exist, it does not fade. No matter how many times we say “love” when we mean sexual attraction, addiction, or some other little thing, love does not change. People tend to think that relationships are static and that love is what varies. It is quite the opposite. Love is what is eternal and ever-present. Nothing that abides by the rules of life can be static. Love, however, does not play by the same rules. It is not something that grows and dies like all other living things. It is the origin of life and its purpose. Among all that is impermanent, love stays the same.

Love comes and goes like the sun rises and sets. The sun doesn’t really disappear when it goes down. It simply goes out of view. Every day, the sun rises and every night the sun sets. The sun, however, stays in the same form. It is not the actual sun that rises and sets. It is not the sun that turns red or orange. It is our perception of it from where we’re standing that changes. Love is like this too. Love flows abundantly and eternally. This is a certainty. What changes, how-ever, is perception. Our awareness changes depending on where we’re coming from and, thus, love takes on all sorts of adjectives, meanings, and forms. We feel a connection and we call it love, but this does not mean that we’re referring to the unifying power of love. We’re just referring to our understanding of it from where we’re standing.

Our position determines our attitude. We can stand in the dark cursing the sun’s absence, in the light catching its rays, in the dark knowing it is still present, or in the light within the shadows of blindness. A sunset may look the same to a group of people in the same city or country, while love may look completely different to two people in the same room. When we are trying to look at something that involves us so deeply and directly, our own position has much more power over our awareness. We cannot see the whole universe while being a tiny speck within it.

Love, in order to flow, does not need your acknowledgement or approval. The sun doesn’t care if you dislike its rays on your face. It will keep shining. The sun also does not care if a neighbour’s tree is casting a shade over your garden. Of course, that situation may be frustrating. It may cause you to get upset and scream. Ultimately, however, you can yell all you want, but the sun will shine as it shines. If your garden is not in the sun’s rays, no amount of blaming the sun will solve the problem. Its rays will not go around objects or through them. You can never expect the sun to change itself for you. It will shine as it shines, completely oblivious to whether or not you’re attending to it or using its rays to your best ability. It shone the same when we clubbed one another over the head and communicated only in grunts, and it will continue to shine the same now that we’re “civilized.” And so it goes with love.

At this point in our evolution, we’re capable of being aware of love. We can shift our perception and become conscious of the unity that binds us to one another and to the earth. Our ancestors could not do this. Most living things cannot do this. They are part of the unity, but they cannot see it or perceive it. They do not base their decisions on it, nor ensure that they have a steady supply of it. They are simply participants in it, but they do not make any choices. They go with the flow and sail with the winds. A lizard has no conscious choice about eating her young. She reacts mechanically with no ability to think of the future or to make conscious decisions about her behaviour based on her awareness. The lizard is completely engrossed in the present moment without any awareness of it. Thus, unity is there, but it eludes her and, thus, supersedes her.

Then, there are animals that have some awareness of the unity that binds them. Primates, for example, will form close relationships with one another. They form bonds and families. This sort of behaviour is bathed in unity. It is a product of love. However, this awareness is very selective. It does not reach very far and it is not the most powerful factor in perception. Sex hormones, for example, will easily alter the primate’s perception. They’ll get into physical battles with others of their kind only because they smell certain chemicals on each other. There’s some sense of love, of unity, between them, but this sense is dominated by other instincts. Many animals, if they run out of food, will eat one another. Survival is not the only thing they can do, but it is certainly the most influential part of their moment to moment awareness.

It is interesting that the primate sort of approach to love is what most people in our culture continue to do. Their “love” is conditional and selective. They love some people and not others. Those whom they claim to love, they’ll claim to be indifferent to the next moment. People say love is important, but it takes second fiddle to finances, sex, and even convenience. Like the primates, the possibility of awareness is there and, sometimes, the actual awareness is there, but it is weak and underdeveloped. Our collective awareness of the unity that binds us is in its budding stages. Just like our opposable thumbs were weak when we first received them, our possibility for awareness is weak. In order for us to capitalize on our newfound gift from evolution, we must first understand it, train it, and sacrifice the comfort of our old patterns for the vast possibilities of new ones.

We have evolved into our ability to love like we once evolved into our ability to nourish ourselves with food. There are no other animals who think so far ahead about food as we do. No other species has such complex systems of growing, harvesting, packaging, and delivering food. Once upon a time, getting food was a problem for us. The process of feeding ourselves once consumed most of our time, closely followed by escaping predators and finding a place to sleep. Thou-sands of years later, it only crosses our minds a few times a day and is easily fulfilled. This is how we evolve. Now, we’re finding love like we, at one point, found agriculture. It’s new, fresh, and exciting. It’s un-familiar, frightening, and full of promise.

The entire practice of agriculture is what gives us the power to do most of what we do with our time these days. We would not have careers, hobbies, or arts if we were all too busy looking for food. That one simple discovery – the discovery of how to harness the power of a constant, ever-present source of livelihood to our advantage – has made a monumental difference in our lives. Learning to harness the power of love will also make a monumental difference in how we live our lives. It will completely change the way that we relate to one another and to our own selves. The next stage of evolution is the evolution of perception, the evolution of the mind. The future of our personal, spiritual, and communal development lies in expanding our awareness of love.

Love is Not a Feeling – An Enlightening Lesson From The Love Mindset is an excerpt from Vironikas latest book. This is chapter 2: The Sun. For more about Vironika Tugaleva visit her blog.

photo source: hdwallpapers.in

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