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by Amy Hunt
I once heard from a professor that love is not an emotion. It shocked me when I heard this, juxtaposed against what I and many others were taught. Now, years later after being told this, I’m still occupied by curiosity and investigation, motivated more than ever to figure out the dynamics and psychological essence of love. I consider it a normal process of life to question, for a time, what love is, how it applies in life, what it looks like, and its purpose. If love is not an emotion, then what is it?
When I was a kid I used to listen to DC talk, a Christian music band. They professed, “love is a verb.” Many others as well claim that love is an action, as it is only love if there is an act of service. For example, giving a dollar to a beggar on the street can be understood as a gesture of love. Furthermore, Disney fans will not find it to be a challenge to complete this phrase: “Only an act of true ____ can save her.” Therefore, we know love is in effect if it is expressed externally. But how about love that is not expressed? Is it still considered love – at least a potential love that has yet to show itself?
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Neurologically speaking, love is recognized by the presence and activity of neurochemicals in the brain, especially that of oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “love hormone.” These chemicals remain active in the brain while love is being experienced by the individual. As a participant of love, one can give or receive love; either way, love is a neurochemical experience in the brain. Whether it is acting in love or receiving this extraordinary gift, the human experience of love cannot be imitated unless these properties within the brain and heart are present and active.
I’ve also heard about love that is felt. While we experience love as a feeling, our brains are tricked to think that we feel love within us as an emotional experience. In reality, love and emotions are different. Religious texts describe people being moved by compassion or overwhelmed with what is suggested to be an emotional drive. These instances and others show that there is something happening on the inside that drives living beings to express what they feel – or perhaps feel what is ready to be experienced.
Some believe that there is only one love, the same love that we all experience, that we all share and to which we all can relate. Certainly this idea suggests that, despite how many types of loves that cultures and subcultures define (i.e. agape, philo, etc.), it is still the same basic concept of love for them all – they all express a distinctly intimate compassion towards another. The expression may vary across types of loves, but they all stem from the same original experience that we know and feel inside. A person is born knowing how to love, though its expression may be influenced by cultural teachings, beliefs, environmental cues, or inspiration across the lifespan. Therefore love cannot be learned. Love exists apart from the psyche.
Despite the emotion or behavior debate, love is something important and crucial to survival. Living in isolation doesn’t exactly help the chances of survival. When humans come to love, we recognize the bigger picture than self-serving acts that abolish communal living. From a sociological context, love is what helped us evolve to where we are now. Love is a relational component of life. Throughout societies and cultures, love is a type of bond that has encouraged and proven worthy of recognition and appreciation. Love is commonly recognized by the duties it plays for natural selection and procreation – not only for sexual activity, but also for the need of companionship and family. These sociological matters highlight the need for love in the case of survivorship and overall community development.
As one can see, love is deep and multi-faceted. As a developed and evolved society, together we are attempting to study and analyze a concept that we are not necessarily capable of relaying correctly back into society. Confused on its nature, we are awakening to a time that it is most important to both feel and express this notion of love. Without the feeling, love is personally unknown; without the action, love cannot be shared – both defeating the essence and purpose of love which is to be shared and experienced with another.
Perhaps love is something beyond our self or what we have the ability to conceive. Perhaps it is magic that happens in the moment and we share the common experience of love. Maybe love is an interaction. Breaking down the word “inter-action,” we find “inter,” meaning joining two parts and “action,” meaning an expression. If love is agreed to be an interaction, then it follows that love is a joint expression of that which is experienced subjectively by each individual. Love is the perceived experiencing and expression of an “other,” expressed through us as an interaction. A shared interaction reveals that there is a third party involved – the gift itself.
Suggestively, love is another essence that does not originate from us. From an existential understanding, love is another essence which does not inhabit our consciousness, but is experienced by our consciousness as something separate from our personal human experience and is relayed. Though we are moved by the emotions of compassion and empathy, love is different; and though we are inspired to proceed in various acts of service that demonstrate love, the act is simply the exchange of this energy between two living beings. More simply, we are agents of this love, evolved to exercise the will, essence, and expression of this “other” known as love.
Love is a gift we can bring to others, not from us, but from itself. Think about that – we bring love to others from the origin of love. It is not from within our own heart, brain, or consciousness that we love and it is not due to any survival that we love. Love itself is its own inspiration, its own consciousness, and its own beginning. This may paint love as a cosmic mystery – maybe it is yet to be discovered to its full definition and potential.
About the author:
Amy Hunt graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelors in Psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys writing articles on topics related to psychology and spirituality, sometimes incorporating physics concepts. More of her thoughts can be followed on Twitter @amyhuntessays https://twitter.com/
by Ziv Porat
Is there a difference between love and knowledge? At first glance this appears to be a rather silly question, since it seems to compare apples to oranges. The personal experience of loving, on the one hand and of knowing on the other, are so very different, how could they be the same, or even similar? One might assume that the more reasonable question should be – is there any thing in common between the two? This might be so if we are satisfied with a superficial understanding of these two facets of the human mind. Yet, if we search a bit deeper into their origin, motives and aim a broader comprehension may emerge.
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Essentially, the desire for love arises from the spiritual impulse to come back to our True Nature, which is Oneness and Wholeness. This truth is so very beautifully expressed by the 15th century Sufi mystic, Jami, who wrote, “Love becomes perfect only when it transcends itself – Becoming One with its object, producing Unity of Being”1. These statements may become clearer by reflecting on the desire for love and its fulfillment. When one loves another, one actually expresses a desire to become one with them. The more intense is the sentiment of love, the stronger is the wish for unity.
When a lover longs for his beloved, he wishes to be so very close, never to be apart from to her; any hour that the lover spends apart from his beloved seems to him, as if lasting an eternity. So many love songs were written about the agony of separation from the beloved. When a mother loves her child, she feels no distinction from the child; the child’s joy is her happiness and the child’s pain is her suffering. Love is such an intense motive force in the human mind that it often overrides the impulse for self preservation; this is called selflessness, or altruism. In altruistic sentiments and actions the love for a fellow human causes the person to completely identify (unite) with the other, considering the other’s well being as one’s own. At times this leads to acts of self sacrifice, in which individual well being is subsumed in the care for the other.
The desire for knowledge arises from the same deep source in the human psyche as love does, i.e. the desire to realize the essential Oneness of one’s being with the universe. For what is knowledge? At its core, the desire to know is the desire to have intimate access to the object of knowledge. As one becomes interested in knowing anything or any subject, the process of learning about it brings more and more information, clarity, focus, details and a familiarity with it. This process of knowing saturates the mind until it becomes close and connected to the object of its study.
A physicist investigates the physical universe, because she wants to gain intimate access (knowledge of) to the subject of her research. What was once far away and obscure to her mind becomes in the course of her research and discovery process, clear and intimately known to her. A yogi meditates on the object of his interest; as his meditation deepens, the distinction between the observer and the object of his observation diminishes. The yogi becomes one with the object of meditation. This process is described in the classical text of Raja yoga, The Patanjali Yoga Sutras, and it is the ultimate way of gaining knowledge. This kind of knowledge does not require any intermediary agents, meaning the senses and the intellect. It is a direct knowledge, which cannot be explained in words, but it can be experienced by those who are interested and practice meditation.
Upon further observation, it may become clear that these seemingly disparate aspects of our mind are actually intertwined. The lover is very interested in his beloved; he wants to know everything about her: what flowers does she like, what restaurants does she prefer, what are her interests and so on. In short, he wishes to gain knowledge about the object of his affection; his desire for intimacy naturally includes a desire for knowledge. On the other hand, it is common to hear scientists talk with great joy and affection about the subject of their study. A scientist’s interest in the object of her investigation may become so profound that she will get as consumed by it, as the lover would in his beloved. The scientific interest turns into fascination, which becomes a burning desire to gain knowledge, to be filled with and united with the understanding of the object of knowledge.
If so, then what is the distinction between love and knowledge? Why do they appear to us as so very different and unrelated? The answer to this lies in the difference between the aspects of mind that are employed in search for Oneness; in the case of love it is the human heart and in the case of knowledge it is the head (intellect). When a particular facet of mind is utilized, it would yield a specific result. One’s experience of fire is heat when it is sensed by the skin and light when it is seen by the eye. A search dog on a rescue mission will most likely find that which it was trained to seek, human survivors and not a stash of gold. In the same manner, the tool that is utilized to seek for our spiritual essence will yield results that are conditioned and limited by that specific tool’s scope and ability. In the case of the intellect it will yield results that are confined to reason and knowledge; when it comes to feeling the search will yield results defined by the abilities of the heart, e.g. care, compassion and love.
As the true motive behind all human desires, whether of the heart or of the head, is found a deeper understanding emerges. This understanding is that all the aspirations of mind are but desires to ‘experience’ our True Essence. Because the mind is conditioned to think and feel in limited terms, it finds only a relative and limited scope of knowledge and a small measure of love. Only when the mind is sufficiently refined by spiritual practices, it becomes a clear mirror reflecting our essence. Both the head and the heart need to be developed and refined, and eventually transcended by the intuitive realization that is beyond the function of both.
Therefore, there is no actual distinction between the desire to know and to love. They are but manifestation of our insatiable spiritual hunger to return to who we truly are, our original Being. The yogis call that being, our True Self or Atman. In the realization of our True Self the search for anything and everything comes to its fruition. The search does not yield any new results of knowledge or love, but rather it allows us to realize that we are at all times a Wholeness that was never lost. That Wholeness is simultaneously absolute Being, Knowledge and Love.
1 Fitzgerald, Astrid (2001). Being Consciousness Bliss: A Seeker’s Guide. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Books, Page 115
About the author:
Ziv Porat has been studying and practicing yoga as a physical, mental and spiritual discipline since he completed his yoga teacher’s training at the Sivananda center in Tel Aviv in 1983. He taught ongoing hatha yoga classes and at teacher training courses, while living at various Sivananda centers and ashram.
He has educated students on the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga throughout California, in Israel, and in Spain. He teaches weekly yoga and health classes at retirement communities in the SF Bay Area, coaches individuals, conducts workshops and writes about spiritual development. Ziv strives to make the great teachings of Yoga and Vedanta accessible, interesting and inviting.
Seasons of the Self by Lynn Woodland
In the wintry month of February we’re still in the season of hibernation, introspection and energy turned inward. While the candy-heart overlay of Valentine’s Day certainly is a cultural rather than seasonal phenomenon, it’s well-suited for late winter. After all, when the weather and still-short days drive us indoors, we tend to find ourselves in close quarters with our fellow humans. And when our attention turns within, there we are with our own hearts. Love and relatedness bloom, or we become acutely aware of their lack. Sadly, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, a scarcity of love is more a state of mind than of opportunity.
I became profoundly aware of the connection between love, healing, and attitude, as well as the incredible capacity for any two people to give and receive the gift of healing love, in my work with the attitudinal healing movement. In 1983 I started a Center for Attitudinal Healing, modeled after the original Center founded by Jerry Jampolsky, for people dealing with life-challenging illnesses. Rather than using professional counselors, we paired clients with volunteers who’d received training in how to listen compassionately, see everyone as a teacher, and define healing as a process of joining in love with others rather than fixing them. The healing that resulted between these volunteers and clients was miraculous and deeply moving.
Not only did these nonprofessionals seemed to know just the right thing to do or say when coming from a place of love, the traditional roles of helper and client quickly disappeared and the learning and healing flowed both ways.
That we are all students and teachers to one another is a foundation principle of the Attitudinal Healing movement and, in my experience, a fundamental truth. It’s one that doesn’t require the high intensity of catastrophic illness to manifest. It’s our true relationship to one another at all times, though we’re often blind to it. Everyone we encounter has something to offer us and the more we seek it out, the more we’ll find it. Believing in the goodness and wisdom of others helps to call it forth, even from those who didn’t know they had it to give.
But even if we appreciate this notion in theory, we may still go through life thinking only certain people have the love, support, approval, wisdom and gifts that we need and that others are unattractive, annoying, invisible, or have nothing we want. This is what makes life lonely.
To bridge the gap between theory and experience, here’s an imagination game I occasionally do in my classes. Imagination is the doorway into intuition, so what starts out as something we’re just “making up” can sometimes evolve into profound truth. Whether you believe you’re in some way transcending time, distance, and separateness to connect with the highest wisdom of another, or simply connecting with a wiser part of yourself, you may find unexpected insight through this exercise and it can’t help but change how you look at people which, in turn, has a way of changing what happens between you.
Begin by bringing to mind someone whom you think of as a wise teacher. This could be a person you know or someone you only know through their work, such as an author, world leader or historical figure. It could be someone either living or dead.
Now, picture the person in your mind’s eye and take a moment to simply open your heart. Imagine you’re sending an outpouring of gratitude for all that you admire and appreciate in this individual. The power of love is well documented. It keeps us healthy; it empowers our prayers; it’s a gift that, when given unconditionally, is always received, even when it’s not registered consciously. Imagine that your love is awakening and calling forth the best in this person.
Many philosophers and cutting edge scientists have speculated that all minds are part of one consciousness. So, even though you’re not physically present with this individual and may never be, imagine there is, none the less, a reality where all minds meet. Picture yourself visiting with your teacher and imagine that a real meeting is taking place in this realm of pure consciousness. Your mentor may speak to you, or show you something, or simply radiate love and healing.
You might imagine yourself in the role of your teacher, seeing yourself from this other’s view. In this role, speak to yourself. Offer wisdom, healing and whatever gifts are most needed. If you have a request for specific assistance or a question, ask for these and allow the teacher to respond.
But this isn’t the end of this exercise. While it’s easy to imagine a favorite mentor as having the gifts we most need, the truth is that everyone is a being of profound complexity, wisdom, and depth with gifts to give. That includes our friends, family, coworkers, complete strangers, even the people who thoroughly annoy us. So, bring to mind now your most intimate peer relationship. This could be a spouse or romantic partner, or it could be a close friend. Repeat the previous exercise, this time letting your intimate peer come to you. See past the person you’ve become so familiar with to perceive the rich, complex being that includes but isn’t limited to the personality you know. Imagine this individual as having facets you’ve never seen, and wisdom and love you’ve never experienced. See what new gifts this person has to give you when you open your mind and heart to them.
Now that you’re warmed up, do this exercise one more time-this time with the last person you’d ever imagine as having “gifts” for you. Just as with your mentor and peer, imagine this being has important wisdom, guidance, healing and love for you. And just as you did with the other two, let yourself open to receive it. Bring to mind the most important question of your life, perhaps one you posed to your mentor. Imagine that the higher mind of this person has something significant to contribute to this matter; something you would have missed had you not opened yourself to it. See what it is and don’t be surprised to receive an unexpectedly different view with a new perspective worth considering. End by thanking this person for their gifts.
If you do these exercises deeply, you may see changes in how people relate to you. You may never be able to look at people quite the same way again and, before you know it, you might even notice your world has become a lot less lonely.
Lynn Woodland is author of Making Miracles-Create New Realities for Your Life and Our World, from Namaste Publishing and creator of The Miracles Course, an online coaching program for living a miraculous life. Lynn welcomes your comments: email@example.com.
More on her work at www.LynnWoodland.com