I’ve been thinking about love a lot lately. I recently finished listening to Susan Piver’s The Wisdom of the Broken Heart and am currently listening to Sharon Salzberg’s Real Love. Both the books talk about the true nature of love – unconditional, enduring, limitless. Both the authors are practitioners of Buddhism and talk beautifully about how mindfulness and keeping one’s heart open irrespective of the external circumstances are the core of what real love is. And when I say love, I’m talking about it broadly, not necessarily about romantic love alone.
In my teens and twenties, I had a more traditional view of love. It was conditional (if this other person loves me, I’ll love them back. Else, I’ll take it away and save up for someone more worthy). It wasn’t enduring (out of sight is out of mind, a breakup meant complete stoppage of love and moving on quickly). It was limited (don’t love too freely because if you give too much to one person you won’t have enough left for someone else – someone who truly deserves it. Additionally, if a person you love loved someone else, they had little left to give you).
Over the last couple of years, especially over the last year, I’d like to think that the way I view love has undergone – and continues to undergo – a radical shift. Right now, I’m going through a rather difficult time and my emotions have been all over the place. I feel heartbroken, hurt, confused, scared, and vulnerable. But much to my surprise I found that despite all this, I know that the love remains pure and unaltered despite the unpredictability of the external circumstances. This is a bit confusing and scary even…could I really love someone even if I knew that I wouldn’t be loved back, things are probably coming to an end, and we probably would disconnect for a long time before reconnecting?
The answer is yes. I think I’m finally beginning to understand that I love for love’s own sake. Not for what love it might bring me back, although that feels wonderful, intoxicating even. Not for the security, comfort, and enjoyment that it might give me, although I want and love those things. No, I’ve realised that I – and we all – love because we love loving. It’s in our nature to love. And so long as we remind ourselves to keep our hearts open despite everything, we will always experience real love. Because it’s created within and not without. Within is the only place we can ever experience it. To love means to be hurt, to experience inexplicable pain, to feel alone and vulnerable. But to be rid of them means to shut our hearts completely and not love at all. And that’s too high a price to pay.