I was listening to a song the other day, and some of the words were “Love is gentle, and love is kind.” The truth of that really touched me. We think of love as being a feeling—an emotion—but true love is more of a doing. Love touches, love gives, love is gentle, and it is kind. That’s how we know it. We know love by its fruits. Love acts: It listens, it caresses, it nourishes, it nurtures. It does whatever is needed of it. Love naturally responds to life as it presents itself.
Romantic love isn’t like this at all. It is a giddy feeling, an excitement, an anticipation of getting something from someone. It makes us feel like a kid at Christmas—”Yippee! I’m going to get what a want!” Romance is exciting, fun, and feels wonderful, but it’s not really love. It’s too self-centered for that. When we are in love, we are often oblivious to the needs of others, as we have only the beloved on our mind. We become fascinated and obsessed with the beloved to the exclusion of everything else. We love the beloved, not for what he or she is, but for what we think that person might mean to us and to our life. We are excited because the beloved is believed to enhance us. The feelings of romantic love are created by an illusion (i.e., psychological projection) and by the release of certain chemicals in the brain. Romantic feelings are a very different kind of love than true love; they are a falling in love with what we hope will be our salvation and happiness forever. That kind of love never lasts; it often disappears upon getting to know someone better. If we are lucky, it turns into something more true, more real, more akin to our true nature.
It is our nature to love, to be gentle, to be kind. When all thoughts drop away or are ignored, love is our natural response to life. The only thing that ever interferes with love is a thought, usually a judgment or a fear. These are the enemies of true love. They undermine it and eat away at it, or prevent it altogether. Love cannot exist in the ego’s world of judgment and fear. And yet we, as humans, need and want love so desperately. Because of this, we learn to love for love’s sake, for the joy of loving, without conditions, just because it is our nature. We learn to move beyond the ego’s judgments and fears because doing so is the only way to get what we really want—true love. To get that, we need to return Home, and so we eventually do. We find a way to love in spite of our judgments and fears. We discover this very simple truth: Love is an act of kindness, not a giddy feeling. Love is a doing, a natural expression of our true nature, not a feeling we get from others. The ego manipulates others to do what it wants so that it can feel love, but that is the opposite of love. Love allows others to be just as they are; it supports and nurtures, listens, and cares. Love flows toward others from within us. It exists within us and is not gotten from others.
This kind of love is the most fulfilling thing in the world. Experiencing love doesn’t require that you be beautiful or rich or healthy or intelligent or have a special talent or standing in life; experiencing it only requires that you express it. Love is free, and it frees us, and it frees others from the ensnarement of the false self. It is the greatest gift, and one that doesn’t cost the giver anything. It takes nothing from the giver and returns everything. This is the great secret we are meant to discover.