if you would have asked me five years ago, i would have probably told you love is a feeling. you know love is there because you can feel it.
if you asked me today, i would have a much longer, complex response. hence, this post.
i want to start off with how i feel about love. i love love. i am learning how to love myself, how to love others and (most importantly) how to allow myself to receive love. to be honest, i had to make a choice- either to let the hardships i’ve encountered make me more or less open to love. with daily effort and intention, i am opening myself to receiving unconditional love from others. it’s a process.
okay so what is love?
bell hooks, in her novel All About Love, which you can find a free pdf of here (under resources), gives a defintion of love that when i read it, it literally changed my world.
so at this point, i was like alright, bet. love is an action. i have to do actionable things to love myself and others.
i started paying more attention to actions. (i eventually am now at the point, where i pay attention to how people’s actions make me feel and value that feeling as an indicator of what i should do next (most times LOL, it’s a process)).
i’m studying right now to be a yoga teacher, and as part of the training (as many courses do) we have spent a lot of time on yogic philosophy, much of which is rooted in eastern cultures (including religion). so we reviewed the 4 Aspects of True Love, which is given to us from Buddhism. (these are my summaries from my notes below)
- maitri kindness: through being present and paying attention, learning how to love someone and doing it
- karuna compassion: understanding the suffering of others and actively finding ways to alleviate their burdens (and actually alleviating them)
- mudita joy: love is only love if it includes joy and brings happiness. with joy, love grows stronger.
- upeksha freedom: includes external freedom, to have time/space, and internal freedom, space to be yoruself. practices must be implemented to create the sensation of freedom.
first, you must learn to love yourself like this. then others.
true love (which mind you, including familial and platonic relationships, as well as partnerships) requires action. it requires doing it right.
reading this, changed everything again. it was like i finally had a blueprint. i could combine the idea that love is an action and figure out in which ways i could be actionable.
this also made me think a lot about love languages. if you’re not familiar, gary chapman came up with this quiz, to see which of the five love languages you prefer: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, or acts of service. i read recently online, that the best thing to do with these love languages, is to figure out WHEN and HOW to meet all of them. i may have scored highest for gifts (which i LOVE, to me they’re a representation of thought and action), but there are times when i need actions that fall under acts of service. learning how to support others in the way that they want to be supported, falls under karuna.
if i had to give you a short answer, love is a commitment to supportings oneself (first and foremost) and others. it takes time to learn how to love yourself. how i loved myself before quarantine looked a LOT different than during quarantine. i’m sure that as i grow older, it will change. my commitment to myself will stay the safe. checkins with myself will help me learn how to love myself the most.
as far as loving others, that changes as well. depending on where they are in life. i feel that checkins and honest discussions with your loved ones (may they be a family member, partner, friend, etc) about ways that you can be supportive are helping.
so what does this have to do with social justice? hate, which is the opposite of love, is hurtful. therefore the person that has received hate, has to heal. through loving yourself, you can find healing for you.
“love heals no matter what has happened in our past, when we open our hearts to love again, live as if born again, not forgetting the past but seeing in a new way, we go forward with the fresh insight- that the past can no longer hurt us. mindful remembering let’s us put the broken bits and pieces of our hearts together again that is the way healing begins.”- bell hooks
bell hooks, in her novel, talks a lot about creating a beloved community, where everyone is being loved by one another and giving love. this space is successful. this place, in my opinion, is the goal of social justice work. to create a space where everyones needs are met (also known as equity).
i’ll let you with one last quote, from bell hooks-
the moment we choose to love we begin to move against oppression, domination. the moment we choose to love, we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.bell hooks, in love as the practice of freedom.