From Sally Kempton’s “What is Love?”:
All of us, throughout our lives, constantly do what I did project onto other people and things the feelings of love that actually come from within. “It was the music,” we say. “It was Ned (or Sarah, or Jeannie). It was the surf! It was my teacher’s presence!” Yet the yogic view is that all of our experiences of human love are actually glimpses of the Great Love. (“God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,” Rumi wrote. “It hides within these, till one day it cracks them open.”) It is only when love gets filtered through the prism of the human psyche that it begins to look specific and limited. It becomes veiled by our thoughts and feelings, and we start to think that love comes and goes, that we can feel it only for certain people, or that there’s not enough love to go around. We can’t help doing this.
Our senses, mind, and ego, hardwired to give us the experience of separateness and distinction, set us up to think that love is outside us, that some people and places and things are lovable and others are not, and furthermore that love has different flavors: mother love, romantic love, love of movies, love of nature, compassionate love, sexual love, love of the cozy feeling of being under the covers at the end of a long day.
In short, if the Great Love is naturally unifying, our individual, human experience of love is subject to change and loss, moods and tides, attachments and aversions. It doesn’t matter who or what we love; at some point, the object of our love will disappear from our life or disappoint us or stop being lovable, simply because change is the nature of existence. So individual love is always touched with suffering, even when the love we feel is “spiritual.”
I once heard someone ask a great spiritual teacher, “Will loving you cause me to suffer the way I’ve suffered from loving other people?” The teacher replied, “If you love me in the way you’ve loved other people, you’ll suffer.” He was saying that as long as we think that love comes from something outside ourselves even from God or a spiritual master we are going to experience pain. Think of the agonies of the Sufi poets! Think also of the pain we suffer when, like my friend Elliot, we don’t feel loving enough, or when we can’t force love to come in the form we want it to, or when we feel lonely or unappreciated or self-deprecating, or when, despite the fact that we know attachment leads to suffering, we can’t help thinking that the love we were feeling came from Joe or Alice, and that love is gone because Joe or Alice is gone!
To say that our individual experience of love can be unsatisfying or changeable or incomplete is not to say it is less real than the Great Love. It is the Great Love, which has simply been subject to filtration. The practice of yoga is about removing the filter, closing the gap between our limited experience and the experience of greatness we all hold inside. That’s the whole point of contemplative practice especially the practice of loving.
Read the whole article.