14 Quotes from Sharon Salzberg to Guide us toward a new Understanding of Love.
Last week, on a Facebook post sharing an article about learning to love myself, a comment from my brother-in-law’s sister brought me up short:
“But what does love even mean? Everyone is trying to seek love found in books and movies, but it doesn’t exist.”
What does love mean?
I didn’t know how to answer. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life chasing after the illusion of love I learned from books and movies, but what exactly do I really want?
I could list the standard answers: soul-connection, deep intimacy, feeling known, feeling seen, companionship, and so on…but after the recent honest examinations of my love-junkie nature, I’m not even sure I know what I mean by love anymore. I have known infatuation many times, but have I ever really known love?
Fortunately, I recently started reading the book Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, by Sharon Salzberg, after watching Waylon’s inspirational interview with Sharon in Elephant Journal’s Maitri course. This amazing book is teeming with refreshing ideas on love.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are 14 quotes from Lovingkindness that can guide us toward a new understanding of love.
When we feel love, our mind is expansive and open enough to include the entirety of life in full awareness, both its pleasures and its pains. We feel neither betrayed by pain nor overcome by it and thus we can contact that which is undamaged within us regardless of the situation.
We must move from trying to control the uncontrollable cycles of pleasure and pain, and instead learn how to connect, to open, to love no matter what is happening.
Yes, I want to feel love that is not dependent on life’s ever-changing circumstances.
The inherent happiness of love is not compromised by likes and dislikes, and thus, like the sun, it can shine on everything. This love is truly boundless. It is born out of freedom, and it is offered freely.
With real love we do not focus on the future – on what we want, or what we fear, or what we have to guard against. We can actually allow things to be the way they are.
How real love guides our interactions with other people:
Love for others without the foundation of love for ourselves becomes a loss of boundaries, codependency, and a painful and fruitless search for intimacy. But when we contact, through meditation, our true nature, we can allow others to also find theirs.
Looking at people and communicating that they can be loved, and that they can love in return, is giving them a tremendous gift. It is also a gift to ourselves. We see that we are one with the fabric of life.
If we extend the force of love, love returns to us…By being a beacon of trustworthiness in this world, we become a safe haven for others and a good friend.
On love and spirituality:
Sustaining a loving heart, even for the duration of a snap of a finger, makes one a truly spiritual being.
Here’s a twofer: a Rumi poem and a quote from Sharon!
“A pearl goes up for auction. No one has enough,
So the pearl buys itself.” ~ Rumi
Love exists in itself, not relying on owning or being owned. Like the pearl, love can only buy itself, because love is not a matter of currency or exchange. No one has enough to buy it, but everyone has enough to cultivate it.
Real love can bring us real happiness:
True happiness cannot be found in some thing or some person, because as everything changes, that level of happiness is bound to be temporary. More enduring is the possibility of experiencing a loving heart in any circumstance.
For all of us, love can be the natural state of our own being; naturally at peace, naturally connected, because this becomes the reflection of who we simply are.
If we were in touch with our own loveliness, if we felt less fearful of others, if we trusted our ability to love, we would have mental happiness.
Finally, how to find love:
Love and concern for all are not things some of us are born with and others not. Rather, they are results of what we do with our minds: We can choose to transform our minds so that they embody love, or we can allow them to develop habits and false concepts of separation.
Our freedom to love arises from discovering that we can live without the concept of self and other. The joy of this discovery is incomparably greater than what many of us have previously known or even imagined – so much so that our entire view of life changes.
I still don’t know the true, “objective” meaning of love, if such a thing exists. But I’m starting to figure out what kind of love I want: the kind of love that arises from complete acceptance of myself—flaws, bad habits, shadows, all of it—and acceptance of everyone and everything else as they are—including all the drama and suffering.
I want to feel the love of knowing that we’re all doing the best we’re capable of. That this world, with all its pain and darkness, is also beautiful and filled with light.
In the midst of the swirling maelstrom of life, the love I want is always available to us if we just look inside our own hearts.