Love is not what you think it is. Knowing what it really is will set you free.
I am sitting in a camp chair in the middle of a corral with a horse named Spirit.
For two years, he has been my greatest teacher and guide, guiding me over and over to powerful, life-changing insights.
Within minutes of sitting down near him, Spirit walks purposefully over to where I’m sitting. He stands right in front of me, his legs up against my knees, his powerful chest across from my face, and his head above me.
He bends down and puts his nose gently, oh so gently, on top of my head.
He has something to share, something he wants me to see. I can’t explain how I know this. It’s something that is beyond reason. But after years of being guided by Spirit, I’ve come to trust it. To trust him.
So I sit and melt into the moment. I have no idea what he wants me to experience, but I know I will only see it if I quiet down and go beyond my thinking, go to that space of knowing and insight that lives in the silence at the core of my being.
I feel myself being drawn deeper into that silence, starting to feel myself expand beyond the limitations of my thinking self to somewhere more expansive. Spirit waits patiently, his nose still lightly touching the top of my head.
That’s when I feel a surge of something powerful come up through me. It’s a deep knowing, an insight beyond words, beyond language, beyond all concepts:
I am love.
I am made of love.
We are all made of love.
It’s the most powerful feeling, the most moving insight I’ve ever known. Tears are running down my cheeks and I feel such a deep gratitude for this “animal” who has guided me to a place where this insight seems to have emerged out of the depths of my soul.
I feel its truth like a gift, like beautiful roots anchoring me to my truest self.
On mysticism and physics: the truth about love
Months later, this insight continues to unfold for me. It still takes my breath away.
Mystics throughout human history have pointed to the formless energy that everything in this universe is made of, we humans included. They refer to that formless energy as pure love, pure consciousness, pure being. They point to it as our truest nature, what we’re really made of.
More recently, theoretical physicists have shown us that everything in the universe is, at its heart, is made of pure, formless energy. Just as the mystics have long known, physicists now know that the physical world as we experience it with our senses is an illusion. What’s real is pure energy, something formless, infinite and universal.
I once understood this only in the vaguest, most tangential way. It was an idea. A really, really cool idea, but still just an idea. Something I played with, rolling it around on my intellect like I would a piece of candy on my tongue: sweet, tasty, interesting, but gone before long.
What Spirit helped me experience was a deeper knowing that by-passed my intellect, that arose from a different part of me.
So what does this mean?
We live in a time and a culture that defines us as the sum of our past, our choices, our psychology. We live in a time that teaches us that love is an emotion that we can only feel for a particular person, or a particular thing. We’re taught that if we can fall in love, then we can also fall “out” of love. We get the message that if we don’t feel love for our loved ones in any particular moment, then something is wrong or broken, that it means something and needs to be fixed.
We get the message that love is conditional, fragile, fickle, and that it takes work and effort to cultivate or maintain. We get the message that it can be gained and lost. None of that is true.
It’s a misunderstanding of our true nature, a misunderstanding of what love is. An innocent misunderstanding, but one that causes our greatest suffering and points us away from the most beautiful part of who we really are.
Once you see it, it all becomes really simple. So simple it leaves you breathless, with a new understanding of the true source of all that we seek: love, joy, connection, meaning, creativity, well-being. It’s all already there, already in us.
Our true nature is not our psychology, not our thinking, not our past or our actions. Our true nature is far beyond all that.
Our true nature, quite simply, is love.
Whenever our mind is quiet and we drop fully into the present moment, we naturally feel a wave of something that is beyond words: an indescribable experience of warmth, well-being, and connection. That feeling doesn’t need a target, an object. It just radiates out of us and leads us to an experience of love and connection for all that surrounds us. For the natural world, for other living beings, for human beings.
The only thing that gets in its way, obscures it in the moment, is our own thinking.
It might seem like this truth is abstract, mysterious, too mystical to be felt by ordinary people on ordinary days. It’s not. It’s the most ordinary thing in the world and we feel it’s beautiful ordinariness all the time. We just don’t always notice or understand it.
When I started seeing more deeply the truth of how this works, I started experiencing extraordinary moments of connection with other humans around me, even complete strangers: the girl with blue hair checking me out at the grocery store; the sweet older man who drives our local bus; the toddler squealing with glee as he jumps into a puddle on the side of the road; the self-conscious teenager walking by me on the sidewalk.
Before I saw what love really is, my thoughts about these, and countless other humans, were often flavored with judgment. Sometimes they still are. But now I see them for what they are, just my own thinking getting in the way of the love I’m designed to feel, the love that I am when my thinking gets out of the way.
I now know that there’s something much deeper, much more beautiful on offer at any given moment than I thought.
I also know that this is not only true for me, but for all human beings. So when I look into another human being’s eyes, I can look past their psychology, past their appearance, past their identity, right to the love at their very core. And when I do that, I’ll experience them in a far deeper, far more beautiful way. No matter who they are.
And when that person isn’t just a stranger, but someone I cherish, someone with whom I’ve shared a lifetime of special moments, someone whose uniqueness and quirks are special to me, someone I gave birth to and have cared for and nurtured for years and decades, then that wave of love is intertwined with a personal cherishing and the feeling is indescribably beautiful.
Because in addition to being made of this universal love, we are also given the gift of being a particular, unique human and we get to choose other particular, unique beings to share our life and our love with. So when I combine the universal love I am with the particular love for someone I cherish, the experience is simply beautiful. Sublime.
But it’s not just about what we I can feel for other human beings. The fact that at my very core, I am made of love, made of the same stuff that the whole universe is made of, means that when I drop out of my conceptual mind, I can experience sacred, even if brief, moments of love for the world around me: the quiet majesty of an aspen forest; the awe-inspiring perfection of an ordinary flower; the quirky call of the blackbirds on a summer day; the shocking bright red of a cherry tomato; the ray of light coming through the window as I do the dishes; the warmth of the sun on my face on a cold winter day.
I started seeing that anytime I fully dropped in to the moment, I could experience a wave of sacred connection.
I could fall in love with my world.
It’s completely ordinary and yet utterly sacred. It’s a gift. A shockingly simple, beautiful gift.
Once we see it and see this beautiful simplicity, it becomes the sacred punctuation of an ordinary, well-lived life.
“The sacred should be the fundamental domain for everyone’s life. It is in everyone’s interest to protect the sacred domain and see that it flourishes in all its forms — for everyone, all over the world. Everyone should have access to the sacred domain — otherwise a collective insanity, or lack of sanity, develops. That lack of sanity comes form having lost touch with what is beyond oneself — or the Sea of Divine Existence, altogether.” ~ Adi Da