Finish this sentence: Love is … Remember those sayings that adorned posters and post-its? There were infinite endings to this fill-in-the-blank. Each February I sit down to write a piece on love and my first thought is, “What is it?” Inevitably I find myself to be stumped.
There are many opinions from the great thinkers, but they don’t all agree. Dictionary definitions of the word are quite pitiful (if Aristotle and Socrates and the Jesuits and John Donne can’t agree, how is the dictionary supposed to get it right?). And yet we all experience love - with parents, boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, siblings, friends, neighbors, pets and the collective community. What is this we’re all feeling, or doing?
I finally decided to leave all this research behind and think about what yoga has taught me about love. Yoga has taught me to be open to the many ideas of what love might be. To keep seeking. To walk the path of awareness. To study self in relationship to others. Certainly, to practice the yamas and niyamas that I feel are appropriate for me to be able to love - santosha (contentment), ahimsa (non-harming), satya (truth), aparigraha (non-greed), asteya (non-stealing), tapas (discipline), svadyaya (self-study). To be aware of someone else’s needs and to provide when able. To attempt to understand. To complete my task as a yogi, as defined by an old teacher of mine, and, “transmit joy.”
I feel love when I sit in meditation. That’s where I find it’s most easily seen. While I’m in quiet contemplation, I feel it all around me. It’s more a deeply impressionist painting than a realistic one. A fuzzy look at something I know is there, but I can’t fully make out. Yoga teaches us to be okay with living in the unknown. And so I’ll continue to seek but be okay with the lack of clarity on this subject. I know I feel it. I know that I express it. I know that I believe in love, even if I can’t quite clearly define it. Ultimately, I know, that love is all you need.