what is this thing called love?
"The difference between 'loving' someone and 'being in love' with someone is the degree of your devotion. Devotion has much ado with emotional and psychic trade. It is a bond to be taken with respectful sincerity, but also a bond that allows for ultimate joy and play. Devotion, once you give it to someone, is non-refundable. The heart will forever be entwined in devotion for this other heart. This is not an end all be all phenomenon, for the heart is capable of many devotional love relationships. However, they all stain the cloth of the heart forever."
I admire this woman and witness the wisdom within her. I’m inspired by her heartfelt response and am inclined to align my own perspective with hers. Nevertheless, I still wanted to reflect my own opinion on the matter. However I wasn’t quite ready yet, so I then asked some other friends for their sense of this subject.
Continuing with a stream of simplicity, here’s an answer from another wonderful lady: "I would say, loving someone is a one way street, whereas being in love with someone is a deep sharing of mutually felt love."
There’s one more exceptional female that I know and appreciate who demonstrated invaluable information from her unique view point. She says: "Love is the experience and act of being in a state of energetic expansion or openness, which allows you to feel the ever-present love of the universe, the big love. Loving someone is then simply being in a state of expansion - feeling love or loving - when in the presence of another person.
The feeling of 'being in love' is when we identify feeling the love of universe with a particular person. For whatever reason, a person effects you in a way that results in you opening up, energetically expanding, and therefore feeling the love of the universe. We tend to believe that this person makes us feel this way, where in reality we are simply in the state in which we are capable of feeling the big love, and it has nothing to do with the person, but with our own willingness to expand. There also seems to be a notion of romance attached to being 'in love' as opposed to just loving someone. This romantic attraction comes from something in your heart that identifies that person as an ally in some way - either someone to partner with due to aligned destinies, or someone who will help show you what parts of you need healing and growth."
Now, for the sake of balance and buoyancy, I asked my big brother what he made of this business. He’s a good ball of brilliance and beauty in his own peculiar sort of style and this is what he had to say: "I think loving someone is respecting them, being kind, empathizing with them and treating them as I want to be treated. Being in love, after thinking quite a bit …. I'd have to say, I don't know. The times I've 'been in love' before, could more appropriately be described as maybe a self destructive mental illness."
When I exam myself for the qualitative levels of love in relationship dynamics, I encounter intuitive guidance along with resistance. Certainly I feel love for life and feel love for others. But the difference of being in love? Sure there’s got to be some measure of worth to weigh in there. Isn’t it found inside these distinct variations that we recognize the eternally divine spectrum?
Learning to feel love deeply as a creative art form is a skill that’s crafted through honest labor, blood, sweat, tears. Be attentive to this phenomenon: unique faculties develop in the ultra motivated. Any amateur can passively tinker with your sentimental type of love, but real mastery is an increasingly small deviation from perfection. One learns to trust the directions of a golden thread - it whispers at every curve what the next step ought to be. Journeying into the uncharted (and sometimes frightening) territory of love, requires this level of commitment.
The Earth poet and author Stephen Buhner, writes, the term 'golden thread' was coined by William Blake but developed as a theme in writing by William Stafford. To the alert person, a golden thread can emerge from ordinary things and open a doorway into the imaginal and through it, the mythic. Robert Bly describes this as 'following the tiny impulses through the meadow of language’
Here’s a phrase to notice: synaesthesia of perception. Seamlessly blending feeling with seeing - an empathetic sensorium. It's vital for depth immersion to open the doors and venture beyond looking, to actually see. Consider the motion of meditation - the integration of inseparable identities - in this kind of oneness arises a deep appreciation for the nature of interdependence. A gestalt of ecstatic feeling emerges through its caring touch on the skin, heart and soul, caressing the interior sanctum with tremendous sensitivity and focus. A unified form of tantra. Unio Mystica. Concrescence.
A remixed variation on this creative theme - a symbolic counterpoint - can be seen or felt as sound, volume, frequency, intensity, symmetry, geometric shapes; the patterns of color and sound appear as vibrating melodic moods. Love reads a story to us that moves the needle of our hearts. When it begins to bleed red, the distortion peaks are off the charts. Subtle manipulations of the EQ (equalization of emotional intelligence) readjust the rocking and rolling concert show into a serene environment of classical elegance and a beautiful ballad. Increase the volume or turn the dial down. The source is like a synthesizer. It’s as strange as it sounds.
Love is a drug. Depending on the degree of injection, the feeling literally controls chemical dynamics that induce altered states of reality. Being in love is a medicine that can cause extreme highs. Inspired by my experiences with plant based entheogenic sacraments, I believe the difference of love and being in love comes down to dosage, just like any other drug. The spectrum ranges anywhere between tonifying, medicinal and poisonous. Falling in love can feel truly psychedelic, especially when expressing physical intimacy. Being in love brings a willingness to widen the doors of perception, encouraging one to be more vulnerable. Loving someone seems to be the result of a lower dosage. Safer for sure.
Loving someone is also kind of like buzzing on a pale beer in the summertime, whereas being in love is more like getting stupendously drunk on distilled liquor and making wild declarations which may be regrettable the very next morning. And please, love responsibly - don’t do the deed while driving. At any rate, such as it with everything else, it’s a matter of moderation, or balance, plus patience.
In addition to time, money follows closely in hot pursuit. How many of you men have nearly gone broke or bankrupt through worship of the women you fall in love for? The dollars can have a way of disappearing damn quick if you're in love, for both sexes. (Accountant isn't in Cupids job description) The question then becomes, what won't you do for her? It's almost enough to drive one mad as a hatter, if not down to the poor house - your best buddies couch. This can be considered a risk/reward ratio or held in regard as funding an investment/return bond. Time equals value and is a vote of love to file for others. If we just love each other, maybe we'll get together tomorrow sometime but if we’re in love with each other, we’re probably going to be spending tonight away.
Take a head chef extraordinaire, whipping up a savory feast with reckless flair. Flying at a rapid fire clip with sizzling flames and ravenous customers shamelessly licking their fingers. Nothing measured. That’s being in love. Birthed into being out of imaginal realms. Now take your amateur sous chef, measurably more cautious with making each ingredient correctly portioned. Sure there's love for the job, but the resulting work might not be as exciting or gourmet. It may even be slightly odoriferous, if not insulting. One is tame, the other is wild.
Love can be on a leash (I love you…but), under more control, while being in love at length (although unfortunately there’s sometimes a short rope wrapped around the neck of this shadow side) can be more volatile, exposing one to the harsher elements and could tailspin through abstract phantom navigation.
Romance is sine qua non to being in love. When I fall in love, I feel a fiery romantic impulse. It could very well be the quintessence of the episode. It’s an adventurous affair that cultivates chivalry in me. The extraordinary phenomenon inspires me to create something out of nothing. It’s a lyrical thing, like the evolution of a troubadour making impressions for his muse. For me, loving a woman is the foundation and sexual intimacy is the resinous ambrosia which bonds us closer in companionship. I find that falling in love eventually leads to a decent in the dark waters of another soul. And sequestered down there in that space, magical treasures of transformational power are floating in suspension.
The effective potency contained in this style of self examination is undeniable. I encourage you to really meditate on these notions and develop your own hypothesis. If you reverse engineer your answers (they don’t have to be spoken) you can start living them today. This process leads to more love through living a charged life. Make it special. Make it count for something. Believe in miracles.
As long as I’m alive, I’m in alignment with refining how to love and recognizing myself through love. My aim is to produce measurable advancements in the area of authenticity. This is amazing grace in action. In order to proceed in a mutually beneficial way, I envision starting conversations like this in relationships where agreements can be made so that when or if we fall in love, we have at least a rough map of the terrain before entering the forest. Building an embellished vocabulary through constructive communication. Founder of the business 'Amazon', Jeff Bezos states their mission as being “stubborn on vision, flexible on details”. I love that. I desire that to be the dynamic launchpad of rocketing into love.
In my search to understand what this thing called love is, feels like and to safely express it, I’m still learning what this force is, but I certainly know what it feels like when it's not there. Let there be illumination through elimination. Shed that and those which don’t support us. We are worthy of accelerated improvements in life, love and death. Questions are a ubiquitous key that can serve any of us on this quest. I’m grateful to have been asked the native question that instigated this essay. I’ve already come up with some alternative interpretations and I want to encapsulate with a sort of distilled summary.
From a physical standpoint, I certainly can’t say "I’m in love with you” to another man but I can say “I love you”, so then for me, one difference is essentially sexual. In this respect, I feel as though love is like moist dew drops, whereas being in love is overflowing with juiciness. In the mechanics of musical terms, a distinction sounds to me like volume and tuning; if love is an amplifier or instrument, this would be like - soft/loud, flat/sharp. I’m also an artist and looking at the variations of love through this lens would be primarily - monochrome/technicolor, cool/warm. If the frames of love were painted with colors, the spectrum would cover the whole canvas with myriad shades.
I suppose that’s as smart as I can decode it. As everything seems to be spectral waves of particular dualities. The subtle intricacies of devotion are ultimately a stylistic approach. In a world without emphasis on words, it’s communicated through sounds, visions and feelings. After all, letters and numbers are merely conceptualized symbols, abstractions of the material and spiritual planes of universal existence. Remember, the relational hang ups are similar to eating a menu instead of the main course, or having wealth in hand to tabulating digits on the banks computer screen.
The experience of a lifetime, being in a space of love, has no name but sounds like slipping into stillness, and feels like some sort of game. Well it is, and You're it. (Surely you're not serious?) So come on then, let's play. Therefore - look and listen, see and hear. Ask what we can do and where we could go. Trust the intuition of the heart. Speak like a child and always forgive. Be radically honest, plus kind. Act authentically and relax.
If you’re not sure when you’re in love or just loving someone and you're blessed with a good friend, ask them if you’re acting crazy or insane. If they say yes, then you’re probably in love. Welcome home.
Thanks to my friends for their comparatively grounded contributions to this article as well as this life. It’s been a pleasure beyond measure to participate in this investigation and I have faith that it’s been an article of contribution to your flowering quest.
Thank you for devoting your time to ride this train of ideas. Play around with your own contemplations of this tapestry and please feel free to post your personal reflections right here or through any of the social media links below. I would absolutely love to receive your responses. For further reading on the subject of loving relationships from other thought leaders and entrepreneurs in the health community that I interviewed, check out this previous article here.