When we Westerners think of love, we often think of what in yoga is considered to be attachment, not real love. When we love someone, it often begins as attachment- a sort of qualified love that can be all consuming and at times obsessive. That describes what we often call the "honeymoon stage" of a relationship. This is the blind love that looks at another with rose-colored glasses, glosses over the things we wouldn't otherwise find appealing and flls in all the unknown details with what it wants to see.
When this "love" fades, as all worldly things do, we are challenged to develop real love for our partner or be chronically dissatisfied and complain alot, or else end the relationship and look to start over anew where "the grass is greener". But the grass always seems greener in the honeymoon stage, but it cannot last. So we must finally learn to cultivate real love or forever chase new relationships like a drug, the high of which inevitably will end.
So what is true love? True love is built over time, learning to repsect and fully appreciate another being without judgement. It is found in sharing time & space with another in ways that feel wholesome. It is found in allowing your self and the other to explore your selves openly, to evolve as individuals toward enlightenment. It is found in sharing household chores, surrendering the ego, supporting positive efforts, gently offering constructive criticisms when absolutely needed, and serving each other with respect. It is more like what Westerners would call friendship. But that sort of friendship that is bold and gentle, purely honest and raw.
True love, love without attachment, is the kind of love that would do anything for the highest good of a loved one, sacrificing of oneself in any way required to uplift the other, free the other from pain or suffering or inspire deeper joy.
True love is not just for your lover, for your spuse, for your children or for the rest f your friends and family. The truest love is the love that is made of the Four Infinite Thoughts: Infinite kindness, Infinite compassion, Infinite joy and Infinite equinimity. The practice of these four qualities to the point at which they become infinite can lead us to enlightenment, loosening all the blockages of ego and karma and liberating the true love that is our essence.
"Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds." -Shakespeare
Practicing infinite kindness means making sure that we rise to every opportunity to bring wholesome happiness to others. Infinite compassion means taking every opportunity to relieve the suffering and discomfort of others. Infinite joy means using every opportunity we have to encourage the generation of wisdom in others-not book knowledge, but presence, peace, meditation, positive lifestyle, etc., the factors that bring lasting happiness. Infinite equanimity is the desire and effort to extend these qualities to ALL living beings, all sentient life forms. We cannot be lovers of animals and harm them. We cannot be lovers of life and destroy life.
Perhaps the most important thought, especially for the Westerners to know, is that all the love you need is within you. Until you feel that love within yourself you cannot find enough love elsewhere to satisfy you, ever. You must break through and heal the ugly layers of hatred and cynacism, of judgment and comparison. You must find the peace within yourself before you can enjoy relationships with others. If you look for lasting fulfilment outside yourself you will always fail. If this idea rubs you the wrong way, then it is you who most needs to hear it. One of the best ways to begin finding the love within is, however, to cultivate true, unattached love for others. Serve as a volunteer with animals, sick or the needy, the old or the young, and let the self-pity, self-judgement and ego die. Then you will slowly become the love that was within you all along.
What is true love? Our very essence and nature.