What Is Love?

It isn’t sexual desire, it isn’t exclusive, and apparently it isn’t lasting.

At least that’s what Michael Johnson said in an incredible yoga workshop yesterday at Karma Yoga. Quoting from Barbara Fredrickson’s book, Love 2.0, Johnson shared the social scientist perspective on love as it led us into a bhakti vinyasa yoga class where we had the whole gamut of experiences in a two-hour class.

We learned. Moved our bodies. Met new people. Rested. Emerged energized. All in all, a sublime example of what love could be, right?

It’s been a while since Dan and I have had a weekend without kids and though I couldn’t have seen this when I was getting divorced so many years ago, it is wonderful to have that island in time of silence, of time alone, of time just the two of us, of time. No taking care of other people’s needs or desires, no refereeing between the children. Just a quiet weekend of reconnecting with my husband.

What love is, says Michael Johnson, is shared positive emotions between two people, mutual care and over time, embodied rapport and social bonds. Yes, I get that. We have love between us and with our children and with so many, really.

Years ago, I learned from Swami A. Parthasarathy that love is not unconditional admiration or preferential attachment but rather, universal identification. Once I can put myself in another person’s shoes, I experience love.

And once you love another – again, not in I-love-you-so-I-want-you-to-satisfy-my-desires-and-yearnings – only then can you relate to them. Because you identify with their innate human-ness, with their beating heart, with their roller coaster of emotions.

(By the way, this yoga path that I’m on, it slows the roller coaster so there aren’t as many highs and dips.)

Michael Johnson told us yesterday that there are two preconditions for love: safety and connection. The connection, he says, must be real, as in a physical connection, an in-person thing, where you can see the whites of their eyes and touch their hand, hear their voice.

Facebook doesn’t count for the connection part of it. It must be person to person, breathing the same air.

It’s an interesting thing to ponder. How many people, then, do you really love? Don’t you think that to do your job well, you must approach each person you encounter with something close to love? Or at least the desire to see them that way?

Don’t you think that the kind love we’ve all looked for throughout our lives, especially the kind I yearned for from the 1980s Brat Pack movies like St. Elmo’s Fire and 16 Candles is actually not real at all but an alluring illusion?

Funny, but the first time I got married I tried to create the movie kind of love. Only when I could let go of that fiction could I find real love. And now, it’s everywhere I look.

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