You Are What You Love

all the feels bhav deepening the roots of love devotion emotions feelings intimacy love love vocabulary romance self-love

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love." -Rumi

When we do what we love again and again our life comes to hold the fragrance of that thing. When we hold something in our hands day after day, our hands conform to the shape of what we have held. We become what we have cared for; our lives are shaped by what we love.

We all have those parts of ourselves that we have seasoned with love. Using a treasured coffee mug that we love, taking the same repetitive hiking path step by step, over and over, and loving away the mundane, or keeping a treasure from nature as a talisman of the sunlight on the water on that one amazing afternoon years ago, are ways that we season our love. 

We love our cars, our homes, our friends, and our intimate partners. We love the blue skies, the fresh snow, the sound of rain, and the edge of quiet right before it becomes sound. We love our habits, rituals, patterns, and ruminations. We love. So in this month where it is inescapably in the foreground, I am giving my attention and inquiry to love, and more specifically to what I love.

Love is at the center of our being. When we are loving what we are living we are encouraged and clear, we move through our life with a purpose that feels authentic, and we move towards something with an amazing capacity to take action, to commit, and life is so wonderfully self-propelling. When we are doing what we love we are in the flow of life, the sweet spot of life, and it feels expansive. When we are doing what we love, it doesn’t feel like we ‘should’ do it or that we might expect something in return from it. It is that stronger pull that Rumi talks about, an invitation that would feel unnatural to decline.

Ultimately we become what we love.  If we look around ourselves, out into the edges of our being, certainly we can see what we love.  We can scroll through our phones and look at our text messages and see where I love lies.  We can, especially now with the social media feedback loop, see what it is we give our attention to, what we love to lean into, as it will surface and shape our feeds, flooding them with advertisements and associated posts.  We become what we love.

Love, the Buddha said, teaches us what to look for, where to aim, and where to walk with our every action, word, relationship, and commitment. Love is where the treasure lies.

With so much to Love, with so many ways that we love, how do we know if it really is Love? And, more importantly, are all loves created equal?

In the ancient Yoga traditions, there is a very beautiful and subtle understanding of Love and the feelings of love or Bhav. The subtleties of Love found in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa include:

Kama - The attraction for a sensorial experience.
Shringara - Romantic love and intimacy between lovers.
Maitri - Loving-kindness for friends and family, the deepness of a mother’s love.
Karuna - Compassion for all and unconditional benevolence for life.
Bhakti - Love for Life, the Whole, the Universe, for the Divine.
Atma Prema - Self-love, profound love for the Soul, and deep unconditional Self-love.

In the subtleties, we can see the progression of love, the growth of love starting from when we are infants and held in our mother’s arms, then stretching our wings and finding and forging deep friendships, falling in love and creating intimacy, understanding the world around us, seeing all of the threads that connect us to all life, understanding our relationship to the Divine, and Self-Realization of the Soul. What I 'love' about using this lens to view love is that we can really see that one word cannot possibly hold all that we love in equal containers and cannot hold the feelings and ways we express love within its four letters. It's nice to have the language to help us differentiate, and while we might not use those words the idea of Bhav can help us to expand our internal vocabulary around our feelings.

Our love is always growing and deepening and at times, to make more room for that growth, we shift our attention. Meister Eckhart wisely said, “The spiritual life is not a process of addition, but rather of subtraction.” As we go deeper into this realization of Love allow your attention to shape your life, things we once loved may receive less attention as we allow for more growth and the potential for expansion, and this too is love. This pruning does not diminish the roots of love but helps them grow deeper and wider.  This enables us to reach our love further off our center and truly expand.

So if we are truly what we love, what we give our attention and time to, then in every moment, in every breath we are, through freedom of choice, creating a life of love.  

Sitting quietly, eyes closed. Place your hand on your heart and just breathe naturally and ask yourself…

What is at the center of your life?

Examine where you spend your attention and your time. Look at your appointment book and your daily schedule. These things, these meetings, errands, responsibilities, this is where you dedicate your precious days hours, and moments. This is what receives your care and attention and, by definition your love.

What Bhav would benefit from your attention?

Consider all that you love and the subtleties of love within your experience. Is there an aspect of your love that would benefit from your greater attention? Consider your relationships and the people in your life, consider those you are woven into life with and have never met but love all the same, consider the Divine and the Soul, all beings and life both seen and unseen.

How do I love thee?

At the level of your Soul begin to love who you are as an expression of the Divine. Just ask the question, “how do I love thee?” Allow the answers to flow like honey through the heart and mind. You are an amazing individualized expression of Divine Creation, and you above all others, said Buddha, are the most deserving of your love. 

May you celebrate the beauty of Love in all of its expressions and infinite unfolding, and of course allow the stronger pull of it to draw you near.

OM & Blessings, Kate


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