Love is an overpowering force for many of us. Love transcends the range of all positive and negative emotional and physical states, from the highest spiritual virtue to the simplest past-time pleasure. The feeling that love invokes within us is indescribable and powerful. However, it is not necessarily easy to love someone. It takes a great deal of patience, devotion, attention, understanding and discipline in the sense that it requires us to love unconditionally and with respect.
How can you cultivate this type of love? First of all, as a rule, we tend to think that love means having a great number of deep, wonderful feelings at once. We experience romantic love as if we were being swept by a gust of beautiful wind, or as if the world were ours. On the contrary, real love involves feelings of profound joy, satisfaction, contentment and intense satisfaction. In order to experience this sensation for real, one needs to go beyond our feelings into the intellectual and rational brain regions where our cognitive and emotive capacities are processed.
There is a specific form of love which transcends the range of our feelings. This is affection which has no emotional tie at all to anyone or anything. It arises from a pure, unconditional, conscious desire for someone or something. This is the form of love which stirs and develops from a deeper emotional level than romantic love. In this way, it is qualmless and truly powerful.
True affection for another person arises when you understand your own needs and aspirations, and care about what is happening to him or her. You know your partner intimately, and your hearts have no distance as far as each other’s needs and aspirations are concerned. In addition, you recognize the other person as your own child, with rights and capacities which are distinct from your own. You develop feelings of genuine intimacy and loyalty which stem from your recognition and understanding of the other person’s uniqueness. The feeling of being loved or cared for is indescribable in comparison to this other form of love.
Unconditional love does not work by comparison. When you give your affection, do it without any expectations of return. It is given on a “wish to you” basis. You can never receive anything in return when you give unconditional love. When you give your affection in this manner, you can expect the person to reciprocate in kind and abundance.
Companionate love is very different. It is not based on comparisons. If your companion gives you his/her full attention, you feel loved and cared for. You are free to share your thoughts, dreams and feelings with your companion, and he/she gives you the same freedom. People in companionate love relationships are much happier and healthier than those in romantic relationships.