The Love Response

I’ve been thinking a lot about love these days. The capacity we have for it, how misinterpreted it can be. At the risk of sounding, wait for it ... middle aged (gasp) I have finally arrived at a place where I can see love somewhat objectively, much the same as I can distinguish between my hysterical reaction to a large spider as being my thing vs. the spider’s intent to scare, or, on an even more cosmic level – its destiny. We love. Love is. Love is personal. 

I have felt my own capacity to love in the most wonderful, magical and gut wrenchingly painful ways. So when I talk about love, I’m not only talking about that rush of wonder we feel when we meet someone who takes our breath away, or the love we feel when we find ourselves holding our parent’s hand as we watch them take their dying breath – I’m talking about the actual feeling of love we possess the capacity for, the physical response, which the act of love (or thought of love) provokes. That love is within us and is illuminated by the experiences we choose to let it flow through. 

I probably first felt love as a small child, most likely for a pet. Now, before you start feeling all sorry for me for not having more love in my life as a child – I came from a large family and I was the youngest of 6 kids – the caboose of a long train of children that passed through the house. In this position, I was what you’d call a free range kid. I’m not complaining – because I know now, THAT experience was filled to the brim with love and potential – the freedom to create: your life and your beliefs. Love, love, love!! 

But, that first rush of love was probably for my dog Toro, a beautiful black lab we’d collected at the pound upon moving to the country, a dog that was kind enough to let me ride him and give him full body hugs. He swam in the pool and even knew how to dive off the diving board and get himself up the ladder. I loved that dog, and as anyone who has a pet knows, that love is as real as any other kind of love we manifest – because all of the love is the exact same love, generated by us. It is the love response. 

We aren’t generally too selective about what experiences or people we generate our anger response for, or even our humour response, or what about fear? But the love response we hold close to our hearts – reserving it there for only a select few, and letting it evade most moments in our lives. 

Again, when I talk about love, I’m not talking about being ‘in love’ – because we can’t really be in love with another anymore than we can share the exact same experience at a film. We can both enjoy the film, be engrossed in it – but we’re not in love with it together. We love it, together. When a couple is in love – they simply love – together. I’m talking about our capacity to feel the emotion – that thing that is stirred up in us, the effect, rather than the cause. 

Later in my teen years I experienced the love we generate when we’re sucked into a cultish religion, a feverish, euphoric love. My capacity for love at that time was super inflated and lazer focused. The catch with religions is, they teach us that it is God’s love we feel so we project it at God in gratitude for it – instead of letting it out into the world to infiltrate all we do. It is OUR love we feel and our BELIEF in God that magnifies it. Why do we reserve this capacity within us for only these special deities? Why deprive ourselves and the entire world of this love? Why fight for it and die to protect it when we have it already, right here, within? No one can take it from us unless we let them. It doesn’t make sense. It is our love, human love. We get to drive it and we’re all personally responsible for it. 

I have this analogy in my head, kind of a culmination of every theory on mindfulness, success and happiness I’ve ever read. Think of all of us as being here in this life ‘in training’. For my own vision I see us as all being inline skaters, lined up in lanes, at the ready. Each of us is here to get better at being human, at mastering our love response. We all have our own lane, our own path. The drill starts, we strive to do the best we can, to better our game. We aren’t going to let the person in the next lane take us down, even if they’re our best friend! We may avert their spin out of control – perhaps slowing ourselves in an attempt to make it less of a disaster for them, but then we’re on our way, knowing they’ll be ok, they’re strong. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about the other skater, it doesn’t mean you’d abandon them in the woods in the middle of the night, starving and sure to die. Only they can up their game by practicing, day after day, life after life. You can only help them so much. It is up to them. 

Too many times in life we say we’re acting out of love when we over involve ourselves in someone else’s struggles, but really what we’re doing is just slowing our own progress and usually tainting theirs without even knowing it. That doesn’t feel loving, to ourselves or to those we claim to love. If we are to truly master love, everything must change. We can’t possibly stay in this war torn, fearful, co-dependent state we find ourselves in today, and master love. We first have to learn trust and accountability. If everyone stays in their own love lane and masters their own game, we have a chance at something great. 

I do my best to live in love. Sometimes I slip up and get dragged into the other lane, but for the most part my stride is pretty strong. I don’t aim to be the fastest or the strongest; or even the nicest; I just want to feel the freedom of the flight when all the conditions are right. That takes practice. How often do we find ourselves in these perfect moments, unable to appreciate them because of some internal garbage (lack of love) going on in our heads or in the heads of someone close to us? 

At any time, we can choose that love response, to drive that feeling within to the surface and let it breathe. If for no other reason, just because we can! If you’ve felt love before, then it is right there for you to feel again. You don’t have to purchase anything, or follow prescribed steps to get there. You don’t have to be born again; you just have to decide that your capacity to feel love is now open to all of your experiences. It is your birthright. If the person in the next lane, whether it be your neighbor, your mother-in-law or your significant other, is struggling with their love response, don’t let it slow your own progress. Stay in love, get out of their way. Stay in your own lane and get as strong as you can. Do loving things for yourself. When we get to the end of this life, we can compare notes. 

I’ve heard the love we give is in exact proportion to the love we receive. In the most simplistic of energy experiments we prove that like attracts like. Imagine the love that awaits when you infuse love into all you do. Imagine having little capacity for fear, anxiety, judgement or anger, because love took up all the space in you. In the realm of infinite possibilities, if it’s possible, it is. 

It’s September, the beginning of my favourite time of year. I love to walk in the woods post mosquito season, and to get down to the lake and bid our shore birds goodbye for the winter. The usual chat with the neighbors over a rake (or snow shovel) will commence. There will be loss, there will be joys, and there will be love. 

My wish for you is that you’re able to stay in your own love lane, to accept that everybody is learning at their own pace, according to how much they’ve practiced. Don’t take the world too personally so as to let it drain you of your love response and at the same time, don’t hold it too far away from your heart. The world needs more love in it, now more than ever. If you’re not projecting it, you’re probably not getting it. 

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