One rainy afternoon in San Francisco, I was enjoying a glass of wine with someone I had met through a mutual friend. When my new acquaintance mentioned our compadre, a warmth filled my chest, a feeling of affinity and kinship that expanded my sense of aliveness. “I love that guy”, I said.
Our mutual buddy had been the college roommate of another dear friend, and they had shared years of formative and transformational experiences together, key players in countless stories I had heard over the years.
“You don’t even know him”, the man said from across the table. “I hate it when people use the word ‘love’ so casually. It cheapens it.” Wow.
I was floored — shamed, hurt, and really, really confused. I had no idea what he was talking about and I couldn’t think of a question that would help clarify what he meant. His indictment of my Love as something unworthy left me feeling slimed. How in the world can Love be casual?
After much processing, I came to understand what he meant. For him, love was the award given to someone after his personal selection process, given to those special few. In his world, love was something to be earned/developed over time. Now, I have no idea what was involved in his selection/construction process, but clearly it was a scarce commodity and was not to be wasted on the unworthy. That is not at all how I experience Love.
Love, as I have come to know it, exists everywhere and between everyone, an ever-present and sacred quality that can be called to the forefront of awareness by naming it. Summoning Love into a conversation is an invitation to extoll the virtues of whoever or whatever else is being discussed, to share stories about what they bring to our world, about their expressions and contributions, about the circumstances of their experience and to name the qualities in them that mean so much to us. And through this conversation, Love increases in intensity and scope, and we all benefit from its visit, which leaves our hearts full when we part. By naming Love, we empower it.
Love is not at all diminished through its sharing. It doesn’t thin out as it spreads around. It is the very nature of Love to become more abundant through giving sharing it. That’s the paradox — the more Love we give, the more we have available. By keeping Love flowing, we become more attuned to its rhythm and frequency and learn to dance with it, like familiar song that strengthens the heart and moves the soul.
When the flow of Love is inhibited, dammed up and held in reserve, it begins to stagnate. We may feel a sense of ownership or dominion over it, and feel safe from its wildness, but it has lost its vibrancy, its transformational power that comes with free movement through the jungle of life.
If it remains blocked for too long, we may diminish our ability to channel its wild energy, having forgotten what it feels like to let it coarse through us. Letting it flow again may be painful at first, frighteningly overwhelming with the knowledge that it could break your heart — but when it is allowed to flow, it nourishes everyone it touches. Letting Love flow is at once the most generous and selfish thing we can do — and it’s important to keep ourselves inside the flow. One sure way to dam it up is to refuse to receive it when Love flows your way.
There is a school of thought that says a person exists not within a body, but “inside a conversation.” When we bring Love to the discussion of someone, even when they are not physically present, we are actually giving them Love in a meaningful, concrete way. When I say I love someone, and you see the person I said I loved, you are literally bring my transmission of Love into your interaction with them.
When life feels sad, overwhelming, lonely, or just plain shitty, bringing to mind all the people we love is like opening a boarded-up window to let in a revitalizing breeze and the light of the knowledge that these people know we love them, that we appreciate them, because we tell them so as often as we can. Loving people is so much easier, more efficient, and beneficial than withholding Love.