Every year around Valentine’s day people throw the word love around like it’s candy as others open their mouths and swallow, hungry for sugar. It turns my stomach to watch. Not because I don't like sweet things. I do. But because the love being sold is not a love that sustains. Just like sugar is not the sustaining fuel of a healthy body.
There’s a different form of love that sustains. Since I’m passionate about defining and redefining terms, let’s make the distinction between sugar love and sustainable love.
Here’s a lens to help us explore. Ken Wilber is probably one of the most brilliant postmodern philosophers of our time. Google him. In his integral theory he makes the distinction between states and stages, which I appreciate, because it’s a great framework for considering love and what it has to do with anything.
States are passing phenomena. They are temporary and impermanent. Stages become embedded in our being and allow us to establish a developmental center of gravity.
Okay, so much for the heady jargon. If you want more, go read Ken, one of the headiest people I’ve ever come in contact with.
As far as love goes…here’s the low down.
When love comes in the form of a fleeting emotion, instigated by a desire fulfilled—or by being seen and appreciated or acknowledged—humans have a tendency to grasp at the feeling, to want to sustain it, to replicate it. When it inevitably leaves, the tendency is then to chase after the instigator of the feeling, becoming obsessed with looking for the next hit. Like an addict.
When loves comes in the form of a grounded stage—a way of being and moving in the world—it’s not an emotion. Plus, it doesn’t have any specific corresponding emotion attached to it. This love is more like an energy.
I speak about faith as the connection to the source of our breath or all life. It’s mysterious and incomprehensible, but it is ever present. When we cultivate a practice that awakens our connection to Source, slowly but surely the energy of that Source becomes more present in us. When this happens, Source is not merely present in the world, which it always is, but becomes active in us. It’s always present in us to some degree, as we are always breathing, but because we’re not conscious of it and often have too much of our me-ness in the way—running around seeking states—we miss the exquisite possibility of living as Presence—a grounded stage.
What’s the big deal, you may ask?
Who cares about stages when states feel so good?
This stage of love you’re talking about actually sounds kind of boring.
For an addict, sobriety looks boring.
Until he is sober.
Once sober, ordinary life takes on its innate magnificent and awesome hues.
Similarly, the awake connection to Source brings patience, compassion, and presence. This is the definition of love in my lexicon. The other feel good emotional state I call happiness, sometimes euphoria.
Happiness and euphoria come and go.
Love sustains—the form of love that has everything to with everything.