“What is unconditional love?” someone asked me the other day. “How do I love someone unconditionally?” In this post and the next, I’ll write a bit about love and how I see it. Although, in the past I’ve written on this subject, yet, allow me to further elucidate this topic. “What does it even mean when we say I love you?” I asked a group of people. “It means we have feelings for the other person,” one answered. But what does having feelings mean? Before I write about unconditional love or even just love, it would help to distinguish between love and attachment. Here’s a little story for you:

A man, the quiet type, was sitting with his friends in a local inn. After he had a couple of drinks, he opened up a bit and said to his friends, “Do you love me?”
“Of course, we do,” said his friends, “that’s why we are here together.”
“So, do you know what I need?”
No one answered.
“If you don’t know what I need then how can you say you love me?”

This says it all. Love is about understanding what the other person needs and not what you think they should need. This is the key difference between love and attachment. The former is about finding yourself in the happiness of the other person, whereas the latter is about feeling happy to have the other person your way. We can’t say we love someone unless we find out what do they actually need and make an attempt to give them that. Attachment is like buying a golden cage for the bird you love, feeding it the finest food, it is wanting to keep that bird within your sight, and love is opening the cage and setting it free. Granted, the problem arises when the bird says I want to eat your food and I want to rest in your cage but I want to fly free at my leisure and will. Well, welcome to the world of relationships. Strange but real.

Attachment says you are mine and love says I am yours. Love is not worried about exclusivity, it is about peace, it is about happiness whereas attachment is just another term for possessiveness, and not just possessiveness but exclusive possessiveness at that. Attachment says what I have from you, no one else should have it. I’m not labeling it as right or wrong, nor am I suggesting that a relationship, notably marriage, cannot have a mutual framework, in fact, it must. I’m simply stating that attachment is about instructions and rules whereas love is about inspiration and care.

Of course, I’ve given you the ideal definition but this is not an ideal world. So, in our world, love is generally no more than a claim and mostly it has attachment, possessiveness and desire rolled into one. Love says I don’t want to hurt you, attachment says I don’t want to lose you. See the difference.

“I hate pasta. I don’t want to see pasta ever again,” a husband said to his wife.
“How can I ever understand what you want?” screamed his missus. “On Monday you liked pasta, on Tuesday you loved it, on Wednesday you ate it, on Thursday you liked it, on Friday you had it and suddenly on Saturday, you tell me you hate pasta. You’re unbelievable.”

If you want your love to bloom, keep the freshness alive. Freedom fuels freshness. Love is about understanding, attachment is about enforcing. One is about setting free and the other holding on. Falling in love may be an instant act, but seeing it through is a slow, steady, careful and a delicate process. Falling in love is the easy bit, wanting someone more than anything else in the world is not something out of the ordinary either. After all, you want them because “you” like them, and therefore, you want to have them, so you try hard to make yourself wanted by the other person. When that doesn’t happen, you try to hold on to the other person hoping one day they may start wanting you as intensely as you desire them. This is attachment. Sad though it may sound, but if they don’t want you now, they won’t want you later either.

You want to be loved by someone else because you haven’t yet learned to love yourself, you haven’t yet ignited the fire in you, you have tried offering yourself to many in the past but it hasn’t worked. It hasn’t worked because you are not offering yourself to you, you are not living your own life, you are not focusing on you, instead, you are living to be a part of someone else’s life, to be the focus of other person. You deserve better.

Why is it so hard to love without attachment? Because you are trying to look upon love as an independent emotion. The truth is, it is anything but independent. In the next post, I’ll write about the four pillars of love and will also touch upon what to do when you love someone but they don’t love you back.

Peace.
Swami

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