Everyone wants love. We want to be loved. We want to be in love. It is a most fundamental emotional needs.
As infants we thrive upon the love our parents and caretakers. Without it, we suffer. We close down or cry out for it. And as we grow we learn the best strategies to get and keep love—strategies which often carry over into our adult lives.
The search for love dominates much of our thinking. The experience of love has inspired countless arts. And holding on to the love we do find has motivated the best and worst of human behavior.
But what is love? What is it that so fuels us? I have come across more definitions and descriptions than I can remember. But in the final analysis love lies beyond any definition we may give to it. In essence, love is a feeling. It is an experience, a quality that we know deep inside.
It is hard to put words to the feeling. Indeed, there is no need. When we feel love, we know it. Just as we know experiences of excitement or panic by how they feel, without any need for a definition. So too, the feeling of love is instantly recognized.
Some may express it as a warm glow, a fullness, an overflowing, a deep ease, an openness that nourishes and warms our being. For many the feeling is focussed in the chest—hence its association with the heart—but it may also be felt throughout the whole of one's being.
Love is a dominant theme of most spiritual traditions: loving one's neighbor, developing love for all beings, opening to unconditional love, receiving the love of God. And the spiritual literature is replete with accounts of those who have been overwhelmed and transformed by love—not the romantic love of one person for another, but an unconditional love that knows no bounds.