Finding Out What Love Is



A while back I started signing off my posts with this.  But what does it mean?

Love is an incredible thing, it permeates through our lives, through our societies, through our arts.  Some of us spending our lives chasing it. Some of us never find it.  Some of us feel it all the time. Some of us have it but lose it.  A lot of us would struggle to even define it, and yet there it is.  Everywhere.  Sometimes it feels as though, collectively, we are obsessed with it.  We chase it, we throw it away, we sing about it, we cry about it, we talk about it, we ruminate on it. But what is it?

For years I’ve listened to that Phil Collins Song ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ and found some solace in its message.  As the years rumble past and my status remains firmly as ‘single’, I started to realise that you can’t hurry love, so there was little to no point in trying to make it come easy.

“you can’t hurry love
No, you’ll just have to wait”
She said, “love don’t come easy
But it’s a game of give and take”
You can’t hurry love
No, you’ll just have to wait
Just trust in a good time
No matter how long it takes”

I read Phil’s autobiography a while back and was touched by what a hopeless romantic he obviously is, so much so that he’s been married three times, which coincidentally is how many times my father has been married.   Big Phil LOVES to LOVE love, and if you ever read his autobiography it becomes obvious that he’s not some kind of chauvinistic pig who casually discards women.  No instead I got the sense that he met the love of his life, a few times over.  Given he was a superstar music icon, I imagine he met many women, the chances of meeting ‘the one’ likely became higher as his star rose.  If anything three marriages is probably a tad on the low side.

Love is something that has evaded me throughout my life, but not for a lack of trying.  I think it’s fair to say that I invested way too much time, money and mental space on trying to find love.  From about the age of seventeen I have been hopelessly chasing girls, and then women, trying to make them love me.  I had the equation all wrong.  Obviously.

Of course I talk here of romantic love, which is the love our culture obsesses over, and I include myself in that group.  During my long and futile search for romantic love I was almost oblivious to love as an entity in its own right, a kind of love that is not tied to a person, or group of persons, or even an inanimate object. Or dare I say it, ourselves.

As I bundled my way through my twenties and early thirties, careening from drunken dates, to holiday romances and half-arsed attempts (on my part) at relationships I knew were doomed to fail from the start, I picked up some wear and tear on my emotional chassis.  And last April, as the girl whom I had been seeing on and off for a few months said goodbye and left Australia, I think I subconsciously switched off my love switch.  I was done with it.

I’ve done a fair bit of self-analysis on myself in recent years to try to understand why I’ve remained single whilst pretty much everyone else around me coupled up, settled down, and started families.  The answers started to tumble down around me as I sat in silence on that yoga mat for hours on end in Thailand.  The clue was in the language up there, two paragraphs up.  We all know this.  Phil knew it.  You can’t hurry love.  You can’t make it come.  You can ask for it.  But you can’t make it come when you want it.  What I started to realise is that I had spent all that time looking for love in order to fix my life.  I was searching for someone to fill the void in my heart, and this was the problem.  My own heart had no love in it for itself, and so I was sent on this mission to find someone with enough love to give to make up the deficit.  The tragedy of this is that I met plenty of women willing to give me that over the years, but I was never able to accept it.

How crazy is that?! I was desperately looking for love, but when it presented itself I rejected it.  It’s not actually crazy, now I realise where that behaviour comes from.  My own lack of love for myself meant that when people offered me love, I didn’t deem myself worthy and so rejected it.  Conversely, when women rejected me that felt more normal, and made me want their love even more, and so I’d chase it even harder.  Usually this led to disappointment and despair, but occasionally I’d succeed in winning them over, and then lose interest.

How all very fucked up.

I’m reminded of another song, by love ballad specialists, Foreigner – who once sang:

I wanna know what love is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me

These four lines sum me up prior to the earth-shattering awakening that occurred in Thailand.  I didn’t know what love was.  I wanted someone to show me.  I’m not sure I’d ever really felt it, at least not in a romantic sense.  Even in a family and friend sense I’m not convinced I knew.

Let me explain, love for me, in the subconscious part of my head at least, was always conditional.  I know where this comes from, like most of us, it’s childhood.  I don’t blame my parents (I did, subconsciously, but I don’t think I do anymore) but if we as children feel we need to be a certain way in order to get love then that is how we develop as adults, not just in a romantic sense, but in all senses.  We learn that we need to be a certain person, be likeable, be good, or nice, or be helpful, or be different, or be funny, or smart, or good at sports, whatever it is, we find a way as young and mentally undeveloped individuals to be accepted, and then that’s who we become.  People pleasers.

People pleasers are fucked up.  I know because I am a recovering one. Being a people pleaser is exhausting because you’re essentially putting on an act, most of the time. Working hard to make sure no one finds out the truth, that you’re a horrible, evil bastard. You grow up acting so much that the act of acting becomes the default. Which is a disconnection from self. And that’s where auto immune disease comes from. It makes you unhappy, tired and eventually sick. I know this, because I have lived it.

People pleasers do things to make other people pleased, aka, so they will like, or even love them.  It’s low-self esteem manipulation 101.  We should be careful not to blame people too much for this behaviour, as it’s simply a coping mechanism they developed as children in order to survive a childhood that was lacking love in some way.  Our subconscious is mostly developed between the ages of 0 to 7 years of age.  If parents are unhappy in their own lives or just too damn busy to give their children the love they need, the children will grow up constantly looking for love, feeling like they don’t have enough, and using whatever methods they can to get it.  Do you have a partner or friend who uses guilt trips to get what they want (/need) – they’re probably lacking enough love for themselves borne out of childhood experience.  Do you have a partner that does lots of things for you, but then gets annoyed that you don’t reciprocate or fully appreciate their efforts? Ah, the classic unwritten contract of the love-lacking people pleaser.

So what happened on that yoga mat in the jungle?  I’ll try to explain it succinctly.  The longer I spent in meditation, the deeper the states of trance I found myself in, the more I started to see the truth of the world, the truth of our species, and the truth of myself.  The truth was occasionally accompanied by visuals, visions, and messages.  About a month in I felt a connection to the divine spirit, or God, that left me on my knees in tears.  After that I cried almost daily as stored pain washed out of my bodily tissues.  Towards the end of the course I would often find my meditations quickly moving away from tears of pain to a state of blissful joy that I eventually came to realise as love.  True love.  Unconditional love.

Even sitting here now, just typing that sentence above, my entire being tingled with loving awareness.  It is the same feeling I had at lunch today as I sat on a large tree root eating a few morsels whilst watching two birds sing to each other on a branch overhead. And then again, as I walked down the main shopping street in Sydney’s CBD tonight and stopped to watch two talented buskers perform an interpretation of ‘Despacito’.  As I watched these two men play their guitars and sing their hearts out my face broke out into an uncontrollable grin, I closed my eyes, listened to the music and felt love wash over my entire being. I walked, smiling, past a charity hawker with a clipboard and he said “hey man, do you always look so happy?”

Oh mate, if only you knew what it took to get here! Lol.

As I sit here and type in my tiny studio apartment, a thirty-six year old man, listening to that latin pop song on Spotify in the growing gloom and typing these words – those tingles of love have washed over me again.  I was worried that when I left Thailand I would lose access to this, but in fact as the days, weeks and months roll on I seem to be experiencing it more and more.  I can now sporadically feel what love is.  These tingles I feel, they are a constant reminder of what is true in this world.  Love is infinite in this universe, it’s all there for us, you just have to know how to ask for it.  I wanted to know what love is.  Love is everything.

“Something’s happening
Happening to me
My friends say I’m acting peculiarly”

Something interesting has happened in the face of my recent experience.  So devoid of love in myself in the past, and thus constantly searching for it externally, I have (I believe temporarily) lost interest in much of the world outside of myself.  People close to me have reached out, worried about me, something that I am beyond grateful for. However, I’m ok, in fact I’m better than ok.  I think what is happening is that after decades of investing energy into what others think of me, I’m finally investing it into what I think of me.  At the moment, a lot of the time, social exchanges feel like hard work.  It’s nothing against those people, I just simply don’t have room for it at the moment. Having always been such an extrovert who thrived on such exchanges and struggled on his own, I worried too about myself, was I having a breakdown?

I’ve meditated on this a lot and have come to the realisation that this self-imposed isolation is a necessary part of what is changing within me.  Like Foreigner, I do want to know and feel what love is.  Unlike foreigner I do not want you to show me.  I am gradually learning how to fill up my cup with my own love, and when it is overflowing I will share it about. I haven’t studied Buddhism all that much, but I believe this is what they teach.

I think this is also the message behind taking Holy Communion, drinking the wine not only reminds us of his suffering, but also shows us the amount of love Jesus had for us.  Regardless of where you stand on religion, this is what I know.  Love is within every one of us, it exists in every cell, love is the very energy inside the atom, and thus it flows abundantly throughout the world.  Once you start to realise this – everything changes. Everything.

You don’t need to hurry love.  You are love.  It’s already here. There. Everywhere.