IT'S FEBRUARY AND LOVE IS IN THE AIR—
(But is it really? And what is love anyway?)
A feeling, an act, a dedication, a marque of deep understanding, a need, a fantasy, intimacy, that swoon you feel when you see that “love” interest or that intense emotion you feel for your pet? In our emotional landscape of our “heart” there are apparently seven kinds of “love” that have been identified as being available to us. But the one kind of love not messaged in love songs or Valentine’s cards tends to be one that is less about the “other” than “others” and that is, “agape”.
Agape is the passion of red—the goodness of white
Agape has no official colour but if it did, it would be pink – a colour prettily representing compassion, nurturing and love. It relates to unconditional love and understanding, and both the giving and receiving of nurturing. A hybrid tone, pink has the need for action and passion of red, alongside the insight and general sense of “goodness” offered by white.
So how does “agape” fit into our lives?
The noun form means affection while the verb means to greet with affection, thus small meaningful acts of “agape” can create the feeling of love or affection for humanity. It may not make you lovestruck, but practicing agape can be nourishing – in fact, when acts of love and affection for humanity are directed in a wider field, you might be surprised at how much that healthy feeling of nourishment increases.
What are acts of agape?
Maybe that’s just thinking of someone and phoning them, or buying them a gift of flowers “just because”, or standing up for someone on the subway, adopting a cat from a rescue, or dedicating yourself to charity. While your act of agape can be dedicated to a close one, it is done with the expectation that you will receive nothing tangible back – it’s altruistic and selfless.
Can agape be more fulfilling than romantic love?
With such an emphasis put on romantic love, we tend to think it is the only thing worth striving for. Lots of people, however, are “unsuccessful” in love, or don’t feel any particular need for it, does that mean their lives are starved of love? Not really. While we are culturally conditioned throughout all our ages to look for the romantic (and often up/down) love of “Eros”, there’s no reason for anyone to miss out on the warm glow that comes with giving love unconditionally - all you have to do is realize the love!
TO REALIZE THE LOVE...
Smile more. The feel-good neurotransmitters—dopamine, endorphins and serotonin—are all released when you smile. This not only relaxes your body, but can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure. So smiling is not only a gift to yourself but to that stranger on the street or that co-worker under pressure.
Love yourself. Not always easy to do but one way is to stop your inner conflicts and negative responses towards things and realize that loving yourself helps you enjoy life more. One example of loving yourself in a positive way might be to end a toxic relationship that is bringing you down, or commit to stopping a bad habit.
Love Unconditionally. Judging someone, or having certain expectations from them, can cloud our feeling of love for them. Unconditional love doesn’t expect anything in return, and largely embraces the whole. If unconditional love isn’t available to you through human interactions, you might consider adopting a dog! Canines are well known for their ability to love unconditionally. (Cats, alas, tend towards the conditional sort of love!)
Free Your Heart Chakra. In yoga the heart chakra is associated with unconditional love. Bad memories, dysfunctional relationships, self-loathing can all block the flow of agape. Opening your heart to love can be an aspect of your spiritual or yoga practice.
REMEMBER that life allows us time to embrace all forms of love, from the dizzy love of your teens and twenties, through parenthood, and then to the broader kind of love of agape. Each can be felt concurrently but all have their place. The selfless love of agape not surprisingly occurs most often as we mature.