Love, the Verb

It was 1985, and just in time for puberty I got some good lessons on the power of Love. I learned that you don’t need money, that it don’t take fame, and furthermore, that you don’t need no credit card to ride this train. However, like pretty much everyone else, I still got stuck on the idea that Love is (1) what you’re obligated to feel for your family members, or (2) the fortuitous result of circumstances being just right.

Given that it’s pretty much the best feeling in the world and one of the prime motivators of human behavior, it’s unfortunate that we often tend to think of Love as an elusive thing. Something to be chased and held onto tightly, something that can be taken away. And, sadly, certainly not something we can experience at will.

Being immersed in a world in which the idea of looking for Love is so prevalent, it’s been hard to break myself of the habit of thinking this way. But I no longer believe it’s true.

About 15 years ago, I was at a meditation retreat, and every once in a while the facilitator would ask a question. No verbal response was required . . . the question was just meant to sink into the consciousness of the participants. One of the questions was, “What is your greatest power?” Whereas most of the questions spurred a stream of thoughts, and sometimes the hope that I had come up with the “right” answer, this one hit me differently. My mind didn’t have a chance because my heart answered immediately. It said, “Love.” And I had a sense that this wasn’t just my greatest power, it was our greatest power.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Why should I care about the realization that you say came out of your heart at some woo-woo meditation retreat? Speak for yourself – my greatest power is that I can shoot fire out of my eyes.” Yeah, yeah. I know what comes out of my heart isn’t as credible as a double blind study in a peer reviewed journal. And if you thought that was woo-woo, let me give you a little perspective. Part of my training in Chinese Medicine was to learn qigong – the art of perceiving, manipulating, and cultivating life energy (Qi). After years of playing with Qi, you don’t question it when your heart talks to you.

Anyway, I’m not asking you to take my word for it, but please hear me out. In the years since then, I’ve kept listening to my heart and I’ve learned a little about Love. I still have a ways to go in terms of living in accordance with what I’ve learned, but I know enough to point others in the right direction. So, here it is.

First, we think of Love way too much as a noun. And Huey Lewis, bless his heart, didn’t help break of this habit. We like to treat Love as a thing. To be deserved, to be earned, to be won, and to be lost.

Love can be a noun – in that it’s a quality of being – but in my experience, it has nothing to do with deserving or winning. Love just IS. Love is our native state. It’s who we are. We can pile on so many beliefs and affectations that we lose sight of it, but we can’t change this most fundamental fact. Our minds may get confused and put conditions upon Love. But Love is always there, within us, able to be accessed at any moment, even when it seems utterly far away.

Now for the verb form of Love. This is where our power comes in. To Love is what we were born to do. Love is an expansion. Love never excludes. And the more we embrace this notion, the richer our life becomes.

The function of a confused mind is to separate everything. When you have the honor of spending time with children you notice how they (especially the tiny ones) haven’t learned to separate everything into countless discrete entities. And when you really see this in them, it’s awesome. Not just because it’s so beautifully uncontrived, but because you know you used to be that way.

But we teach them to separate, with names and labels, and we place such importance on it that Love is a natural casualty of the process. With a million separate words and ideas, and billions of separate people, it’s understandable that we’d think that Love, too, is separate from us.

Maybe you use the word God for what I am calling Love, but I think we’re talking about the same thing, and the same sense of separation between God and themselves exists in the minds of most people who use the word God. When we believe that God, or Love, or whatever word you like, is something separate from us, it becomes a conditional thing in our lives. And we invent the conditions that preside over that relationship.

But, not only is Love not separate from us, Love itself is the mender of separation. Love fills in the gaps that create separation. Like a warm ocean waiting on the other side of the door, the moment we open the places we’ve restricted, Love rushes in, saturating all the parts of ourselves and the world that we haven’t accepted, and in so doing, unites what we tried to separate.

So, I urge you to Love as a verb. It’s an effortless thing, because Love does the Loving. We just have to stop restraining it and allow it to happen. When we take deserving out of the equation, we’re suddenly surrounded by an infinite array of Love-worthy people, plants, animals, and stars. And also Love-worthy dirt, garbage, and smog, by the way.

Try silently saying “I Love you” to the person bagging your groceries, to the person who just cut you off and made you miss your exit, to the person on the tech support line who tells you, “I’m going to have you turn off your phone and then turn it back on. Maybe that will fix it.”

But don’t forget about the person whose body you’re renting. That character has been doing so much misguided stuff to get more Love, and all along you had the power to unleash it upon yourself. Go for it.


Dr. Peter Borten