To Live a Life of Love
Love must be as much a light as it is a flame.
~~Henry David Thoreau
Simply put, love ignites growth. Whoever or whatever we love draws us onto our soul’s evolutionary path. The “shiny object” of love lures us so we can learn whatever we are supposed to as we become the person we are meant to be. It tests us as much as it nourishes us. Without love we would starve, perhaps not physically, but most certainly our heart and soul would feel empty.
Most think romantic love—the burning desire to be with someone else—fills the space of the heart when, in fact, it is self-love that makes us whole. We cannot rely on love from without to satisfy the craving of caring for ourselves from within. Most often we get paired with someone who challenges us to love ourselves more whether we know it or not. In essence, we don’t get into relationships to learn how to love the other person more; instead, relationships teach us how to love ourselves to a greater extent. Love is absolutely our biggest teacher.
Love is not a luxury. The challenges of the human condition often made it difficult to expect love in generations past—we were simply trying to survive by being with whomever we could to feel protected and secure. However, love has always been a part of our evolution—a key part of how our souls were created and what drives our growth.
While some say love is evolving, I say our souls evolve to understand and receive love more thoroughly and in healthier ways, while eliminating anything and anyone that gets in the way of our soul health. The entire point of our existence is to get back to Source, God, Universe or whatever you call the highest power and the only way we do this is to know and live love fully. Most measure their worth by whether or not someone from the outside shows us affection and chooses to be in our lives. What they don’t know is that the truest form of affection is self-love, not just the ability to love others.
Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “In the sublimest flights of the soul, rectitude is never surmounted, love is never outgrown.” I take this to mean that there is nothing greater than the integrity of love—the state of being whole and undivided allows love to flow both to and from us easily, deeply and richly. But in order for us to receive healthy and “whole” love, we must feel healthy and whole ourselves. That’s where relationships come in—they challenge us at the core of who we are so we can redefine our understanding of love along the way and refine ourselves as we grow. This is soul evolution. And this is the epitome of soul health.
Years ago I realized that our soul’s evolution is based entirely on our ongoing attempt to learn to love ourselves more. After deeply questioning why we actually experience the many challenges of the human condition—in this lifetime and all prior, I came to understand that the crux of our lessons were all based on whether or not we learned to love ourselves. All maladies of the human condition stem from a lack of self-love—self-esteem issues (we talk harshly toward ourselves), lack of assertiveness (we don’t speak up when someone has hurt us), body image (we judge and abuse ourselves for not feeling perfect according to someone else’s criteria), fear of being alone (we allow unhealthy or hurtful people into our lives), not being successful enough (we put ourselves in situations that undermine our well-being) and any other concern that diminishes your light. Every single one of them is somehow tied to a lack of self-love—even the fear that we will never find that special someone.
This is how the human condition works against the soul—it creates multiple obstacles to loving oneself. Your job as a soul is to overcome whatever it is that makes you feel less than the love that you already are. It is that simple—and that hard. And this is why evolving beyond our challenges can take many lifetimes to complete. We must come to understand that our soul’s evolution has all to do with how we align the key branches of our human condition to fit the integrity of our true self—the wholeness of our soul.
I got a chuckle while writing this article because the song “Looking for Love”, recorded by a country star named Johnny Lee, came to mind. It was released in 1980 and became a hit rather quickly. I played it just to refresh my memory and smiled throughout since it conjured up whatever I was doing at age 11, which is how old I was at the time. I have no clue why I remember the song, but obviously it made an impression. Lee sings about how he was looking for love in all the wrong places until someone walked into his life and miraculously everything about the world suddenly became right. As a therapist and realist, I know this isn’t how it works but somehow the most popular songs still reflect our endless quest for perfect love.
A primary reason people come to therapy is to heal a broken heart or deal with the ongoing hurt or disappointment that relationships bring. However, I work to help them understand that these challenges always offer an opportunity to learn about ourselves. Therefore, love is a catalyst for our soul’s evolution.
There are many types of love relationships that act as catalysts of growth. In the book, Colors of Love, J. A. Lee defined six varieties of love-based relationships:
Eros—romantic, passionate love and the belief that love is life’s most important quality. The search for a lifelong, sexually-satisfying commitment or ideal love typifies this kind of relationship.
Ludus—uncommitted relationships that often involve lying and emotional game-playing. People who prefer this type of relationship usually make many sexual conquests without commitment.
Storge (pronounced store-gay) —slow developing, friendship-based love. Activity-based relationship, often resulting in a long-term relationship in which sex might or might not be intense or passionate.
Pragma—pragmatic, practical, mutually beneficial relationship that may be unromantic. Sex is often a technical matter necessary only for producing children.
Mania—an obsessive or possessive type of love that is jealous and extreme. May involve acts that seem crazy, or overly intense.
Agape (pronounced a-ga-pay)—based on a gentle, care-giving type of love that is not concerned with the self. It is relatively rare and typifies someone like Mother Teresa’s in her unconditional love for impoverished people.
As you can see, each type of love creates an environment for evolution to take place depending on the life lessons your soul needs to learn in this lifetime. For some, it is learning to be loved by another so you can love yourself more and in other forms of love it is about learning to love yourself by getting yourself out of unhealthy situations. Either way, love is always a catalyst for growth.
In each type of love, we may also experience a different type of connection with another soul that facilitates our evolution. The following explains those connections:
Twin Flame Soul Mates—This type of union is the most commonly thought of—the one we are all searching for and rarely find. This is the ultimate shiny object that keeps us coming back time and again to “perfect” our evolution. This kind of romantic match is our ultimate divine mate, whom we recognize through an extremely strong chemistry, intense emotional attraction and uncanny similarities. When we find this person, we initially feel “complete” because our souls seem to match so well. The challenge is that once we find this soul, we must be ready to both give and receive love fully in order to partner with them in a healthy and sustainable way. More often than not, one or the other soul is not at the place that they can create a viable bond. These Twin Flame experiences greatly disrupt our world because they are designed to mirror everything about our lives that needs to be healed from this lifetime and all prior. One becomes the “runner”—running from the intensity of the connection, while the other often “chases” the other, often holding on far too long. While we may romanticize how wonderful the initial connection can be, these relationships most often become tremendously tumultuous because they often create more pain than love in the long run. They also provide great opportunity for growth if those who experience this type of connection are able to do their internal work.
Many believe there is only one Twin Flame soul for each of us and that few of us actually find the one we’re meant for. However, in my experience, you can experience several “elevated” soul connections that are similar to the Twin Flame experience, just not as intense in nature. All are divinely created for the sake of evolution.
Soul Mates—Different from the intensity of the Twin Flame experience is the connection with a soul mate, someone with whom we can more evenly grow both together and as individuals. This is a far less dramatic type of relationship and one that is more sustainable and healthy. It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges, but this type of relationship offers mutually respectful and supportive opportunities for growth. There is still a strong connection, but one that is more manageable over the years.
Soul Family Members—Separate from a romantic relationship are soul family members, our closest friends or family—the people with whom we instinctively feel a strong affinity to and likeness. We share such powerful emotional bonds with them that we feel a sense of confidence, trust and understanding that goes beyond words. These are the souls who seem to know when something is wrong in our world even without talking, and with whom we remain deeply connected even over great distance and extended time apart.
Companion Soul Mates—These are the individuals we encounter throughout life who make more than just a cursory impact on our lives. They are our friends and other associates who help us to attain our life’s goals through ongoing encouragement and unconditional support. These individuals may come and go in our lives, but they leave lasting impressions.
Teacher Soul Mates—Whether we like it or not, there are people who enter our lives whom we may or may not like, but who provide us with difficulties, challenges, and opportunities to grow. They have a profound impact on us, sometimes catastrophically, leaving us no choice but to change the course of our life in some way—desired or not. Some call these individuals “Master Teachers” since they create an ongoing series of challenges to our worlds, through means we would never choose for ourselves, ones which we might initially resist. We often see such a person as our nemesis because of our adversarial interactions with them. But they are there to lead us to key lessons about ourselves and guide us—often reluctantly—into overcoming or evolving beyond their often infuriating behavior. Recognizing the lessons these people are providing is the tough part.
While reading about the different kinds of love and the various types of connections, you can see that love really does provide many layers from which to learn. Without the challenges love brings, we would not learn to love ourselves more.
Without love we simply would not evolve.