These were actually the first words that came to my mind when I was asked to write about love a few weeks ago. Since then, I have marinated myself in poems, songs, quotes and memories, keeping my ears and eyes wide open for an answer to the big question: What is love?
In my ‘previous life’ as a professional musician, I’ve sung every love song you can imagine. At weddings and funerals, in concerts and cafés, at parties and in pubs, I’d sing lines like: ‘Love me tender, love me sweet’; ‘You don’t know what love is until you learn the meaning of the blues’; ‘Love me or leave me or let me be lonely’- the whole Great American Songbook from A to Z. And in the end, when I try to make sense of it all, I can only think of Joni Mitchell’s song:
‘I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It's love's illusions that I recall
I really don't know love
Really don't know love at all’
So if songs don’t give us real answers, let’s seek for love among the poets! Listen to what they tell me:
‘Your task is not to seek for love,
But merely to seek and find
All the barriers within yourself
That you have built against it.’
Boom! Mister Rumi, you really got me there.
All my life, I felt this deep longing in my heart, as if I was incomplete. I was always looking for something. And this longing gave me the willingness to take a good and honest look in the mirror, again and again, looking for what is real and true beneath all the confusion of my heart and mind. I always felt this big urge to ‘clean up’ inside, digging deep into my discomfort, dying to free myself from all those big barriers I had felt ever since I was very young.
But I also realise that for so many years, I was searching for love in all the wrong places: in addiction, in dependence, in power games, and in pain. It took many rough life lessons for me to understand: Love is not a battlefield! Love is not a wicked game we play. Love does not hurt! (…even though I still love those songs ;-))
After years and years of trying much too hard to love and/or to be loved, having my heart broken over and over again, it was only when I finally found what I was looking for inside myself instead of searching for it on the outside, that the most beautiful love relationship I could ever dream of came into my life.
Also, this deep longing inside, this wish to feel whole and complete is what brought me to the yoga mat and it still is the fuel for my practice. Moving, breathing, sitting and chanting as tools to again and again melt through all these layers of illusion that are covering our true nature, which is love. Looking for something that has always been there.
But when I try to describe what love actually is, it’s hard to find the right words. I mainly just end up thinking of all the things it’s not, a bit like in one of my favourite poems:
WHAT IT IS
It is nonsense
It is what it is
It is misfortune
It is nothing but pain
It is what it is
It is ridiculous
It is careless
It is impossible
It is what it is
Maybe love is just beyond description. As soon as we try to find words for it, we make it smaller. When we try to define it, it is the mind trying to grasp something that can only exist when the mind finally stops grasping. A catch 22 that is asking for surrender. To something that is so much bigger than us, so much bigger than our stories and dramas, likes and dislikes, so much bigger than words.
But if words have to be found, then let it be very few:
‘Love is the whole thing.
We are only pieces.'