In our work and teaching in higher education, health care, business, and military arenas over the many years, we have often been called to speak about the dimension of love and compassion and their essential role in realizing our highest potentials in our lives, work, organizations, and society. The following selection of pithy quotes offers a glimpse of some of the best insights we have found to stretch the hearts and minds of our students and colleagues toward the possibility of comprehending the true nature and full dimension, and nuances of love. We offer these here to "seed" your own contemplations and reflections.
In his inspired book, Journey of the Heart: The Path of Conscious Love, John Welwood offers the following insight that:
Great Love -- the kind that illumines and transforms us -- always includes a keen awareness of limitation as well. Though love may inspire us to expand and develop in new ways, we can never be all things to the one we love, or someone other then who we are. Yet once accepted, limitation also helps us develop essential qualities, such as patience, determination, compassion, and humor. When love comes down to earth -- bringing to light those dark corners we would prefer to ignore, encompassing all the different parts of who we are -- it gains depth and power.
Father Anthony de Mello, an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, wrote:
How few understand what love really is, and how it arises in the human heart. It is so frequently equated with good feelings toward others, with benevolence or nonviolence or service. But these things in themselves are not love. Love springs from awareness. It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and how and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection that you can truly love them, otherwise it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person, or this person as the object of your desire, not as he or she is in themselves.
The first act of love is to see this person or this object, this reality as it truly is. And this involves the enormous discipline of dropping your desires, your prejudices, your memories, your projections, your selective way of looking... a discipline so great that most people would rather plunge headlong into good actions and service than submit to the burning fire of this asceticism. When you set out to serve someone whom you have not taken the trouble to see, are you meeting that person's need or your own?
Modern mystic and Sufi Sheik Lex Hixon offers a beautiful translation from the Koran regarding the primacy and sublimity of love:
With each breath may we take refuge in the Living Truth alone, released from coarse arrogance and subtle pride. May every thought and action be intended in the Supremely Holy Name, Allah as direct expression of boundless Divine Compassion and Most Tender Love. May the exaltation of endless praise arising spontaneously as the life of endless beings flow consciously toward the Single Source of Being, Source of the intricate evolution of endless worlds. May we be guided through every experience along the Direct Path of Love that leads from the Human Heart into the Most Sublime Source of Love.
In his classic book, the freedom to be, A.H. Almaas, a contemporary mystic and cartographer of consciousness and love, speaks eloquently to the dimensions of love when he wrote:
That oneness is the true feeling of who you are. You are not the personality, or any particular aspect of essence. You are the whole thing, including emptiness and space, and you experience everything in complete harmony. When this happens, there is a sense of intimacy, an exquisite, personal intimacy, the feeling... that you are you, with nothing excluded, nothing rejected. You also feel that you are both a person and a universal existence, that what is personal and what is universal are completely harmonious and can coexist. When your whole organism is in harmony on all its levels, there is no conflict. The expression and radiance of that harmony is love. You become a channel of love, a manifestation of love. You feel completely yourself and not separate from anything. It is possible to be you, completely you and not separate from the other at the same time. This is the action of love. The action of love is to unite, to reveal the connectedness. A loving person doesn't love you -- a loving person is love. Love isn't given. It overflows. It's not even your love -- it's everyone's love interacting. Love emanates from us like the scent from a rose.
Father Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and was fascinated by the complexity and nature of love and consciousness, wrote that:
Love alone is capable of uniting living beings
in such a way as to complete and fulfill them,
for it alone takes them and joins them
by what is deepest in themselves.
Over 800 years ago, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi expressed his love in a torrent of inspired poetry that continues to flow into modern minds offering a glimpse of a higher love. He said:
Love is that flame
that once kindled burns everything,
and only the mystery and the journey remain.
Whoever finds Love
beneath hurt and grief
disappears into emptiness
with a thousand new disguises.
Clearly, the study and exploration of the fathomless depths of love is the work of a lifetime, if not more. In this spirit, let us conclude with the following verse from Hafiz, a beloved Persian poet whose poems on deeper love have inspired the hearts and minds of seekers of love for nearly 800 years:
The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well.
As a mater of fact, I know of no better topic
for us to discuss
until we all die.