It's time to think about those we love. Even more importantly, it's time to consider what it means to truly love another. Have you ever deeply thought about what love is? Have you ever considered where it comes from and why we feel drawn to be with certain people over others? Love is indeed a complex and multidimensional subject.
We can understand love either from the perspective of what it is or what it is not. Love is the uplifting experience of joy, ecstasy, fulfillment, contentment, delight and abandon. Love is not the painful experience of fear, doubt, suspicion, jealousy, obsession and attachment. More than anything else, I think the highest expression of true love is trust. Indeed, trust is love's sweetest gift. That is because trust gives rise to an experience that ordinary love cannot: Freedom and space. In fact, trust is the powerful experience of spiritual freedom within the context of human relationship.
We can easily experience spiritual freedom when we close our eyes and let the world disappear, when we contemplate the infinite nature of consciousness. But how do we experience that same freedom within the complexity of our relationships with each other? That's a much more difficult endeavor. Attaining the perennial mystical experience of freedom by oneself -- walking in nature or sitting alone in quiet contemplation -- is, I believe, less of a challenge than achieving that same kind of freedom in relationship with other human beings.
In the utopian paradise of a spiritually enlightened world, "I love you" means much more than the expression of deep affection and attraction. It means "I trust you." Think about it. For most of us, those words are not necessarily synonymous. It's easier to tell somebody you love them than to tell them that you trust them. More often than not, love tends to amount to a strong emotion of affinity, fondness, intimacy, longing and attachment. To be honest, it is an experience that, under the light of close scrutiny, is neither as profound nor inherently meaningful as it appears to be. We easily allow ourselves to feel affection or attraction without becoming truly vulnerable, without dropping our defenses. But if we want to know the extraordinary freedom that the awakening of profound trust bestows upon us, we must open ourselves up far more that most of us feel naturally inclined to do.
When we permit ourselves to trust deeply, we are letting another human being into our heart and into our soul. We have accepted the good intentions of another so deeply that we allow them to step so close to us that we cannot protect ourselves any longer. Now we are wide open and when we meet another in the infinite expanse of true vulnerability and profound intimacy, the experience is identical to mystical intimacy with God or Spirit. No boundaries, one Self, infinite freedom, and joy beyond measure. This kind of trust is more profound and more significant than any love that is merely personal. In this truly transpersonal love, through our relationship with the other, a new inner world opens up. This love, based on trust, is a sacred world of boundless freedom and infinite space. No fear whatsoever of loss or betrayal. This love means I'm always with you, forever.
Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher and bestselling author of EVOLUTIONARY ENLIGHTENMENT: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening.