02/18/2014 10:51 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Is This Thing Called Love?

Love is one of those words that has been used in countless songs through the years and can refer to people, places or things, such as: "I love you," "I love New York," "I love geology," "I love to dance" and of course, "I love chocolate." Most of us use the word several times a day, in emails, over the phone, texting xoxo, in talking with our partners, parents, children and friends, yet love is almost indefinable, because it means different things to different people.

To the Buddhists, love is a quality that encompasses everything and everyone. Loving kindness is said to be the highest form of love. There is a famous meditation called mettãbhãvanã, dedicated to this type of love. The practice begins with contemplating loving kindness towards one's self, followed by loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies and finally towards every sentient being. This teaching runs contrary to those who believe one can fall in or out of love and that love is something left to chance. Instead, profound love exists in each one of us. And through intention and dedicated practice, love becomes a constant quality of our being.

According to the Book of Corinthians 1-13, in the Christian Bible, the qualities of love are as follows. "Love is patient, love is kind," "it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." Then it lists everything love is not. "It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." This is a tall order for anyone to follow.

Both of these writings go back thousands of years. Are their definitions outdated, or do they pass the test of time? The Buddhists stress the concept of unity. Love is an essence that encompasses everything and everyone. Modern spiritual teachers, such as Janet Bray Attwood, agree. In her upcoming, Mentors Channel online series, 21 Meditations on Love, she says, "We are one. I am you and you are me." The subtitle of her series is, "I want for you what you want for you," meaning, we are one, just as Buddhism teaches. If I treat myself well, trust myself, allow myself to make mistakes, then it's important that I do the same for you, since we are one.

The Christians believe, "(love) always protects, always trusts... it is not self-seeking." Another point Janet stresses is how loving someone means to trust that your loved ones are following their own path and although it is not your path, that doesn't make their way wrong. A love that is not self-seeking says, "I know that every step you take in life will help you learn what you need to be or become to fulfill your life's purpose." She continues, "How do I know that? Because life is a journey of self-discovery, and since life is reciprocal, I realize that as I give you the freedom to walk your path, I give myself freedom, to love you without judging.

As soon as we adopt the concept of unity -- I am you and you are me, love becomes easy and natural. What is this thing called love? It's an integral part of us that we can choose to dole out to those we feel deserve love, or to share each time and opportunity arises. When we make the decision to share love in its truest sense -- without reservation or judgment -- we have the ability to change our lives and the lives of everyone we touch.