By Deborah Ooten - February 2008

The month of February often conjures up the word LOVE. I wonder if we even know what the word means. We sometimes say things like, "I love my beer," or "I love gardening." To me this seems like a watering down of a very deep and meaningful expression of a sometimes rational and sometimes not-so-rational feeling. In examining the word further, we find that the English word for love comes from the Germanic forms of the Sanskrit lubh meaning desire. Much like eros from the Greek, it is that part of love that constitutes a passionate, intense desire for something. Often it is referred to as a sexual desire. Plato, however suggests that this love or eros is a desire that seeks a transcendental beauty, a beauty that is more tied in to the seeking of the "true" love/beauty within each and every one of us, as well as all living beings.

The Greeks also defined a type of love known as phileo. Phileo describes a fondness and appreciation for the other. Phileo is incorporated into friendship, family, community, job and discipline. This type of love is not rooted in desire, but rather in connection. Phileo is a bond that develops and cements the relationships between the two or more people involved in the caring for one another. Perhaps this is why we often hear that the most enduring romantic love is the love that starts with friendship first. This type of love allows for loyalty in spite of the shifting winds of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Agape is the Greek’s expression of the type of love that God has for humankind and the kind of love that we should have for God. It is a brotherly love for all of humanity and consciousness through the ages. This love is the love that holds one’s entire attention and shifts us into a place of innocence and deep binding connection. Some people can only allow themselves to feel this for an animal, like a dog or cat…there is truly a relationship that allows for total unconditional love to be given and to be received. Unconditional love is at times the most difficult to achieve, primarily because we do not always love ourselves.

It seems to me that love is an essential ingredient for nourishing our bodies, minds and hearts. If we can say that we are "in love" with our bodies, our hearts, our minds, then we can begin to feel the kind of love that extends to all that we say, do, and feel.

When we say "I love you" to another, what kind of love are we expressing? Is this a romantic love, a friendship or family member love, a love for God or humanity? Try to be aware of the love that is being expressed and the form that you really want the love to take. Because love can be such a powerful connection, feeling it really is important to be integrative about the way we speak about love, the intentions that we have with the love that we are offering, and the way we carry out this love. Is this love just a desire, not a love that can stand the test of time or is it a love that embodies both sexual desire and long-term commitment possibilities? Be sure that you convey to the other person that you are sharing this sentiment with exactly what your "love" intentions are.

No matter what form of love you are sharing, love is a very tender, fragile and deeply connecting thing, so remember to always hold your heart open. Hold someone who loves you dearly in your mind’s eye and allow the love in your heart to go out to that individual allowing them to receive your love and kindness. Allow your heart to soften and send love to your enemy as well. Try to offer love and kindness to everyone. Love may not change your enemy but love can change you.

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