Forget about 50 words for snow, we need 50 words for love, and even then it would fall short. It’s difficult to fit an experiential thing into the limits of language, but until we get better at telepathy, it’s all we have. Let’s try to keep it as simple as we can, and just look at 3 broad categories: divine love (unconditional), human love (conditional), and karmic love (attachment). In my experience, these are the big ones.
The most unfortunate part of this subject is that most people mistake attachment for love. This is just karma playing out. Karma is simply an unconscious vibration or story, but it runs our lives until we become consciously aware of our choices. It doesn’t matter what the story is – knight in shining armor, or drunken abuser – only that it is running the show until awareness takes over. If both parties are running on auto-pilot, karma just plays out, then repeats. If one of the parties is awake while the other is not, then it’s a painful, if not abusive, situation. This is where we get all the writings about ‘the empath and the narcissist’ (described here). It is entirely up to the awake party to leave the situation. The sleeping person is just playing their karmic role.
Karma and attachment aren’t about penance for past downfalls, this life or last. It’s simply a call to awaken your free will. Karma will keep repeating until you become aware of the cycle, and choose to stop it. Awareness and action are all that are required here. Keeping a journal, and rereading it regularly, will be helpful in identifying patterns. Deciding to act differently, to actually invoke free will, takes dedication. Most people don’t want to put forth the effort to change, because they aren’t sufficiently miserable yet – status quo seems better than growth. That’s just the way people are by nature. Once you become aware, you will have to leave those that still choose to sleep.
Human love is less common, and requires both parties to take an active role in knowing themselves, so they can each come to the relationship as a whole being. We can’t know anyone else until we know ourselves, or we fall into the karmic pit of projection and blame. This level of love is what we consider mature and lifelong, whether we are talking about siblings, friends, or spouses. As humans, we are each individual, and require strong boundaries (conditions) to function at our best. Some say that only unconditional love is true love, and that may be, but relationships require conditions.
Consider how many conditions we have in every successful relationship… I expect my friends to treat me with respect, which includes being honest but tactful, letting me know if they have to cancel plans with me, keeping promises… I expect various things from different types of relationships, and this is a good thing. Boundaries are absolutely required for healthy relationships.
Acceptance, or non-judgement, is a totally different thing. I can accept that someone has a heroin addiction, but still refuse to be their mate. Loving someone where they are is one skill, limiting their influence in your life is another. You aren’t judgmental, or in any way less loving, by carefully choosing who to be emotionally close to. That’s actually my measuring stick – if I can’t be around a person without constantly judging them, then I need to let them go, and redefine my boundaries with them. Judging does neither one of us any good, but creating enough space between us to allow for acceptance will heal us both. Boundaries are vital, and only you can adjust yours.
Divine love is the truly unconditional stuff. This one is hard to describe, because most have no reference to it at all. When you are suddenly awe-struck by a beautiful flower, this is unconditional love. The flower has made no specific effort, and you have no expectation beyond the present sense of bliss. This is harder to do with other humans. Usually one or both of you have some kind of expectation. But still, there can be fleeting moments of nothing beyond the present bliss.
Although we are heading towards the experience of Divine Love, the bulk of our work is shifting our experience from karmic love to human love. Awareness breaks the karmic cycle, free will lets us choose to love at the human level, and human relationships require boundaries. Strengthen your boundaries to strengthen your experience of love.