I am no more an expert on love than anyone else on this planet, including those who study mercilessly for years in order to eventually advise others on their quest for real connections. I'm a mere observer. I've watched myself go through the roller-coaster of infatuation, feeling the potential of "falling" in love, and ultimately the heart ache and loss of love that never existed in the first place. Spending much of my adolescence and early adulthood single, very single, alone, no sex, no dates, no flirting, no nothing, I was able to passively observe the bouts of "love" that struck my friends and schoolmates. I watched as they became engrossed and attached the other person, to their identity as someone's "other", and as much of their personal identity began to slide, so did their friendships.

When I fell in deep like and lust with my first real boyfriend, I felt the same identity crisis snap over me. Always being self-aware, since childhood, I entered into my pseudo-relationship with slight trepidation. But the allure of sexual attraction and want was too powerful for me to overcome. In a short amount of time, my beliefs, my independence, and my sanity went out the door, and a gushy, pathetic, chemistry drunk girl emerged.

I was a teenager. This was well over a decade ago, nonetheless I observe these tendencies in my more mature cohorts even today. Many of us, women in particular, derive a sense of confidence, accomplishment, and overall satisfaction from being "in a relationship." Somehow being on the arm of another gives our own existence some credibility, something to be admired.

You can either attach yourself to others out of fear or pull yourself out of the game altogether for the exact same reason. I awarded myself a pat on the back for being okay with being alone, with not dating, with not needing anyone else. Did I go to the movies alone on Valentine's day only to cry sickeningly in my car the whole way home? Maybe. For whatever reason we placate, we're lying to ourselves, because we've neglected to recognize we are already enough.

Some of us want sex but no intimacy. The words I love you and thoughts of participating in mundane errands with another can send some running for the hills. Some of us just want the hope of resonance, beyond anything physical, the desire to connect and bounce life off of another is strong. What I've observed in the two scenarios and the wide spectrum in-between, is the myth that love is a status symbol, a means of validation, an achievement to be broadcast, something to be given or taken away, and the utter fallacy that love hurts.

I will wholeheartedly own up to the hours and energy I spent crying, feeling sick inside over the loss of Love. I've felt the neediness, the wantedness, the yearning to be with a romantic partner every second possible, to share as many breaths together in a day that we could. I felt the gnawing concern and borderline jealousy while waiting by phone for a call. None of these emotions are love, not even the exciting parts.

Since entering and graduating from college, it became apparent that in order to seal the deal in showcasing a successful, well-adjusted adult, marriage was the ultimate symbol of that success. Women peruse and download images of engagement rings, something I could never relate to, while men recognize this as a biological imperative, a means to placate an unhappy girlfriend, or a catalyst to growing into a man. For both, engagement and marriage gives their life meaning and solidifies their otherwise questionable relationship.

Is this the case for everyone? Of course not, but it is the pervasive tone of our culture to treat love as a game that must be honed and mastered. Women and men see each other as lists, qualities with which to measure a potential mate. Our future life-partners must meet a criteria, like being accepted into a good school, they've got to groom and become pedigreed in order to meet our expectations. We create a fantasy in our heads while disregarding what we truly bring to a relationship.

For some, their significant other must carry the same religious beliefs, the same political ideology, a similar socio-economic status, an impressive educational background, and the same likes and dislikes. Love is not crafty or cunning, nor is it discriminating. It is emanating and inclusive, open to whomever may help it to manifest and grow.

Love is not an entitlement, not an end game, not a measure of worth or value. It is the very pulse of life itself, that very cosmic connection that brings kindness, compassion and generosity right out of us. No diamond, lavish wedding, coordinated photograph or outward expression can even come close to the truth of real love.

Real love is not needy, not jealous, not dramatic, not confusing. It is an opportunity to exude and give another what you innately are, a reflective experience where you feel your full potential, the goodness in another extracts the goodness right out of you. The trick is knowing that goodness and potential have always been there. We're all born with it. We spend too many hours and too much energy analyzing and waiting for that one other person to certify our worthiness, put a stamp on our Being.

I'm not judging, usually I put very little interest in the musings and small problems of other people, but as a writer, teacher and promoter of authentic, self-contained happiness, I've got to call bullshit on some of our practices. Marriage won't validate your relationship; you're simply legally bound now. It's on paper. My husband and I have joked about getting divorced but staying together just to prove a point. Marriage is no more validating to love than a diploma is to intelligence.

It's within the heart and mind of an individual whether they live and project love or not. We can be good on paper, have a stellar resume, and a thousand luxury items, but you can't put a price on a good heart. All that's worth coveting and defining ourselves by cannot be bought. Love does not look a certain way, give something specific to you, or take something distinguishing from you. It is not something we observe, it's something we feel; deeply, in our intelligence, in our guts, our souls, in our being, not our doing.

Love is not scary, nor is being vulnerable and honest difficult. It's a choice. When you've made the conscious decision to love yourself, to accept your mistakes and accomplishments, to live a life of passion and gratitude, no single human being can give or take that away from you. All that we need we already have and all that we wish to be we already are. We must confront the lies we've been told and those we've been retelling ourselves and just like love, the honest truth will be felt rather than revealed. We must be able to be still with ourselves before we share an existence with another.

I do not believe in soul mates, in one perfect person for each of us. I believe we are all uniquely capable of connecting and exchanging love with many, some more potently than others. Love only hurts when there is attachment, and again, that is not real love. We can mourn the loss of relationships while maintaining gratitude for the profound love within ourselves. Appreciate what was and move on. If true love has existed and then passed, the remaining feelings should be nothing but acceptance, forgiveness and well-wishes. If we're scorned or betrayed, we then understand that what we thought was love, was merely the intoxicating stench of the imitator, an ego acting in disguise.

Real love doesn't enter into bondage with another only in hopes to mold the other to fit their expectations. Authentic love is acceptance, an open invitation to be just who you are. When we fall in love, it behooves us all to love the other for exactly who and what they are Now, not who they'll potentially be.

I love being alone. I love being in a crowd. I see and feel no difference in my thoughts and actions when I'm in public or private, when I'm at work or at play. It is my intention to make love, not war. This is possible for us all to embody, an overall sensation to breathe in and out. It is within our power to adjust the previous definitions and images of love to reflect reality and not a fantasy. Real love is the shit, romance is for the birds.

It is in this vein that I share a short poem I wrote. Love is an enigmatic thing. I am not attached to my thoughts and words on its behalf. I'm merely sharing for those roaming on this planet whose internal compass points in the same direction. You are all that you seek. Recognize it and you'll begin to see it in the eyes of others, feel it in their embrace, and observe it in every thought in your mind and beat of your heart. You are love.

You Know What Real Love Is

Love is not something that turns on and off It is a continuous state of being We were born from it Not by virtue of our specific parents But by way of emerging as life on this planet Love is not something you do You cannot validate it with marriage Or children Love is something you are Or are not Love carries no opposite There is like and dislike Hate was not born, it has only been bred Love is luminous It is the conduit to perceiving light How you love is what attracts who you love Beginning with the love of self Love cannot be given or taken away It's always there waiting It's not shiny or expensive Nor can it be a commodity or weapon Love is expressed as a language understood by most forms of life It cannot be measured Life knows nothing more precise Love is ironically simple It has many imitators Even more followers But less disciples Somehow we forget our way Consumed by the end game We forget the truth There is no game You've won You're alive Breathing Conceiving There's only a game if we each agree to play Love takes no time to pause Re-strategize It knows its purpose Bliss reached Manifestation seized It only waits for the rest Those who focus on existential questions And not the obvious answer We're here to Love To feel it Reveal it Expose it Roll with it We cannot earn it Or achieve it We must receive it And be it You know what real love is It's pumping blood through your veins Breathing for you Life being lived Now It is You It is Me It is We

Post this on a mirror, repeat it to yourself. You are awesome and you are enough.

If you like reading or connecting, continue to do so! I write for MindBodyGreen, check out the archives. I write and teach for the Travel Yogi. Read and/or join me in El Salvador! Engage on Facebook and Twitter.