Big question, I know. Ok, let’s think about it differently. If I were to ask you for examples of things you love, what would you say? Mum; dad; boyfriend; girlfriend; men; women; alcohol; sex; coffee; clothes; cats; dogs; running; yoga; sleep; etc. The list of what people can love is endless, infinite. That we can experience love so differently, in such a varied way, means love is a spectrum – in the same way white light divides into a rainbow, so love divides into whatever you have an affinity towards. They’re all just different forms of the same thing - no good, no bad, (though they may be perceived as such by society,) just different. And is that not what love is – a feeling of strong connection towards something‽ What I feel these connections to are instruments; tools through which to express the love that already exists within me. In the same way that language, music, and art allow an individual to express themselves, so too can cooking, cycling, and yoga. They are something through which one finds a connection to oneself, to the universe, and is able express that love, that connection. This is why it can be so beautiful to listen to a musician play/a master of language orate/watch a movement specialist move/a world class athlete perform - you’re observing a pure expression of love, a complete connection of that person to themselves, through that thing, in that moment. And yes, whilst I can learn the steps to play the piano, and mimic the actions to imitate beauty, if the instrument doesn’t resonate with me at a fundamental level then it will never sound genuine - because that love wasn’t there to express in the first place. To find one’s true vibration(s)/expression of love, I have to “love myself”. But what does this mean? Well I have an understanding of what love is – a strong connection towards something. So to love myself is to feel connected to myself. But who is “me”‽ Through introspection I can begin to understand myself. And this is what I practice in yoga - a withdrawal from the external to look within and understand myself. But in my opinion this is only half the story; because I exist only in relation to/as a reflection of you: I only know that I am male because you are female; I know that my hair is brown because yours is blond; I know I am short because you are tall; I know I like bananas because I don’t like apples. So to be connected to you is to be more connected to myself. To understand and appreciate that being connected to/loving you, and everything in the universe - to be zen - IS to love myself. Whilst I can find contentment and peace within just myself, that version of me is incomplete. It’s only through challenge that I grow, and being in the physical world is challenging because it’s not within my control. So every challenge I face is an opportunity to better understand myself and be more clear on my true vibrations of love.
And this is why relationships (of any kind) are so important for self development, not just because they can be nurturing, but because they can also be challenging, both of which provide opportunity to grow. And besides, what's the point of being my best self if I’m not going to share that with anyone.