In Chapter 10 ("Cultivating the Qualities of Loving-Kindness and Compassion") of Phillip Moffitt's book Emotional Chaos to Clarity, the section "Opening to Love" wrestles with questions of what love really is:
Loving-kindness and compassion meditation are transformational when practiced over several years. They become established mind states such that you spontaneously respond to all situations with one or the other or both. When you reach this stage of development, you realize not only that you are capable of experiencing such beautiful mind states but also that when your mind is free of greed, aversion, and delusion it automatically generates these mind states.
As your capacity for compassion and loving-kindness grows, you also begin to discover the many nuances of love. Is love the same as desire? Is it love you are feeling when you wish good things for your loved ones? Or is love an unmoving energetic state from which all else moves, including your good intentions and good wishes? If it is the latter, then there is an unchanging state of love that we are sometimes in touch with and other times not. When you are in touch with this unchanging state, feelings of compassion and loving-kindness spontaneously arise in your. You value these responses so much because they allow you to temporarily become part of this unchanging state of love. From this perspective, love is always present. It is we who are separated from this love due to our inability to simply be with things as they are. As you begin to stay more present, to fully receive the moment just as it is, you experience move loving intentions — even toward difficult people — because you feel less separation.
Interesting speculations. Does the image of love as an unmoving center, at least metaphorically, suggest how nonattachment can still flow toward love rather than just into a null state of emptiness? Maybe the key to giving direction to mindfulness and nonattachment is the third leg of the core buddhism stool, oneness?
In the same section Moffitt confesses his own early feelings toward deliberately cultivating love, and how those feelings evolved:
When I was first introduced to loving-kindness and compassion practices, during a ten-day silent meditation retreat more than twenty years ago, my reaction was to walk out of the room each time they were taught. I was interested in deepening my understanding of the mind, and when the teachers started discussing developing emotional qualities, I thought they were being sentimental. I was convince one could not practice compassion as a discipline, and the idea of fostering loving-kindness through repetition of certain phrases seemed silly. Moreover, since mindfulness practice involves not controlling the mind but learning to stay present with it wherever it moves, I thought what the teachers were asking us to do would interrupt the momentum of the practice. I was really irritated by the whole idea and felt resentment and distrust. I skipped the sittings in which these practices were taught and used the time to run on a nearby track, feeling simultaneously defiant and a bit guilty. After a few days of rebellion, it occurred to me that maybe I should have some actual experience of the practices if I was going to have such animosity toward them. So I started taking the instruction and, once I stopped feeling self-conscious, discovered that they had real value. The practices involve deepening compassion and loving-kindness for yourself, your benefactors, those you are close to, and those for whom you have neutral or even negative feelings. I was amazed that they really worked.
Anecdotal, so symbolic, fascinating — and possibly important as well as useful?