I've heard it said that there are different kinds of love: romantic love, love of family members, love of friends, and love of all of humanity. But is there, at bottom, a difference between these types of love?
It is true that they feel different. And people who are "spiritual" especially like to differentiate the last kind from the other, seemingly more limiting, types. All-encompassing love, Buddha's love -- that is what we all want to experience, is it not?
But in my experience, the only difference between the more limited kinds of love and all-encompassing love (which includes love of self), is that the object drops away. It's the same energy of life, but we don't need to focus on someone or something anymore: we don't need anything outside ourselves to feel whole but rather we realize that we are ourselves the embodiment of love, that we are created as love, and that everything else is as well. Love isn't so much something that we do as something that we realize we are and always have been. And since everyone and everything else is also experienced that way, we can't help loving all else as we love ourselves.
Elizabeth Gilbert in EAT, PRAY, LOVE describes hugging trees in India when she had her awakening. I had exactly the same experience: anything and everything was embraced by my passion, but for some reason trees were especially lovable! Maybe awakening makes tree-huggers out of us all!