Love and fear.
There are only two languages.
Love and fear.
There are only two activities.
Love and fear.
There are only two motives,
two procedures, two frameworks,
Love and fear.
Love and fear.
Ever since I heard a dear teacher colleague from New Zealand read this piece by Australian sage-poet, Michael Leunig, the words have resonated with me. My analytical brain seems to search for contradictions to Leunig’s simple claim that there are only two ways of being: love and fear. Surely it isn’t as simple at that!
My mind just wanted to be certain of what had happened and, as they say, it wasn’t letting truth get in the way of a good story.
I was on my morning walk this morning and became aware that fear was wrapped around my bones. A work situation left me feeling as if I’d been unsupportive of my colleagues and shame told me that I’d be rejected as a result. Fear of rejection expressed itself as indignation, anger, unworthiness, sad surrender, self-victimization, tiredness, hopelessness, original sinfulness, confusion, and loneliness. As my mind tried to get a handle on the story of what had happened, tried to concretize it as a way to feel secure, I flip-flopped from indignation and anger to helplessness and feeling put-upon. My mind just wanted to be certain of what had happened and, as they say, it wasn’t letting truth get in the way of a good story.
Suddenly I realized that my mind had wandered away from my word meditation and had sneakily, like one of those birds who rolls another birds eggs out of the nest to replace it with a stealth ninja surrogate, replaced my inspiring word with the word, “Fear.”
Walking is a great way to process. I pulled out a few tools from my kit as I walked, and tested them on the project at hand. I tried word meditation: searching my inner landscape for a word I could softly and gently repeat over and over to myself that would offer me what I needed in that moment. “Release” came to mind, then, “Just watch” (without getting caught in the story) seemed to fit better. Suddenly I realized that my mind had wandered away from my word meditation and had sneakily, like one of those birds who rolls another birds eggs out of the nest to replace it with a stealth ninja surrogate, replaced my inspiring word with the word, “Fear.” My mind had replaced my aspiration with my reality, and I was grateful that it did because it showed me that fear was behind all of what was going on. I was coming from fear, and not from love.
So I allowed my system to be with the reality of fear, to feel that fear was in existence, and to gradually allow softening around that experience in the way that a mother might sit patiently with a child having a tantrum, knowing that there are soft feelings under the hard ones. Rather than try to convince my mind to “release” or “just watch,” what I needed in that moment was to get down in the mud with my emotion and “just be” with it and allow myself to be moved by it. To allow myself to experience it rather than engaging in the “subtle aggression of self-improvement” (Bob Sharples)
Fear could not exist in the full body immersion experience of love.
As I softened toward myself, I also softened toward my work situation and my colleagues. Fear of abandonment was replaced by acknowledging their fears (possibly also of abandonment). Coming from love toward myself helped me to move to a place of love for my colleagues, which also opened up my experience to all the possibilities, rather than trying to narrow in on one particular story. The narrowness of the cortisol/adrenaline approach was replaced by the creativity of the oxytocin/opiates approach. Fear could not exist in the full body immersion experience of love.
So, while my mind might resist Leunig’s simplistic categorization, I have found no evidence to disprove him. My experience of mindfully engaging with love as a remedy for fear has been repeated over and over back in to my history and in to the history of human beings (replacing fear with love was the genesis of Lovingkindness meditation in the Buddhist tradition) and I am certain those players will act out their part over and over into the future. My individual experience and practice is the same as hundreds, thousands, even millions of practitioners around the word. We have started the quiet revolution.
If we could all cultivate awareness of our emotions and the courage to get down in the mud with them, our world would be a radically different place. I truly believe that self-compassion practice will change the course of human history. I challenge you to find any other practice that would have a greater impact on our culture than self-compassion. And I challenge you to find, at the seat of your soul, any more than two motivations, emotions, frameworks or outcomes.
There are only two feelings that create our collective and individual past and history: Love and Fear.
This piece is motivated by the growing work of the WisdomWomen tradition and the Mindful Self-Compassion tradition. Overwhelming gratitude to Michelle Stransky, Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer, who know, at the core of their beings, that we must learn to move from love, and have stepped up to birth the revolution.
- Podcast Episode 9: Favorite Things on my Morning Walk - January 27, 2021
- Podcast Episode 8: Slow News Days and Companioning the Neutral - January 22, 2021
- Podcast Episode 7: Self-Care as the Shit Hits the Fan - January 6, 2021
- Podcast Episode 6: Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Anxiety, Isolation, and Quarantine - January 5, 2021
- Somatic Self-Compassion Week 1 Practice Cycle: What is Somatic Self-Compassion? - January 4, 2021