I think this is one of the most profound pieces of practical spiritual wisdom I have ever heard.
“There are only two emotions; love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say there’s only love and fear, for we cannot feel those two emotions together at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”
~ Elisabeth Kubler Ross
This is an idea I have come back to time and time again after I first read this quote oh, maybe 10 years ago. It is a thought which clarifies things so well, and so simply, that it allows us to see—and act upon—the truth.
Any time I have a negative emotion it is because I am afraid. This includes little every day frustrations and big scary stuff equally. What I like about knowing this is that it allows me to ask myself, “What am I afraid of?”
Many times just asking and answering that question goes a long way toward dispelling whatever the fear is, and allows room for compassion (love).
I yell at my kids about putting their laundry away and picking up their clothes for the millionth time. What am I afraid of? That I am not being heard or acknowledged. Okay, I can speak in a way that I will be heard and acknowledged.
I am filled with grief when I think about my stepson’s death. What am I afraid of? My own death, and how his death affects the people I love. Alright, I can accept the fact of my own death, and the people I love won’t be helped by my anxiety for them—only by my compassion toward them.
This is all fine and well, but what happens when I ask and answer, and the fear doesn’t dissipate? What happens when I can not get myself into a place of love?
Should I, as I originally thought when reading this quote, always strive to move beyond fear and find a place of love, or can I allow myself to sit with my fear when I need to and accept it for what it is?
I think it largely depends on what the fear is about. If it is something relatively minor, I do believe we have a responsibility to try and transcend our own negativity as expeditiously as possible. But if it is something complicated and frightening, maybe the best policy is to do nothing at all.
I have been for days and I can’t shake it, and it worries me, because the thing I am afraid of, I want to approach from a place of love.
If you’ve been following my blogs, you know that I have a photo shoot in New York coming up in a few days with Robert Sturman—a man I greatly admire for his ability to capture the heart of yoga in his pictures of yogis nailing every imaginable asana.
That alone is intimidating. If you look at some of his pictures you’ll see what I mean—he posted one a few days ago of a yogini in full lotus—in a head stand—with no hands. Yep, she was balancing elegantly on the crown of her head right there in Grand Central Station.
I must hurry to say, however, that Robert takes plenty of simple yoga pictures, too, and strives whole heartedly not to glamorize poses or feed into anyone’s ego. That is precisely why he is so wonderful.
Anyway, that in itself is enough to give anyone the jitters—but in a good way, a roller coaster kind of way. The problem is that it’s happening in New York, and when I left New York (15 years ago), I was a shell of a woman, devastated by an abusive relationship and drugs and homelessness—the list goes on.
I am better now, I’ve done a lion’s share of healing, but there is a whole big black thing inside me that opens up into a bottomless pit when I think about this trip.
Fear. What am I afraid of? I’ve been asking and asking myself this question. So far, I haven’t been able to let myself answer it.
So today I asked a different one, “What do I do if I’m too afraid to do anything? Including name my fear?”
And I think the answer is; do nothing. Sit with it. Feel the feelings. Feel the fear but don’t be afraid of the fear, if that makes any sense.
My bags are packed, it’s less than 24 hours now. I don’t know what’s waiting for me on the other side of this experience, but I do know that my fear is temporary and that before everything is said and done, my heart will be free to beat again.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Capture Queen/Flickr