Today’s post is written by Kate Coffey.
I’ve been told there are only two states of being: fear and love. All the other inner landscapes that seem so real are simply shadows of one or the other.
Just as we are rarely aware of the air we breathe, we often consider it normal to live fearfully, barely noticing the weight we carry. We use seemingly benign pet names for our fear: anxiety, stress, concern.
There is plenty of evidence of course to justify our fear. Pain, loneliness, and loss are part of the human experience and no one escapes this reality. All our efforts to survive and to protect those we love will in fact, one day, end in death. And the journey from here to there is fraught with difficulty.
In his book Fate and Destiny: The Two Agreements of the Soul, Michael Meade recounts a story of a young seeker who finds a wise teacher and his students living in a forest. All good teachers ask good questions and this one is no different. The sage asks the pupils to answer one question, “What do you love most in the whole world?” Some students answer truth, wisdom, their families, or the teacher. The young seeker hesitates to answer when it is his turn. Finally realizing he must speak the truth of his heart no matter how absurd it may sound, he answers that he most loves his family’s cow, the companion of his childhood. “I love the sound of its lowing and the shape of its great back that I used to ride upon. I love the swelling of its belly, its great teats, and the sweet milk it would pour out so freely. I love the curving horns on its head and its deep dark eyes. Above all things, I love that cow.”
The sage instructs the students to return to their huts and meditate on the thing they love most. When the meditation time ends the young seeker cannot be found. When he is finally found, still in his hut, the teacher instructs him to end his meditation and rejoin the others. The seeker softly replies, “I would love to come and join you, however I’m afraid that the horns on my head are too big to fit through the doorway.” In his meditation he had become what he most loved.
Love is the only force strong enough to overcome fear. We must become what we love if we are to be equal to the challenges of our days. “Become what you love” could easily sound like a simplistic prescription that holds no practical value, written only for starry-eyed novices. How is this supposed to help when the cherished child of your heart may have cancer and you can only wait in terror for the diagnosis? What good is becoming what you love when your beloved is traveling to China and the plane never arrives, anywhere? How does love help make the decisions that are so murky with consequences so far-reaching? Becoming love in the face of rejection and the apparent loss of love sounds ludicrous.
Although the arts of surrender, acceptance, and radical trust in the face of fear are necessary disciplines, they are not enough on their own to awaken our intrinsic power and courage. Emptying ourselves of willfulness is only half the equation. Love will not keep us from feeling fear or experiencing pain, but love is the courage and delight of our souls, empowering our presence for every difficulty. In love we come to know the wisdom and beauty of our deepest selves and any response we then make to our outer circumstances will be empowered by our inner flame.
What does your heart love the most? Live from that love.