I was heartbroken last week. As I listened to the news of the NAU shootings Friday morning my heart ached, as it often does when I hear of tragic events. My heart ached for the ones involved, their families and a whole community that is forever shifted. It seemed to be a week of many events causing this heartache and for a moment, it felt like too much. I looked in the backseat of the car, saw my daughter happily playing and I couldn’t help but feel the fear. Maybe it is that this news was so close to home, maybe it was that this news came after tragic shootings in Oregon, or maybe it was just that I know these things happen every day whether we hear about it or not. Whatever it was, my instinct was to run and hide. I wanted to pack up my whole family, move to a cabin in the woods and keep them safe forever.
Ridiculously unrealistic, I know, but it was my first thought.
I wanted to know everyone was safe. I wanted to keep them from the arms of a potential tragedy that seems to becoming “normal.” I thought of all the children in this world and wondered what exactly it was that we were handing off to them. Knowing that my fantasy was most likely not the turn my life was going to take, I asked myself quietly; “Then what do we do? How do we handle such painful events?” Softly the answer came; the answer I knew but had a hard time feeling.
It is often said in spiritual teachings that there are only two true emotions, fear and love. All other emotions stem from them and both serve a purpose. Love allows us to embrace the best things in life and live the truth of who we are. Fear is meant to keep us safe, ensure we stay out of harms way. Often fear was useful when we were in a different world; a world where dangers of being attacked by a bear in our sleep was the norm. In today’s world, while there still may be life-threatening moments when fear can step in and serve us, most of the time it is an illusion for the majority of us.
We are afraid of what may be lurking in the minutes, hours, weeks and years that lay before us. It causes us to make choices that may be blocking us from truly living from love, living in the moment and really experiencing joy. It may be a tragedy that triggers it and makes us overprotective parents or it could be something such as afraid of failing that causes us to misspeak in a presentation. The fear can also cause us to push so hard against what we don’t want to happen, we become consumed by what we are running from instead of creating what we truly want.
Loving through these moments makes us redirect and focus on what we do want, not what we don’t. This doesn’t mean that we bury our heads and hide from seeing what is happening in the world, it means using our fearful response to determine what we do want so we can shift our attention there.
So instead of being swept away with fear for your family, go home and hug them a little tighter. Spend more moments talking and less being distracted. Send love to those involved in a tragedy. Don’t focus on the panic and what fear tells you should be done, instead ask yourself how you can use this lesson to love deeper. When fear arises, ask yourself what it is you truly want and shift your thoughts to that instead of thinking about what you don’t want to happen.
Even in the days when fear truly was saving us from a life-threatening situation on a regular basis, love could easily overcome fear if we had to protect our loved ones, proving that it is powerful enough to lead the way.
It is about time we let it.