The Journey Inward: How To Choose Love Over Fear
“You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success- none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here.” – Ram Dass
To know this truth, one must journey inward. The journey is not for the faint of heart. It’s filled with uncertainty. This can create tremendous amounts of anxiety or stress. We may experience loss- the loss of who we thought we should be, the loss of certain roles we’ve played in life, the loss of relationships.
Naturally, there is a period of grieving as you move inward and shed old patterns of conditioning in order to move towards a place of love. It is easy on this journey to want to give in to your fears, to go back to living the life you know, back to safety. Instead, we are called to journey inward with a courageous heart to build a future from a place of love, not fear.
When the fears become really loud, the words of Ram Dass always bring me back to a place of love. Remembering that we are loved- just for being who we are, just for existing– creates within me a deep sense of inner-peace among the turbulence of the outside world. These words are the building blocks of a future built out of love, not fear. And it starts with each of us. It starts with a journey inwards to honor the love within us that no one and nothing can take away.
But how do we maintain a connection to this place of inherent love within ourselves when everything around us feels so chaotic? Below are some lessons I’ve learned along the way as I fight to shed old layers of conditioning and create new, healthy behaviors that support a future of love.
Stop taking the actions of others personally
During times of change or uncertainty, I often lose my sense of groundedness. I may find myself in tears over the slightest, seemingly innocuous interactions. I’ve observed that I’m interpreting others’ actions as a threat to the inherent love within myself, a threat to my self-worth.
To illustrate this point, I recently tried to talk with my boyfriend late at night about something that upset me earlier in the day and he was not engaged. I felt hurt, like a burden unworthy of love. My reactive mind immediately said, “He doesn’t care what I have to say, I must not be important to him.” In reality, he’d worked a 12-hour day and had to be up at 5 AM the next morning. He simply didn’t have the capacity to support me at that moment. It did not mean that I was not loved, it only meant that the circumstances in his life didn’t allow him to be present with me at that moment.
Becoming aware of our emotional reactivity
When situations like this happen, it’s important to become aware of our emotional reactivity which is the result of conditioning from our past experiences. Emotional reactivity is deeply embedded in our subconscious, accumulated patterns from reactions to past experiences. Growing up, it didn’t always feel safe for me to express my emotions. I learned it upset and angered the adults around me.
For this reason, when I express emotion today and it’s not well received, I immediately revert back to childhood where I felt unsafe, unloved in those situations. What I didn’t realize then, was that the adults around me as a child didn’t have the capacity to help me cope with my difficult emotions, just like my boyfriend didn’t have the capacity to help me cope with my difficult day. Neither example means that I am loved any less, it simply means the people I look to for support cannot always be there for me in the ways I need due to circumstances beyond my control. This is a very liberating realization because it reaffirms the notion that I am loved just for being who I am, just for existing.
Action in inaction
The most important thing we can do when interpreting other’s actions is NOT to act on our emotional reactivity. Instead, become aware that we are feeling reactive, feel the emotion, and then let it go. Acting from a place of reactivity will only create more tension and take you farther away from yourself. Once the emotional reactivity has passed, your mind will clear and allow you to separate your worth from the actions of others.
Expressing your needs is often easier said than done. Clearly expressing them, now that is an art form! I struggle with expressing my needs because it requires speaking from a place of vulnerability and that takes great courage because there is no guarantee how someone will react. In order to communicate clearly, we must again become aware of our emotional reactivity and allow these strong emotions to pass through us before we can begin.
When you are ready to begin, state how you feel and express your needs using “I” statements. Avoid placing blame on others and instead ask the person how they feel about what you said. It helps to be specific and let others know exactly how they can support you. Give that person an opportunity to show up for you in the way that you need. This may take time and practice, but having these conversations creates a deeper sense of intimacy and connection in your relationships and gives you a greater sense of control over your reality.
Eventually, this will lead to a greater sense of inner-freedom as you’ve expressed your needs clearly while allowing someone else to show up and support you. What if that person still can’t show up for you? Remember, it has nothing to do with you and only to do with their ability to cope. Having needs does not make us any less worthy of love. We are loved, we are love, just by being who we are.
Develop a regular practice
Having a regular self-care practice is an essential component on the journey inward. Developing a regular practice helps us to process and release our emotions. It keeps us connected to our hearts, the place where our inherent worth and self-love lies. There are so many simple practices that can enrich your spiritual life. For me, practicing Heartfulness Meditation each morning helps me feel grounded. It allows me to disconnect from my thoughts for a few minutes and start my day with clear intention.
A regular yoga practice has also been a great tool for me. Anxiety often manifests itself through discomfort in the body and yoga allows me to move and connect with my body in healthy ways and release tension. There is no magic tool or practice- the beauty is that you can create your own ‘toolbox’ of practices that best serve your unique needs. Experiment and see what lights you up, what brings you back to that place of inner-peace and love that already exists within you.
I share these lessons with you not because I pretend to be an expert, but because these practices lead me back to myself each and every day. It works, plain and simple. Some days, the journey is easier than others. Some days, these practices feel like downright work. What matters is that I keep going back to these practices because they always lead me home- to the place within me where I am loved, just for being who I am.
If we can each make this courageous journey home to ourselves, then collectively we can rise above fear and build a future for all that encompasses awareness, deep connection, and above all else- love.
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