Running this morning, I came upon a deer on my path. I slowed to a walk and eventually stopped as he did. He was not afraid of me. In that moment, I realized that in sensing his fearlessness, my fear rose. The beginning of so many relationships goes this way, whether it is an intimate relationship, a career development where we are receiving a "go ahead," a "yes" to a new artistic endeavor, or a sudden liberating insight about ourselves. When we finally meet someone who is not afraid to be there with us, when the new path is the very thing we have wanted, there is a tremble that occurs that can either cause us to push away or invites us to draw out the courage to keep moving closer. Sometimes we, knowingly or unknowingly, sabotage ourselves because that is the best we can do in that moment. That place needs to be respected, too, out of its goodness of self-protection. Though, eventually, there comes a time when we find the ground underneath us and though we may be trembling, we know it is solid and we tenderly take another step toward the deer that decided to bravely share the path with us. This morning, I saw that deer, felt my reaction, saw how it relates to other places in my life and I asked myself, so how do I find that place again? How do I tap into that inner-knowing that allows me to feel shaky while trusting the solid ground and continuing to move in this new direction? What allows me to not build up armor in self-protection, which has the allusion of confidence, or recoil into a small shell that limits what I am truly capable of? What enables all of us to be real, tender, vulnerable, and courageous?
I close my eyes and ask the question again. Only one word emerges, "love" and, at first, I don't know why. So I close my eyes again and stay with the feeling of fear and the word "love." A second sense emerges that knows that as long as I keep staying present with each new challenge and not meet it with strength, but with softness, with honesty, with true presence to the person, the group, the subject and be willing to not know how he/she, they or it will respond, I can do no wrong. That is true strength. I don't know how my classes will go, how my clients will receive me, how a relationship will evolve, how my parenting will be, but I trust that if I come from love in each moment, I will be safe and where I need to be. There is no danger because no one or thing can take love from me. When I live from that place, coming from love means respecting all of life by listening and speaking with care, by knowing when I am receiving and being in touch with gratefulness, by recognizing moments of judgment and asking myself what it is really about, by being present to people, places and experiences, and by remembering again and again what really matters. If I stay close to these values, then I am coming from love. Nothing bad can come from that place. There is an open-heartedness to it. It is as if I could say, "here is my exposed heart; I trust that even if death should come, what is in my heart cannot be touched." What amazing freedom there is in that. Imagine if we could all practice trusting in that way. It would be a practice though, not something to attain. I will keep practicing and the next time the deer, the event, the person meets me with a "yes," I hope I can meet it on an equally resounding affirmative note.