I was tempted to leave this paragraph blank! For whilst it seems that wisdom may be acquired as one lives through life experiences, I often feel that the longer I live the less I know. Perhaps I am confusing knowledge with certainty. Maybe it is not that I know less, more that the certainty of youth is replaced by a wider understanding that life is complicated and there are many possibilities and alternatives.
Richard Osman, the quiz master on Pointless (my favourite TV quiz it has to be said) when talking about this issue, said “In life, you’re like a rocket. For the first 35 or 40 years you’re being fired up into the air, and whatever your fuel was – ambition, money – you’re burning it up to get the rocket higher. But then at some point you fall to earth again.”
This I can relate to. I am very much on earth, at base camp and truly exploring that ground. And here, amongst the foothills is a thought that is slowly coalescing into a truth. There is but one guiding principle that determines what it is all about. It’s all about love or fear.
Love and Fear
Love and fear are the two main emotions that we are capable of experiencing. Every other emotion is a sub set of either one of the two. Not only are they polar opposites they are each also linked to one key hormone that regulates our body. Fear produces cortisol and is part of the fight/flight response. It is the hormone that helps our body facilitate a rapid response to danger. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles and culture have created circumstances where it is a response to stress, rather than danger that is the primary reason for the hormone’s production.
Love, on the other hand produces oxytocin, which is our body’s natural antidote to stress and the effects of cortisol. If this area is of interest to you take a look at this article which identifies clearly the effects of lifestyle and hormone and ultimately love and fear.
Back in the foothills of understanding; it’s all well and good understanding something, it’s in the living of it where the challenge lies. This is where mindfulness can help. By practicing mindfulness we can become closer to our emotional experience. Living in the present moment, noticing what is happening in our mind and body provides us with the opportunity to identify whether it is from love or fear that we are living.
The Present Moment
Writing this has achieved two things. Firstly, it has brought me into this present moment. I have realised that fear is very much part of my experience right now and runs right through all aspects of my life. Secondly, this realisation has reminded me of the new understanding I am developing of fear; how it shapes our behaviour and how I can change this. I actually read, studied, listened and shared thoughts about fear on my blog in June and July, but much of that knowledge has dissipated.
This is normal. New learning takes a while to assimilate and behaviours take practice and time to change. I have re-read my Fear 3 blog post and will be listening to Tara Brach’s talks again about moving beyond the fear body. If you have not listened to them yet and if any aspect of what I have written resonates with you then I recommend them to you. If time is tight then just listen to the second talk as it summarises the first talk and recommends two approaches to dealing with the fear. The second of these explains how love is the antidote and how we can compassionately support our experience to change our fearful reaction.
Photography for love
As an antidote to my fear I sought to cultivate love. The day had cleared after heavy rain to leave a sunny evening and puffy clouds. I escaped down to the promenade and sat on a bench, facing the sea. My intention was to create some more of the ‘Promenader’ photos, my ongoing abstract project, which I do love.
As I sat down I realised that it was actually very quiet. I guessed that most people had just written the day off, after hours of torrential rain, and were now in for the evening. I settled down, set up the camera and waited. Whilst I sat I gazed at the beautiful cloud formations in front of me and decided to create a photo of them.
I only had the 50mm lens with me. However, by holding it in portrait mode, shooting (handheld) and moving horizontally, I took 3 images which I later joined together in Photoshop. With hindsight I regret not taking 5, to create a wider panorama, but the final photo came out OK. It’s at the top of this post (If you click on it you’ll get the full size version)
Eventually, my patience paid off and a few promenaders passed, taking advantage of the lovely evening and providing me with opportunity. I do love the shapes and colours that this project can create.