From Fear to Love – What Does Your Shoulder Tension Have to Do With It?

Recently Erin and I were reflecting on a line from Rumi:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”


Could you take that one in slowly?

(that’s Erin’s hand with some of her finds from a walk on Cape Cod over the summer. Skull-looking heart rock and shorebird feathers.)

I have heard this line many times, and as I read it to myself again now as a question: “In this moment, where are the barriers within myself I have built against love?,” responses come quite clearly:

I notice a softening in my chest, which then reveals a tenderness in my heart that was hidden under the tension, and it feels like the bodily aftertaste of Mesa’s tearful school departure earlier in the morning. I also notice my shoulders dropping down, and a kind of pressure of “not enough time to do all I want to do this morning” letting go.

Wow – thanks for the reminder Rumi!

I don’t think that I would have made those discoveries without a moment of pausing.

The barriers we build against love are the barriers we build against life.

Finding them is a somatic practice.

We have often written of the movement from fear to love as being central to our work.

One of the fruitful explorations in terms of finding the barriers to love are the places where we can tend to hold ourselves, most often unknowingly.

As Russell Delman writes:

“A hyper-vigilance of an overactive nervous system with the corresponding profusion of adrenaline, though helpful when dealing with reality based dangers, is often counter productive for modern humans. To walk around with a more or less chronic startle reflex, complete with contracted flexors, tight sphincters, raised shoulders, contracted neck, inhibited breathing, fixated or darting eyes, is not conducive to effective survival responses in the world.

As one learns to gain confidence in both one’s equilibrium and capacity to recover gracefully when knocked down, the set point of the autonomic nervous system can change.

Fullness in the lower abdomen, vitality without tension in the pelvic floor, freedom of the diaphragm, smooth movement of the head and eyes are all reflections of this change.”

At this time of year, when there is often nary a relaxed, vital pelvic floor in all of Costco, it can be so valuable, and such a great offering to others to move in the world from the physiology of love. A fullness of your belly, a freedom of your breath, and perhaps a somewhat regular reflection of “where are the barriers within myself I have built against love?”

Best wishes,


p.s. We are delighted, in the dark days of winter, to be looking forward to Coleman Barks and David Darling returning for an Evening of Rumi sponsored by the Jung Society and Two Arrows Zen Center in February.

Last year, it was a magical evening, and a wonderful gathering of our community in Salt Lake.

More info here . Tickets are available. We’ll be there!

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