Nothing to Fear

Buddhists say there are only real two emotional states, Love and Fear. And that all other emotions stems from them. Which one governs you?

A WONDERFUL tale. A dear friend of mine was very worried because life was about to change in ways that were beyond his control.

The house he was renting was unexpectedly put on the market. Given his lease had expired and he was on a month-by-month arrangement, there was no stopping the wheels of change. The agent informed him that he had a couple of months to move out.

Not so easy. The house was a very basic home in an outer suburb, dark and hard to heat. But it had one major plus. The owners allowed dogs and the garden was large enough for two rather feisty ones. So he stayed and stayed. The news couldn’t have come at a worse time. With an ailing sister, and the necessity to spend several months interstate imminent, he was shaken. “No one will take me with two dogs; I will never find anywhere in a couple of weeks.”

His words are the words we tend to echo when change is upon us. Many of us come from a place of anxiety, not positive thinking – even when the change is self-imposed. Fear is a natural response to the unknown; the fight or flight hormones are surging through our veins and rationality shuts down. No one likes to feel out of control.

I gave him some advice. “There’s no knowing what the path ahead holds. You’re just as likely to find a better house and with someone who can dogsit. You might find love with the girl next door. Why make up the worst?”

And it came to pass. Last week he called. Through friends he found a renovated garden apartment in a pet-friendly block. Lovely single neighbours, lower rent, and chic location. “I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

Ironically, this lovely story ties in with my need to bid you farewell. After many years I’m finally leaving my home in the magazine and moving on to the new section of The Weekend Australian being launched next week, Weekend A Plus, which you’ll all be hearing about. Although my column will be the same, I have mixed feelings. Will you, my treasured readers, all come with me? Will I find kinship there?

Of course I know the answer. Change is inspiring and not to be feared. It’s a gift in delicate wrapping that has to be opened carefully, then embraced. I hope you do follow me to my new home.

And for those who don’t – thank you for your valuable letters and feedback over the years. I appreciate you all. Deep breath in; wish me luck…

I hope all my readers from the Magazine come visit me at my new home!

Do you fear change or embrace it? How do you cope with change?

Full story today’s The Australian

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23 Responses to Nothing to Fear

  1. Ruth Ostrow 16 August 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Thanks Sandra it is sometimes hard to be uplifted when things happen. I wrote to someone else, hypnotherapy or similar tapes help wonders for me. Good luck

  2. Sandra Wood 16 August 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    The gift of change – how eloquently put. You must have penned this column around the same time I was being elininated from a committee I have served diligently for a decade. This was almost inevitable because the dominant ethos is to resist change at all costs. I have let go of the frustration of that situation and have time to re-evaluate whilst feeling free of responsibility. Thank you for your uplifting thoughts Ruth and not for the first time. I wish you well.

  3. David Rees 15 August 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    I first heard this in a sermon from an Anglican priest many years ago. He said the opposite of love is not hate; it is fear. It is only possible to hate if first you fear. I am convinced he taught a great truth that day. Who first arrived at this hypothesis; christians or buddists? I guess it doesn’t matter where the truth originated; only that it is taught.

  4. Jonathan 14 August 2011 at 3:53 pm #


    I have recently moved companies after being bored witless in various sideways roles i could not seem to move up from. Now I have my new organization throwing all sorts of wonderfully challenging opportunities at me. Shifting my attitude to expecting and realising ‘success’ has been surprisingly hard. Intellectually I know it is just another form of change I must embrace but it has still had me stressed for entirely new and silly reasons. The timing of reading your article was perfect. Thank you – it is funny what signs and lessons life offers if we are open to them.

  5. Ruth Ostrow 14 August 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Thanks Pam that is so nice to know. The section I am moving to is called Weekend A Plus so keep a look out for it.

  6. Ruth Ostrow 14 August 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Thanks Tara good luck with the travels. Just so you know I visit a therapist who does hypnotherapy from time to time. She makes positive thinking tapes for me. We all need a little help! 🙂

  7. Ruth Ostrow 14 August 2011 at 11:04 am #

    Yes agree. I have just started University again. It is very exciting and the change is helping grow those memory neurons which shrivel if we don’t put them to the test. Many thanks Rosemary

  8. Lilliana 14 August 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Ruth you are one of natures golden people. Having done Yoga for many many years I support all of your philosophies, you are an inspiration to your loyal readers and we learn and think about your writings. Hope you accept life and change in the brave way you tell us all to. Will follow you anywhere!!!

  9. Tara 14 August 2011 at 7:33 am #

    Thank you for your column, it is somehow consistently pertinent to my life. I can always take a valuable message from them. Next week I am travelling to Canada with my two young children and I’m starting to panic of how I will manage this, and once again you’ve encouraged me to focus on the positives and see it as an opportunity. I look forward to reading you wherever you appear, just don’t stop just yet!

  10. Rosemary Harper 13 August 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Hi again,
    I have only just found your website and haven’t heard that Buddhist saying before. I have been a Ruth reader for many years though, and thoroughly enjoy your column.
    That is a tough one though – how not to fear, and how best to love. I have met people who have been severely traumatized and others who have been harassed almost to death by jealous husbands etc etc. Victims of violence, crime , even natural disasters – how can these people rise above fear? Maybe it is that some are much more severely tested in this life than others.
    Love – what is it exactly in the Zen context. It is not easy to know – no wonder these Buddhist monks spend years and years in training and prayer.
    Once I read the “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Soygal Rinpoche – who was trying to explain these mysteries to the Western mind. It helped me a great deal to understand dying – and living too for that matter.
    Interesting that dying (by Buddhism) is seen as a part of living – not to be only thought about when it comes to someone close or in fact yourself.
    Another book I read recently was “A Walk on the Beach” by Joan Anderson. This was about growing old and reviewing your life. The advice seemed to be to keep moving, keep changing, wear all experiences as a string of valuable pearls around your neck. To embrace change and grow is the only way to keep going and to truly live this life.

  11. Pamela 13 August 2011 at 10:15 am #

    Dogs and change
    I have a similar story about dogs and houses. We had rescued a neighbourhood dog while renting and when the place went up for sale and we had to move we couldn’t find anywhere because of the little dog. I had been planning to buy a house but wanted to look around a bit more and felt I wasn’t ready. Tired and disheartened I decided to browse in the ‘for sale’ section of the newspaper this particular saturday while my husband persevered with the ‘for rent’ section. I saw a very small ad for a unit in our price range. We went and looked at it that morning. Loved it. Bought it. That was 5 years ago. There are lots of other serendipidous parts to this story, suffice to say that I put it all down to ‘the problem dog’ who I would have lived on the street to keep. The moral of this story for me -follow love and good things will happen to you. Thanks for your article. Its the first one I turn to every saturday. There’ll be lots of readers ‘following you’ – don’t worry. Pam

  12. Ruth Ostrow 13 August 2011 at 1:42 am #

    Thanks Openhearts and Dave and Sharon. I am only off to another new section in the paper called Weekend Plus but you never know who’s going to visit you in your new home. I feel very happy and blessed to have readers like you.

  13. Openhearts 13 August 2011 at 1:39 am #

    Wishing you luck with your personal changes. After reading you for 12 years you are unlikely to get rid of me.

  14. The2ofus 13 August 2011 at 1:36 am #

    Hey Ruth just read on line that you were leaving the Color Magazine and going to a new section of the Weekend Oz. OF COURSE WE WILL FOLLOW YOU! Sharon and Dave

  15. Ruth Ostrow 13 August 2011 at 1:17 am #

    Sloane thanks for the honesty. And many thanks to all. I’m off to bed now. We can start again tomorrow.

  16. Ruth Ostrow 13 August 2011 at 1:16 am #

    Zen Buddhists like to keep things simple. They think we are the silly ones by making our lives too complex and dwelling on our thoughts all the time. They also say change is inevitable and we should learn to embrace it.

  17. Ruth Ostrow 13 August 2011 at 1:14 am #

    Yes that’s me. An explorer on the high seas 🙂

  18. Ruth Ostrow 13 August 2011 at 1:14 am #

    Yes I agree. When you think someone hates you try smiling warmly and generously at them. If you scowl at them in fear you actually make them behave rudely towards you because they think you don’t like them. It becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.

  19. Sloane 13 August 2011 at 1:11 am #

    I recently went through change because I was sacked from work. It was a horrible and humiliating experience and one that really changed my life. Every morning I felt sick, and also angry. It was a change I hadn’t chosen. You are so right about this. Funny because I had been thinking of leaving but when they did it to me, I was mortified. Anyway I went to a psychologist who did hypnosis on me for a couple of months and now I can feel positive and I see the change was the best thing that ever happened to me for a lot of reasons which I won’t bore you with. I just want to say to people that change is frightening but it is also something that refreshes you and I now feel ten years younger.

  20. Nathan 13 August 2011 at 1:08 am #

    I really worry about such pithy sayings. What do they mean all other emotions stem from this? It is new age mumbo jumbo. The truth is we are a complex blend of emotions, and change feels exciting and frightening at the same time. Things are not black and white.

  21. Mardy 13 August 2011 at 1:06 am #

    I quite like change. It beats being bored.

  22. Meredith 13 August 2011 at 1:06 am #

    I like this saying very much. I am one of those people who gets worried by change. I always think the worst is going to happen. I think I am prone to negative thinking. But I always try to snap out of it and be in a place of openness. I’m sure it helps.

  23. SandyGM 13 August 2011 at 1:04 am #

    Hi Ruth I heard this Buddhist saying a long time ago and was very moved by it. Fear contracts us and makes us less open to attracting the types of positive things that love draws to us. Nobody responds well to an anxious, unhappy face coming towards us. I hope your friend found his home

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