I mentioned yesterday that I wrote a guest post for Courtney Carver. In it, I listed seven steps that I took to rehab my life. When I read it for the first time on her blog yesterday, I immediately realized that I’d left three things off the list. I want to share the first one with you today.
8. Don’t give up. It’s tempting, I know. Being human is hard. We are born with open hearts, so trusting that we will be cared for and loved. It doesn’t always work out that way though, does it? We get feedback that the world isn’t necessarily a safe place. Family, friends, community and culture all communicate in various ways, subtle and direct, that we aren’t safe and that having an open heart isn’t “normal.”
We learn all kinds of ways to armor up, protect ourselves, close off, hide and numb out, and our culture makes it particularly easy to access methods and materials for shutting down, staying in our seemingly safe, stuffy and stinky cocoon. It takes effort, a willingness to be weird and vulnerable, requires practice to keep your heart open, especially after years of doing otherwise.
It’s hard to keep your heart open because it’s out of the ordinary, but also because you’ll find that being open means feeling raw and tender, putting yourself at risk. Bad things will happen, you’ll suffer, those you care about will suffer and you won’t be able to fix it, you’ll hurt and FEEL it.
The good news is you’ll have equal access to joy, love, and amazement. You will feel awake, alive. For example, you’ll go outside and feel the twinge or even ache of the cold, a temperature that is uncomfortable, but you’ll be in your body in the biting white glare of a winter day FEELING cold. Experience will replace being numb, disconnected. It might be hard to breathe it’s so cold and maybe the wind is blowing too, but maybe you’ll walk faster to warm up and notice the way the frost glitters on the ground, how the bare branches look against the sky, a cluster of small birds in flight startled as you walked by, the way the clouds reflect the light so differently when it might snow, how even though the top of the river is frozen, underneath the water is still flowing and sometimes you can even hear it, and you might see two boys walking on the frozen top like it were a path, and you’ll remember how magic the world seemed when you were a kid, and you’ll feel that again, see it that way.
But sometimes it’s the hard you’ll notice, get stuck in. Beings you love will get sick or even die, you’ll hurt each other and it will be hard to forgive. We get confused and generate suffering. We get a flat tire, they are out of our favorite yogurt again, the washing machine breaks, the dog is sick but no one not even the specialist can figure out why, there wasn’t time to make lunch before we left for work, we can’t find our keys, we had a horrible night’s sleep and it seems to be making everything too hard, we don’t have enough money to pay that bill, we feel lonely and a little bored. It seems like we can’t catch a break, start to believe things won’t ever get better, that life is just one bad thing after another.
Don’t give up.
Like a Bodhisattva, look around — where do you see suffering? (don’t forget to look at yourself, maybe that’s where you’ll find it.) What can you do to ease this suffering? (you can always do something, even if it’s simply to say “I’m here. I see your suffering.”)
Don’t give up. This has been my mantra in recent weeks. My life is in such a good place, with a new puppy on his way and starting yoga teacher training, but I can feel overwhelmed by what isn’t working, the suffering that is there too. I want to give up sometimes. As I open myself up to even more, practice being more present, allowing whatever might arise, I am aware of the risk, conscious of my vulnerability, and I want to quit. Wouldn’t it be easier to stay as I am? I already have a job, don’t need another income source, and working with people is hard, giving my weekends up to the training is hard. Why not just stay home, rest and be lazy? And why love another dog? At first it will pee in the house, cry, chew on things it shouldn’t, not know how to walk on a leash, and eventually it will get sick or old, or both, and die, break my heart like all the others. What’s the point?
The point is by avoiding the risk, I miss out on everything else. The chance to help, to heal, to grow stronger, the opportunity for community, joy, love, and that super duty heart bursting cuteness that only a puppy knows how to do, that soft bundle of warm comfort, the laughter and the tenderness that’s possible.
Don’t give up. Tomorrow, there will be Something Good.
P.S. My guest post for Courtney brought a lot of new traffic, more kind and gentle readers. Welcome! I am so happy to see you here.