What do you want? I looked at my teacher with tears in my eyes and frustration. I had just told her about my breakup and I wasn’t ready to talk about what I wanted next. I was grieving what had just been. She waved me off and said, “Yeah, yeah, but what do you want?”
Irritated, I started listing things that didn’t quite feel true. In a society where we rarely allow ourselves and each other to not know, I had shame creeping up. I don’t know, I admitted quietly.
She nodded solemnly. “Your job is to keep speaking about your desires, even as they shift and change. Stay open to your willing spirit. You have no idea what is around the corner. Stay open.”
I thought, I kinda know what she’s talking about, but that feels so vulnerable and hard right now.
When everything felt like it was falling apart, and I was drowning in all the stresses and To Dos that came with moving out of the ex’s place, I had to spend time focusing on the very small moments of joy and aliveness. The friends who texted to check in with words of affirmation, the new doggie roommates coming to comfort me when I was crying, and the abundance of food in the fridge. Small things mattered.
I had the gift of being in a session with a client when she declared, “I want to be unafraid and open to what’s next. I know it’s uncomfortable, I panic, and it’s lonely for a bit. But one day I wake up and I’m having the time of my life with amazing people doing work and things that I love.”
I identified with how her pattern of OPEN plays out. First it feels tense and lonely as you rediscover your work and fun, and an identity that trusts the next step. When we feel completely connected to ourselves, it leads to more profound work, relationships and communities.
In order to stay open, we have to get vulnerable with ourselves and with others. To be in the discomfort of growth. We have to get really really clear about the things that bring us joy. We need to be able to see joy around us so that we can move towards it, even when there is pain.
In her book Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown reminds us that one of the fastest ways to cultivate joy and presence is through gratitude. I’m going to call this the Trinity for Joy, Staying RIGHT HERE and OPEN.
Sheryl Sandburg in Option B talks about the power of gratitude and that it ups our awareness of receiving. This is literally a practice of staying open. It’s allowing what we need/want to come towards us and then acknowledging that it has.
Mark Nepo, a storyteller, says that to hear the soul’s calling we must listen for the call of the soul, which happens every time you’re called back to aliveness. This means that when you notice the birds chirping outside the window, you are brought back to aliveness. Here’s the other thing about appreciation: it can be focused on BEING. There’s nothing you or anyone has to have done in order for you to feel appreciation. It’s about who you are and what your senses take in.
Recently, I got to sit down with my pastor. He asked me what I do to close out sessions with clients. I told him I always ask the same Qs: what was valuable here, what would you change, and what can I acknowledge you for. He was taken aback. He physically moved back. Wow. What intimate questions, he said. You ask people that? It feels so vulnerable to ask to be acknowledged for something. YES it is. We acknowledge each other and ourselves so little. This is different than praise. Write down the things you did today or how you showed up. Being able to look back on your accomplishments reminds us that we are stronger than we think. This is a big practice in cultivating resilience. We can trust ourselves and our instincts.
To the wild vulnerable practices of staying open,