“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”- Rumi.
Sometime, if we’re lucky, an unexpected wind will blow down our house of cards and release us from the falsely secure enclosures into which we’ve put ourselves. When we operate our lives from these delicate structures, which we often believe are made of brick, we get stuck thinking that layout, those paths, that floorplan is the whole makeup of the world. Yet, this structure–diligently built while executing our survival strategies–is the very thing that becomes the barrier that keeps us from what we’d really like.
We can find ourselves feeling walled into a narrow space one with an eye and ear to fear-based “what ifs,” worries, and wounds–all things that we’d like, in one way or another, to wall off. All of that can fuel a stance of rigidity, disassociations, and defense as we try to maintain the house of cards as life laps at our shore and blows past the window. Often, it begins to feel like a loveless space when we bump into the edges of its confinement.
We work hard, we choose work over life, we take on responsibilities that may or may not be ours to take on, we suffer from psychic and emotional weight–things such as guilt, worry, fear, anxiety. Mired in struggle, directing dramas and, perhaps, wondering if that’s all there is. Is it?
As we bury ourselves in “busy,” devote ourselves to mountains of purpose and strive–overtly or subtly–for external fiscal, material, social markers of success, we hold our deck of cards close to the vest, refusing to glance at our own dealt hand. Even when we’re immersed in work that draws us all in and provides meaning and purpose–after years of deep focus on that sole object and mission–that becomes one card in the house we build.
Ultimately, this keeps us aloof. Our ways become our own familiar territory, keeping out what we don’t like, what we don’t believe in, what we have disowned, what scares us. In our striving, we feel alone, isolated from expansive sense of connection to the quiet, profound, and intimate magic of the world around us. We forget that we are not Atlas supporting the world, the world is supporting us.
As David Whyte notes in his poem Everything is Waiting for You:
“Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.”
On a good day, if I’m lucky, I can shake myself out of my self-imposed mind-bottles and look up at the world in front of me, and see with some sense of renewed clarity how all those thoughts were affecting experiences in my life from relationships, to work, to my choices, and how I was living my life. When I start to feel stressed, frustrated, stuck, short fused, or highly reactive, this is usually my cue that I’m not thinking big enough. That realization is like the clarity of morning, before everything starts stirring and the hum of the day begins. It knocks me back a little and allows me to feel a bigger perspective. From that place, I can feel a deeper connection to the whole of things, even though none of those problems I thought I had may have been solved.
When I’m emancipated from my mental world of stories, scenes, feelings I don’t know what to do with, and other meaning-and-myth-making theories about what’s happening past or future, I can track how each little thought I followed to get me there was a closing down to the world. Somewhere in those mental gesticulations, I get lost. Somewhere along the way, my senses being loved and belonging are threatened, which likely makes me feel a lack of safety, and I close up like a flower at nighttime.
“A human being is a storytelling machine,” wrote Paul Books.“The self is a story.” It’s in this human propensity for myth-making that we often get ourselves stuck, by precariously perching the cards, one on top of the other.
From that place, I’m shutting out a lot of what’s real and true, especially considering that many of my preconceived notions and rationalizations are not. As Helen Fisher notes in the latest episode of On Being, “I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at the Hubble Telescope site on the Internet, but when you take a look at what’s out there, it’s so staggering. Reality is so staggering.” When I step out from the house of cards I’ve built for myself, I feel love. Big love.
“Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation.”–David Whyte, Everything is Waiting for You
The clear path to such love requires excavation. We must, as Rumi notes, remove all of the blocks we’ve placed in our way to keep us from it. Somehow, somewhere, in all of our evolutionary neurological wiring, our wires have crossed so that we fear being loved more than being safe, small, sure, busy and turning away from the big open arms of life. We think we’ve got it all figured out. While our gifts for self-preservation and survival are strong, all we’ve figured, really, is how to make sense of the world into which we were thrust, or find ourselves. Great skills, no doubt. But if we rely on them solely, we guard ourselves from another way of being with the world.
We try to be as resourceful as we can to make a life, to make sense of life and ourselves in it. We busy ourselves in the well-worn paths, hallways, and structures that feel part of who we are. We figure things, we feel things and rationalize them away, we compose the story that weaves all of our various fragments together into some sense of a whole sense of self, yet that map of the world is flat. All the while, there’s a lot happening outside our known maps of survival and identity.
Perhaps the biggest form of self-denial is turning away from the grace that’s always there for us, right now here in the present, and has been with us throughout the arc of our history. Without a story to perpetuate or mental mazes to get lost in, you stop perpetuating the story, the delusion, that you’re alone holding it all together yourself. And, then, you can feel life rush in and join you in conversation. When you open to the world, big love is waiting for you.
Here’s to big love in all its forms.