Walk Open

Walk Open

There’s a guy where I bike and hike that walks with his palms facing forward. We usually walk with the back of our hands facing out so this unique difference captured my attention and I began experimenting.

What I noticed was my entire body opened as I simply rotated my thumbs outward as I walked. It felt as if I was unlocking an inner door. Such a simple act yielded appreciable results.

As I practiced I felt an immediate receptivity at my core. I began to sense a beautiful eye within my heart. The green of the trees was greener. The sounds of rushing water became more musical. Birdsong was sweeter. It felt like a more natural state of being…to walk exposed with mind, spirit and body.

Now as I’m walking, paddle boarding, sitting in my car or doing whatever I can simply think of opening my core and feel the connection to all life…to everything.

There are reasons we close ourselves. Good reasons. Trauma. Abuse. Emotional overwhelm. Meanness. Fear. We don’t want to walk around totally unprotected from behavior of strangers, friends or family.

As I child of maybe eight or nine years old, I was watching a Disney program. There was an old mountain man who lived in a one-room shack. He had a mule. He saved for a long time to purchase a pane of glass for a window he had kept shuttered. He wanted to bring light to his cabin. He finally was able to purchase the glass and immediately after installing it, his mule kicked a bucket and broke the glass. My little heart broke open and I started crying. My dad looked at me and laughed and asked, “Why are you crying?” “It’s sad,” I replied. “It’s only a show,” he said. It didn’t change the fact that I felt sadness and compassion for the old man. But I learned that it was risky to feel those things. I could be made fun of or judged.

We learn to close down to our emotional truths. We are ‘taught’ how to do this our entire lives by how others witness and respond to our emotions. It’s a painful process. And sadly, they teach us how to close down but rarely does anyone teach us how to open back up.

To live with emotional intelligence is to gently close when we need to take care of ourselves but to open again to feel the beauty of life when it’s safe. And that’s the problem. When we close ourselves we don’t feel the abuse or pain emotionally but when we remain closed we don’t feel the beauty…we don’t allow anything to affect us.

Many year ago I was visiting the Alabama coast while I was residing in the Greensboro, North Carolina area. Things had been really tough for me. Very difficult. I was on the beach and was talking out loud to the Universe: ‘Why do I even bother to heal my life? Nobody cares. Most people never even bother to look inside and try to improve themselves. Why am I putting myself through such misery? Why even bother? Can’t I just forget being conscious and go back to blissful ignorance?’ Suddenly the sunset sky turned lavender and orange and I heard a voice within say very clearly: You clear out the inner blocks to being open so you can really see and experience moments such as this fully.

If we walk open, we invite life to touch us. We risk being affected by what we experience. I wonder if the root of the world’s problems doesn’t begin with refusing to allow anything to impact us.

We have all witnessed ourselves and others say, If it isn’t happening to me, I’m not concerned. When I worked in a retail outdoor clothing store near the Gulf Coast I expressed concern about a hurricane that was heading into the northern Gulf of Mexico to a customer. She said worriedly, “Oh, NO! Where is it going to hit?” I replied, “It’s east of here by about 100 miles.” Her reply, “Then I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me.” That storm was Hurricane Michael. It did horrendous damage but it didn’t touch her life so she didn’t care. But she’s not an exception. Unfortunately this seems to be the norm with far too many.

After documenting the Gulf Oil Spill for a year, I was completely shut down. Before the oil arrived on Alabama beaches I remember driving down the Fort Morgan Peninsula and seeing booms anchored in the saltwater marshes. I photographed the small, floating lines of buys and got back into my car. An unearthly scream erupted from my depths. NOOOOOOOO!!!! 

I sobbed and wailed. From that moment through the following year, I had to shut down emotionally to document what I felt called to witness. The inner voice that called me was so strong I couldn’t look away; but, to be there I had to shut down a feeling response….except for anger. I felt that strongly. It’s like rescue workers who extricate people out of car wrecks or collapsed buildings…they have work to do and later can deal with the trauma of witnessing such horrendous and sad events.

I can’t remember who referred me to Joanna Macy, but spending a week with her and 30 other people, after my year’s commitment to the coast, opened me back up in a safe environment where my peers and I held space for each other to grieve and feel the depths of our emotions.

It took me a very long time to reopen to joy and pleasure. The most amazing healers for me have been wildlife…manatees, humpback whales, sea lions, dolphins. Photographing them in their environment became profound sessions of healing and deep connection that opened me to love at a level to which I had never known.

As we open to beauty around us–receptive and exposed–we begin to see the beauty of our own presence as we come into deep communion with Nature. We discover ourselves to be part of the amazing whole. In our wisdom, we closed ourselves for protection so our psyches wouldn’t become overwhelmed. Now, let us remember what it feels like to be open…present…in profound compassion for ourselves and the world, which is really the same.

Rumi wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Walk open, dear pilgrim. Walk open.

 

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