This week has been brutal for me. I’m experiencing some debilitating physical pains and accompanying illness, working full time then coming home to care for two little boys so my wife can cook (and have more than twenty seconds to herself), and every extra minute of time is going into prepping our house for sale in the next two weeks. On top of that I’m in full identity crisis mode, and processing layer after layer of deep suppressed feelings of shame and guilt, but more on that later.
In experiencing all of this, I’m getting moment after moment of opportunity. It’s coming in the form of a choice. The choice lasts the duration of the “moment,” and the moment can be as long as I stay with “it”. Sometimes I feel the moment for a barely perceivable microsecond, other times it last for minutes or even hours. The choice, the opportunity I’m continually presented with is to accept what is happening, or deny it. To stay open, or to stay closed. The choice is simple, but the effects are infinitely complex and reverberate through every fiber of my being while rippling out to all the corners of my little bubble of reality.
Making the choice is easy. In fact It’s almost too easy. Too easy to notice when I slip into a state of closure unconsciously, where my Ego feels protected, safe, and too wrapped up in itself to fully absorb the magic of the moment. At the same time I recognize the ease to slip into the pocket of the moment and stay “open.” The only effort it takes is an acknowledgement that this moment is my current (and only) experience, and I fully accept everything it contains. Anything else than that is a form of denial, aka closure to some degree to the content of the moment.
I first learned of this concept of staying open from my teacher, John Wineland. I’ve also heard it discussed at length from David Deida, the big-time western guru and innovator of contemporary psycho-sexual spiritual teachings. Openness, when being discussed in relation to spiritual relating, is fundamental to establishing a deep and powerful connection with any given moment. However, it’s shadow sibling, closure, is unfortunately how our Ego prefers things to be by default.
The best way I can describe openness is it’s a state of being in which we unconditionally accept what each moment contains. The “content” of the moment if you will. Closure therefore can be defined as a state of being in which we unconditionally deny any aspect of the content of the moment. it’s dangerously easy to miss subtle ways in which we deny the experience of the moment. Anytime we’re invalidating ourselves by wishing we were elsewhere, holding back feelings because they’re too painful or too ecstatic, or finding ways to focus our attention predominantly inwards, losing awareness and becoming numb to the full experience of the moment (half of which is external and half of which is internal) we are in some state of closure to the fullest experience possible in that moment.
It’s easy to stay open when things are highly stimulating in a pleasurable way. Taking a hot bath, getting a massage, laying in the sun, making love with a partner. These kinds of things automatically cause a state of openness in us. We find it easy to accept what’s happening, because our primary interface with the world (our body) is bathed from the external to the internal in pleasurable stimulus. It feels good, we enjoy the sensations, so we open, accepting what is happening and flowing with the stimulus as long as it lasts.
The real art of momentary expansiveness comes when we can apply this same acceptance to experiences that are not pleasurable. Getting rear ended by a car. Getting fired from a job. Fighting with or getting rejected by an intimate partner. Making a mistake. Running out of money. These are all things that can evoke a state of closure in us. Some part of us feels threatened, and in order to feel safe our Egos close down, creating an energetic turtle shell around us, a semi-permeable membrane through which we selectively allow feelings and parts of our experience we want to accept, keeping anything else at bay. The fallacy of a state of closure is that the protection our Ego seeks is ultimately harmful to the growth of our body-mind-souls capacity to feel and relate to life in the deepest way possible. It is this immersion into the human experience that brings the most depth of satisfaction to us, and yet we deny this very thing in order to feel pseudo protected from the possibility of pain we might feel if we stayed truly open.
This brings me to the final piece of awareness with staying open. Like true love, staying open is something of an invitation to feel all of it. This means feeling joy as ecstatically as we know how, and feeling hurt the the fullest possible degree throughout our being. In this light, staying closed is safer, much like staying inside a house feels safer than getting on airplane. We need to be aware of the growth that is possible if we did get on that plane, even though the risk to feel something that might overwhelm us is higher than padding our reality from the visceral nature of existence. It is through this risk, through this choice to engage with life, that we feel fully expressed when it comes to how we measure our lives.
Staying open in a moment takes no effort or real skill, it’s just a shift in perspective and an acceptance of what is. It shouldn’t be conflated with settling for something we want to change in the moment, we can and often do change what is in our power to do so – nothing wrong with that. What does however take skill and practice is staying open the majority of the moments in a day, a month, a year, and in particular during the difficult moments we experience. Fortunately we get literally every second of our lives to practice whenever we want to pick up the baton again.
So, what does the next moment hold for you? Will you give yourself the permission to feel whatever comes up, to expect the unexpected and ride the wave of experience? Or will some part of you be in denial about an aspect of your reality? The choice is yours.