Just at the point when we want to shut down hard is the call to open up
W i d e,
wider than before.
When the pain of any situation becomes great, there is a signal inside that begins to round up the reserves, batten down the hatches and shut it all down. Physically, it has a matching feeling. For me, this is a tightening at the throat and the center of my chest. It feels like my heart gets put into a closet where it barely fits. My whole breathing pattern changes. Mostly it becomes harder to take a deep breath.
What comes next is usually a flatness, coldness or hardness. Around this time is usually when I say "I don't know, I just don't feel anything about it" or "I honestly don't really care right now."
I am not feeling the pain, but I am also not feeling much of anything else. Lightness, true excitement and happiness are not available either. There is listlessness. And a restlessness that leads me to existential pain- What is this life about? What is the point of all this? Is any of this fair?
From here, the pattern is almost textbook- blame other people, blame myself, rage against the world, find new enemies, consume more than I really want, look for somewhere to go. All wrapped in a blanket of restlessness. Needing something but having no idea what it is.
The moment we want to shut down holds EVERYTHING we need to go beyond the pain and its patterned response.
At this moment when we start to feel the chest tightening, the throat closing, the hungry search for something to consume- this is the moment when we go counterintuitive and open wider. Let the heart spill open. This is a real genuine moment of saying *F*ck it* and letting it flow. What's the point of tightening and tensing anymore? Feel through the mad and the sad and the scared and the 'i don't know' and anything else.
Feeling through it is not a mind process. It's not about thinking through each one of those emotions, weighing them and analyzing them and justifying or denying them their due. It's simpler in application. It's feeling in the form of felt sensation. Feeling that is not always dependent on the story about the feeling. Letting the feeling move through the body.
There are stop gates at each new emotion. At the bottom of the anger, there can be tightness. All this is, is a signal that there is more underneath. And so keep going- go wider. Make more room. Then comes the place where you find someone else to blame, and you'll notice the same tightening. And it's just a signal that there is more underneath, so keep going. Go wider. Make more room.
It may start to feel like your heart is breaking open, melting or spreading out. Keep going. Make more space. Go wider.
I know I've hit the wide place when something in my chest eases up. I do not have any answers about my life or my situation. I have not solved anything. But I can feel myself. The heart is not caged. I can feel all the complexity of the situation- pain and acceptance, together; fear and bravery, together; desire and anger, together. And me, wide enough for it all.
The invitation is always there. There are no instructions on how. It can only be tried and found out. It is counter to the world's "wisdom" about conquering and coming out on top, impervious to the pain. The world's way is fearful, and it bullies others to hide its fear. This is deeper power. It comes from softening.
From the soft place, strong action can arise. This time it comes from wisdom, not reaction or defense. When our heart is wide, we are tender residing in the seat of real power.