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  • Writer's pictureHannah Marsh

What Opens You Up?

I just got back from a road trip down to Utah and across to California, stopping at several National Parks along the way. Each place was brand new to me, and stunning.

Photo credit_Bruce Phillips

The incredible rock structures at Bryce Canyon (above). The whimsical Joshua tree forest in Death Valley. The giant California redwoods and ferns that evoke some prehistoric time. This time in nature produced an inner effect. I could feel myself opening up - quicker to smile and talk to strangers - and more firmly planted in my feet. There was curiosity, awe, gratitude for little things. My habitual worries seemed smaller.

Perhaps you've noticed something similar - experiencing nature, or a beautiful work of art, or a meditation retreat, or laughing with a friend. There might be a sense of lightness, expansion, or trust in yourself and what's around you. You might feel buoyed or nourished. The effects might linger for a time, softening the hard edges of the world. If you've had such moments (and I hope you have), I wonder what they've been like for you?

I think it's worthwhile to get to know these open states of heart and mind, and what prompts them - a particular condition outside us, and perhaps within us? An external environment might spur something internal, but we might also bring something to that moment, such as a willingness or curiosity to be with our experience. We could consider, too, how we relate to these moments. Do we notice and let them in? Try to hold onto them after they pass? Distrust and shut them out? (Opening up can be lovely, but it can also prompt a sense of vulnerability that isn't always welcome. There might be fear or shame or a sense of being undeserving.)

However this quality of openness shows up for you, I suspect you've noticed, as I have, how quickly it slips away. How easy it is for my mind and heart to constrict, and for worry and rumination to take hold again.

We can't always be travelling, or in nature, or reading beautiful books, or on meditation retreats. Nor can we expect to be open and kind and grounded all the time (as we know, everything comes and goes). So what do we do? Perhaps, if it serves us, we might be able to encourage and safely cultivate an open state. When we notice the hard edges of the world - and perhaps within ourselves - we might remember that it's not always like that. If it's helpful, we might intentionally bring to mind a softer moment, and this act of remembering might shift our current state or affect what we do next. We might choose to do something we've found to be supportive and grounding - a walk outside, a few deep breaths, a moment of stretching, a chat with a friend. We might find ourselves more inclined to do such things, the heart more open to what supports our intentions in that particular moment (reading the news or a novel? drawing or vacuuming?). Perhaps, more often, we can guide ourselves in directions that support well-being and encourage creativity - that's the hope.

In our May Mindfulness & Creativity drop-in, our practices will include exploring moments of openness. We'll consider how inviting this state of being might affect our lives and creative pursuits.

P.S. An aside about heart/mind-opening experiences: I just saw Everything Everywhere All at Once, and it's the most beautifully absurd, playful, funny, and deeply touching film I've seen in some time. It's the kind of art that can open up possibility and inspire courage to try something new.


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