Movement 1 - There are Teachers Everywhere
Holding Nothing Back
"My purpose, at last, to hold nothing back.
My goal to live a thousand years, not in succession, but in every breath."
- This was the lesson in dying and waking: to hold nothing back. To meet each moment with all of who I am. For who we are, when offered completely, fits the keyhole of silence that opens the door of the ordinary beyond which everything shimmers with an edge of realness that makes living quietly miraculous. And so I learned of realness that makes living quietly miraculous. And so I learned that holding nothing back unlocks the wonder and the soft underside of experience we briefly know as joy.
- It was only through approaching death that I began to understand what living requires. And for me, almost dying was not like nearing a line and then darting back. For me, almost dying meant experiencing small amounts of death so deeply and rawly that the very elements of living and dying scoured my basic understanding of things. It was not a close call, but an unexpected, elemental taste of the DNA of life that changed everything. A lot like love and loss and the sudden appearance of truth.
- As I look back, my first understanding of holding nothing back was as a teenager devoted to basketball. This holding nothing back pertains to sheer physical effort. It involves trying as hard as we can, giving our all, not caring how awkward we might look, or if we might fail. There was something vital about diving with complete abandon for a ball floating in midair just out of reach. It was my first visceral experience of exerting myself completely and having that effort turn into complete surrender.
- And more than any sense of accomplishment, the great effort to immerse our complete energy and will into any one endeavor is a fundamental way to cross into the connection of all things. It's how the surfer paddles furiously until she catches the wave, and how the anxious worrier paddles through his torrent of thoughts until he catches the wave of silence that issues peace.
- Stumbling further into life, I began to experience holding nothing back in another realm: that of the mind. This effort involves the life of secrets and questions, which when held in seem to fester and limit us, but when expressed allow us to feel the web of relation that is the nervous system of the Universe. This holding nothing back centers on the perpetual risk to break and reframe our ways of seeing and being in the world.
- It reminds me of the wisdom offered in the Polynesian creation myth in which the Tahitian God, Ta'aora, sleeps in a shell, wakes, and standing, breaks the shell only to create the earth. Not long after, he sleeps and wakes again to find himself in yet another shell, and standing again, he breaks this shell, creating the moon. This continues until all of creation has been born.
- It is the way the God within sleeps and wakes and stands in each of us, repeatedly breaking what has encircled us in order to birth us into a larger experience of life. We all live this way co-creating the world by birthing the God within. Like a series of cocoons, each phase of life has its own thinking that must be shed if we are to inhabit the fullness of spirit we are given. Interestingly, the shells once broken are not discarded but transform into the geography of a larger Universe - only limiting and suffocating if we allow any one to become our entire world.
- So often, though, we hold back, not wanting to wake: not wanting to stand, not wanting to break open the habit of our thinking in order to better know the world. Sometimes we become so attached to one form of self or shell that we live a hunched and suffocating existence, with no room to move. In this realm, holding nothing back means a willingness to say "I don't understand" or courage of openness to see things anew, to continually reframe our mental picture of things, keeping our worldview close to the pulse of what is authentic. One key to holding nothing back mentally is relaxing the habit of our seeing. This hinges on our willingness to voice secrets and engage our questions. For it is our secrets and questions that signal to us where our thinking is hardening and becoming confining.
- One of the most difficult shells for me to break was that of meeting the world with a sense of ongoing crisis. Like many of us, I was schooled to carry around a suitcase passed down to me, only to be opened in case of emergency. I lugged it around for thirty-six years, and then, when being poked and prodded in the antechamber of the cancer world, I quietly and privately opened it. It was empty! And so the God in me stood and broke that shell, leaving my empty suitcase in the desert of waiting rooms. For the only way to survive the hegira back to health was to travel lightly.
- Some inspiring examples of mentally holding nothing back have changed how we understand life. Consider Akhenaton, the Egyptian pharoah who dared to believe in one common Source. He called that Source "the One Light" and developed a belief in the Sun as the living face of God. The belief in one God can be traced back to his courage in seeing a common element behind the many gods of his time. And Copernicus and Galileo dared to say we are not the center of the Universe - a struggle for humans to accept to this day. And Carl Jung bravely broke the shell of the individual psyche to discover the sea of the collective unconscious in which we are all singular but connected waves.
- In essence, holding-nothing-back-perceptually depends first on our willingness to accept that understanding-outside-our-shell is different from understanding-inside-our-shell, and then on our daring to know the difference. Holding nothing-back-perceptually means expanding how we see. It leads to Einstein's notion that "you can't solve a problem by the thinking that created it."
- Another level of holding nothing back involves the life of the heart. I slowly and painfully came to realize that self-honesty and expression are constant tools, needed to eliminate the buildup that occurs between our inner and outer life. Just as the buildup of plaque can block the flow of a healthy heart. The active and authentic emotional life is the aerobic that keeps our heart flowing cleanly. As Balzac said, "We are here to live out loud!" Not loudly, just not repressed. Too often, we move through life holding our breath. A heart muted with unexpressed feeling compromises our ability to know the world directly.
- And most recently, I've begun to experience what holding nothing back means in the realm of the spirit. As opposed to the complete effort of will in the realm of the body, this holding nothing back is a subtle interior effort of surrender that lets the fragrance of our being scent who we are, what we know, and how we move in the world. It involves the perpetual risk to know God in each moment, by putting down all agendas in order to be touched by a sanctity that is unrehearsed. In some ways, this is the hardest of shells to break and, perhaps, we can only do this for brief moments. But even so, these unrehearsed moments of being are enough. They can light up all the caves we've inherited and built on our own.
- In my life, each instance of holding nothing back is a teacher. In the realm of the body, I keep learning how to give my all in order to land in a stream of grace. In the realm of the mind, I keep learning how to break the hardened province of my little world in order to humbly join the Universe. In the realm of the heart, I keep learning that perceiving and expressing is a sacred aerobic that keeps my emotional center healthy and clean. And in the realm of spirit, I keep learning that surrendering all my dreams and wounds and personal histories, no matter how briefly, allows the fragrance of my soul to renew my sense of life as an unrepeatable mystery. "Together, these hints of grace replace the empty suitcase I used to carry. With them, I greet the world of others and the world of spirit through the continually breaking shell that is me.