There is a lot of discussion around being open among spiritual people, but when the rubber hits the road, most of people don’t really want to be open all the time. What most people want is to feel safe. In the desire for a feeling of a safety, people put up all kinds of walls to preserve this feeling and avoid uncomfortable feelings. It’s this mentality of self-protection that underlies most discussions around having boundaries, and it’s this idea that must be confronted before we can consciously choose boundaries as opposed to erecting endless walls.
Being open to all of life means being open to all of life. Nothing is excluded. Most people don’t want that. Most people don’t want to be open to pain, shame, fear, anger, hatred, and all the rest of the uncomfortable emotions and sensations that human beings can have. However, that aversion to discomfort is a primary reason we end up collecting so much inner pain. The old adage goes, “What you resist persists.” The more you pay attention to your inner space, the more you’ll find that to be true.
Thus it becomes the only rational thing to do to stay open. In so doing, pain can come. But it also can go. If we shut the doors when we feel discomfort, the pain already has gotten inside by then. And by closing done, we seal it in with us. What we do succeed in keeping out also includes many beautiful experiences and emotions. Finally, erecting walls to avoid pain takes people on a path of becoming more and more numb. In going numb, life becomes more and more bland and even hopeless.
I am not here to say that being open is an easy space to be at first. Being open illuminates many hidden inside. Opening the windows brings light into the house. It shows you what is actually there. Some of that you may not like. Some of it you will. But you won’t know what is there until you really open up. Additionally, being open is also not a doormat to whatever garbage people throw at you. So for the rest of this blog post, let’s look at what openness really is and how to not get caught up in the garbage.
Being Open Starts With You
A lot of people are waiting for life to be safe to come out and play. But life is always changing. There are sunny days and rainy days. We can’t wait around for life to be safe to start really living it. So it becomes very obvious when we look at reality that being open is the only intelligent way to live and the only time to start is now.
Depending on where you are in your own journey, you may not have done a lot of inner work. For those of you who are early in your self-inquiry work, I recommend my starting out section. Opening up tends to let out a whole lot of undealt with issues, and that can surprise people. You don’t have to have had any kind of major trauma in life to be holding down a host of nasty issues. My starting out section is meant to help you build a spiritual practice so that as you open up, you can mindfully engage with the issues that get illuminated in the light of your openness.
For many of the rest of you, you may have already realized that us human beings tend to open in layers. You may feel open to a certain point, but then the doors are locked, blocked, and guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. Well, you know what you need to do. You need to get out the key, unblock the door, and hug the dragon. Fighting things doesn’t work. It’s the deep inner embrace that dissolves the dragon. Trying to kill it just makes a dozen more dragons. As you spend time broiling in the pain that this inner demon breathes on you, that dragon is expending its energy. It’s breaking itself down. In breaking down and dissolving, that issue can no longer be triggered. So you can open more deeply and be with more of the pain in the world that you feel because you have resolved this dragon–this specific pain.
The World Is a Painful, Painful Place
Pain is a part of this world. It’s a communication tool on a purely physical level. Stepping on a thorn sends a painful message from your foot to your brain. That’s a really important message. It helps you to know there is a problem so that you don’t further damage your foot.
However, there are a lot of emotional pains that are purely made up. We create that pain, and that’s the kind of pain we can stop creating. We have that power. It starts by owning that we choose our emotions. Then, each time you feel upset by something you feel during your daily life, you realize that you chose that pain. Now you can go looking for the source of that choice. The better you get at finding and releasing pain and incorrect beliefs about life, the easier it is to be open to all of life.
Incorrect beliefs are abundant, but they are also heavily reinforced. Many people have the incorrect belief that they need a lot of money to be happy. When they have a lot of money, then their belief lets them be happy. When they don’t have a lot of money, their belief makes them upset. These feelings are completely chosen, and these types of unconscious dynamics go on in millions of minds. If you want to find freedom from this unconscious trap, go within. Start to write down the beliefs you have, and notice how much pain they bring to you.
There are plenty of real pains that happen in this world. Disease, hunger, severe dehydration, and other things are very real. Being open to these types of issues is powerful work. Most people really can’t open to these realities because their hearts and minds are still hot messes. But the more you can be with pain on emotional and mental levels, the more you can be with human pains like cancer in a space of greater openness and peace.
Blaming Others for Your Pain
It is all too common for people to blame their pain on others. However, no one chooses your feelings for you. Especially for my empathic and highly sensitive readers, most of what you feel is still you. Parts of you respond in certain ways to what you feel in your environments. It’s your reactions that cause real pain. Those reactions are born of your own hidden pains and incorrect beliefs.
Consider that a cold wind blows by. Maybe you shiver. But you move on with life. Sometimes sensing energy can be like that. The more at peace you are, the less likely you are to shiver. However, if you shiver and then get upset about the shiver, you are creating more pain for yourself. If you put on five jackets and wear them year-round, you’re likely to suffer a great deal more–especially when summer rolls around. Life just seems more and more unbearable from this perspective. This is how things can get out of control for people. They react to the external world instead of finding the internal root cause. And reaction builds upon reaction upon reaction, and this leaves a lot of people in some very sorry states.
Getting Used to Discomfort
I talk about this sooooo much, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get used to discomfort. When we can embrace our own discomfort, it dissolves. The dragon disappears. As that blockage goes away, it is natural to come to a new layer of openness. That often takes time to adjust to. It’s like seeing more and having more light in the room. Now you can realize what else is around you as your eyes adjust. It can be shocking what you discover next, and of course, the more open you are, the more space for others to enter your life and your energy there is. This can “confirm” the unconscious ego’s suspicions that openness is dangerous. However, let me offer a different way of looking at this.
For starters, you are in an adjustment time period. It’s like anything new in our human experiences. We need time to get used to what we are seeing and sensing. If we freak out each time a new wind blows, we are going to be hopelessly stuck and barricading ourselves behind a hundred locked and blocked doors with a hundred fire-breathing dragons. Secondly, openness shows us more dragons. And we have to face them. We created them even though we usually didn’t know we were creating them at the time. So we also have the power to send them on their merry way. It’s not beyond any of you to do this inner work. But it is very likely to be uncomfortable for the short-term. As you release the next set of dragons into the ether, you open up more, and you feel more. You can also see and sense more. So letting go of these blocks will only help you further to see what is real and what is actually going on in life. Openness is an amazing space of clarity while being closed leads to blindness about life.
Using Clarity to Set Appropriate Boundaries
When we’re blind to life, we guess. We guess what is going on, and we guess based on our ego’s predispositions. If someone grew up in a dysfunctional environment, they may be in an abusive relationship. Their unconscious ego may be used to dysfunction, and so they are numb to the communication efforts of pain that tell them they are in an abusive relationship. Their walls make it impossible to hear the pain, and the pain is saying to leave or change this relationship. What little pain they do feel, they often guess that it is associated with something else. Being closed leaves someone alone in the dark, and they can only guess what the echoes mean and from where they are coming. This is the blindness of walls and closed hearts.
Without those walls and the more someone has done inner work, they can see from where the pain is coming. They can see that the relationship is abusive. From that space of clarity, they can set appropriate boundaries about they want in their life.
Here’s another example. A woman is really sexually interested in another person, and that attraction scares her. But she can’t admit this to herself. So, she sees this other person as the threat rather than her own discomfort with her attraction and the other issues that are probably associated with it. So she sets boundaries to keep this person away from her. The mindful approach is to focus on the fear and the desire that has emerged within her. Opening herself to her feelings allows her to get to the root of the issue. The more she engages with these issues, the more she can open back up to the other person. Then she can mindfully choose how to engage with this other person. If both people are single and romantically inclined towards each other, boundaries to stay apart are completely inappropriate. She would have missed a huge opportunity if she stayed “safe” behind these walls!
There are hundreds of examples I could give. I can only encourage you to journal about situations where you are creating walls and to investigate if those are conscious boundaries or just more dragons that you’re using to try and keep you safe.
Many Kinds of Boundaries Are Useful
Openness leads to clarity. Clarity leads to consciously knowing what to invite or not invite into our lives. An abusive ex-partner may need the boundary of a restraining order. An angry child may need the boundaries of a time out in her room. Certain dictators need to be given boundaries by the world community to stop aggressive behavior towards other countries. Boundaries are extremely useful when appropriately used.
Too often, boundaries are just walls. These walls cut us off from ourselves and others. They leave us blind and less able to engage with the realities around us. The more you investigate this topic within yourself, the more you may be surprised how cut off you are from yourself. It’s okay. Take a deep breath. But then go inside. Do your self-inquiry to better understand yourself. The more you do, the more open you can be to all of life because you are already connected to all of life, and it’s time to make room in your inner house to hold the whole universe–the good, bad, painful, and enjoyable–in its entirety.