Choosing to Stay Open

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Have you ever found yourself shutting down and you weren’t quite sure what caused it or what to do about it? It’s more common than you might think, especially in the face what we’ve experienced during the past year.

Join me this week as we consider ways of keeping our hearts and minds open and accepting the vitality that comes with it. Stay with me.

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Every couple of weeks, I have lunch with a good friend who’s the pastor of one of Fort Worth’s oldest and most historic churches. When I was a boy, I lived in the church’s shadow and was fascinated by the tolling of its bells. Last week, he told me that he and his wife spent several days without power or water during the recent ice storm. He went on to say that they’re both experiencing uncharacteristic feelings of anxiety and depression and going through periods of being a bit cloudy headed.

As we stood in the parking lot to say our goodbyes, I took hold of his arm and asked him to be especially kind and easy with himself. “You’re both in shock,” I said. “The traumatic event is over, but its effect is still with you.” His eyes glistened with tears as a look of recognition came over him. “You’re right,” he said. “I didn’t realize how true that is until you spoke it.” He and his wife are far from alone in their reaction.

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Later, as I drove back to my studio to start the day’s counseling sessions, I couldn’t help wondering how many others are going through the same thing. If we multiply my friend’s experience by millions of others, the weight of it becomes too much to bear. Think about it. How many people do you know who are in shock or living from day to day in a continued startle response after the events of the last year? The chances are pretty good that you’re one of them. Imagine people all over the country—all over the world for that matter—holding their breath and waiting for the next shock to happen.

From any standpoint, that’s just not sustainable.

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So, what to do about it? Obviously, the first step is to deeply exhale and let go for a while. The next steps are about opening our minds and hearts again.

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One of my favorite French expressions translates into English as, “The thing you are seeking is already seeking you.” That mysterious phenomenon works even better when we choose to keep ourselves open to the good that may be possible. For the past few years, I’ve found it useful to stop and ask myself what I truly want and what I’m doing to allow it to happen, as well as what I may be doing to keep it from happening.

I’ll admit that can be challenging at times.

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When we feel hurt or threatened or rejected or when we’ve been traumatized or challenged in some powerful way, we tend to shut the doors to our hearts and minds. Reacting that way, we back into ourselves in an effort to feel safe again. But that reaction comes with a built-in and self-defeating problem. The more we close ourselves in, the longer and the more strongly we keep good things from reaching us. You can easily see that when we wall ourselves in, we wall everything and everyone else out.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With a bit of courage and a dash of intention, we can choose to keep our minds and hearts open and live from that more enlivening place. Doing that begins with an internal conversation in which we are our own best friend and our own encourager. It begins with reminding ourselves that the hurt or doubt or fear we’re experiencing won’t last forever, and that we are still the person we originally knew ourselves to be—luminous, heartful, wise, present, essentially good, intelligent, strong, flexible, resilient, playful, capable, curious, persistent, valuable, worthwhile, irreplaceable, able to learn.

The list of the remarkable qualities built into each of us is far too long for anyone to complete. I love that about us.

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photo:Scott Lennox


Speaking of encouragement, I often think back to one of the most important things anyone ever told me or did for me. When I was struggling through the hardest period in my life, my youngest sister left me a note that said, “You’re still you.” I don’t know how much she was aware of it, but her reminder came at a time when I was starting to lose sight of my innate strength and resilience. Accepting the truth of what she told me helped me get myself out of mental and emotional freefall.

The next steps came naturally as I did things that took me in a more effective direction. It turns out that remembering the best of what is always in us is one of the keys to keeping our hearts open and living well. From there, everything becomes more manageable.

Regardless of how powerful your challenges may be right now, you’re still exactly the person you’ve always been. To be clear, I’m not talking about who you know or your accomplishments or the things you possess or the events in your history or how other people have treated you or how you’ve treated them. I’m talking about the part of you that is so valuable and essential that it can never be diminished or taken away, no matter who you are or what you have lived.

As we remind ourselves of that truth over and over, we naturally relax and our hearts and minds open again, allowing goodness to flow into us and out from us. You don’t have to struggle to do it. All you have to do is let go and allow what has always been true about you to come to the surface again. It really is that simple. If I can do, so can you.

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This week’s Beautiful Questions are about allowing that to happen. There are three of them.

One: Regardless of where you got it, what is the main thought or idea or belief that is guiding or controlling your life right now?

Two: What is that thought producing in your life right now?

Three: What thought about yourself that is simple, positive, and true will create the positive change you’re looking for? (To be clear, I’m not asking you to identify a fantasy, but something that is positive and true right now, something that is always a part of you.)

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I recognize that these are not lightweight questions. But we’re not living in lightweight circumstances, are we. The need for clarity and acting with a sense of purpose has never been stronger. As your answers to these questions come to you, I’d love for you to share them with me.

As I say each week,
My Light with Your Light

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I’m Scott Lennox, and this has been The Beautiful Question.

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The Beautiful Question is a One Light production, written, produced and engineered by Scott Lennox at HeartRock Studios in Fort Worth, Texas, as a way of paying forward to life, being fully present, becoming better engaged with things that truly matter in a complex world, and committing to a healthier future for all of us.

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