I was at dinner with a friend recently. He had flown into the area for work and we were catching up. We dined al fresco at a little Italian restaurant in Old Town.
Over an impossible amount of appetizers, Tortellini alla Panna, and a bottle of Chianti, we reconnected. For hours, we discussed everything from family to politics, from our current spiritual pursuits to the highs and lows of our pasts.
After an anecdote about his new home, he said he’d show me a picture, but it was on his phone.
And his phone was in the car.
I thought about what a rare–and brave–act it is in today’s world to not have that digital shield in tow. Brave is a strong word here, but—look around you—how many times is a conversation stalled by a buzz, or is a fledgling topic not pursued because one (or perhaps both) of the participants use the beautiful raw moment of potential to glance down at an update from someone they hardly care about?
Sitting across from another human soul, you have every opportunity for deep connection.
Go anywhere, take it in any direction.
Drop to that next level of conversation where the intonations, the subtleties are even more important than the words themselves.
Connect with another human being—really connect.
It’s vulnerable; it can be scary. Thus the shield.
This is not about vilifying the iPhone. There’s a time and place for such a tool; it’s just not everywhere and all the time.
My friend commented later that we had had a riveting three hour conversation without lulls, pauses or awkward silences. How did that happen?
His phone was in the car.
(Mine was tucked away in my purse.)
The point of life is love, but not this love. Not this conditional love. Not this rock it till the morning love. Not even this I love you as long as you’re successful or happy or un-addicted or faithful or pleasant love.
The sun doesn’t rise only on days when we behave. Gravity doesn’t hold us in place only if we’re helping others or being gracious. The tide doesn’t stop its eternal dance because we woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Life doesn’t stop because we don’t honor it.
So it is with love.
Love is the most natural force. The most primal force.
It just keeps being there. You don’t have to let it in. Shut your doors, pronounce your heart closed for business. Come at love with a hacksaw and a lifetime of brokenhearted intention.
It’ll still just keep being there.
There’s something so eternal, so unshakeable, so safe about love.
It just keeps being there.
When we’re sitting broken and alone, it still surrounds us.
Love just keeps being there.
Opening up my heart today to love–to God–to that essence that just keeps being there. Despite my foibles, my weird and useless circumlocution, running around the globe to find the one thing that has been there all along.
Whenever you’re ready, step into it. It’s there. If you’re not ready, just keep running. When you stop, it’ll be there too. No rush. Wherever you go, God will just keep being there.
Do you live in your head?
Do you go to sleep thinking and worrying, then wake up doing the same? Many of us spend most of our time stuck in our brains ruminating, worrying, and just plain chewin’ the cud, as they say. That overactive brain doesn’t want to let go of control, hates not being the one to call the shots.
If this sounds all too familiar, try pushing through the brain’s resistance. Get out of your mind and into your body. When you get in your body, you’re really living instead of thinking about living.
For me, two climbs into an evening rock climbing session, and I’m in my body. I can have a million issues on my mind, but the moment I pull up to the first hold, I feel it: my mind letting go, my body engaging. The only thing on my mind is what’s in front of me. I like to say that I’ve never had a problem on the wall. I can’t; I’m too busy climbing.
When I’m in my body, I forget to think about life and I just live it.
What is it for you? Is it being with a particular person who just lets you be yourself–no posturing needed? Is it running or meditating or sex? Is it bubblebaths or being in the sunshine or having a good laugh? Is it all of the above?
When do you allow your mind to let go? When do you put down your defenses?
Do that more often, so often that living in your body becomes your new normal.
Your brain will learn to enjoy the break, I promise.
I’m tempted by efficiency. My overactive brain craves the order of a predictable routine, a color-by-numbers life, the safety of no surprises.
But I also crave enchantment. My heart craves the unpredictable, the spontaneous, the magical.
In many ways, the two are mutually exclusive. Indeed they can’t be experienced at the same time. At any one moment, you can choose efficiency or enchantment, but not both. Please your brain or your heart, but not both. Derrick Jensen states it best:
Efficiency leaves no room for the enchanted. Anything that’s magical, mysterious, fantastic, dreamy, is apt to be inefficient. Furthermore, enchanted systems are often complex, and involve highly convoluted means to whatever ends are involved. And they may very well have no obvious ends at all. By definition, efficient systems try to eliminate as many of the preconditions for enchantment as possible.
Enchantment Happens in the Space Between
We’ve all heard the idea that music is the space between the notes. The same is true with enchantment. It happens in that space between the things you already know. It happens in the slowing down.
When you think and act like you know everything that’s going to happen, the magical can’t approach you, and even if it could, you wouldn’t be able to see it. You would be too busy knowing exactly what’s next.
The enchantment begins when you slow down–way, way down–and pay close attention. In conversation, in play, in work, in sex, in the daily rituals, just slow down and allow for the unexpected. Don’t let your brain decide ahead of time what will be next, what you will feel next.
Open yourself up to the vast field of potential and allow something completely new to envelope you.
Stop being so efficient by assuming what he will say next and really listen to the subtleties of his word choice and intonation. Respond to that instead of your Pavlovian expectations of what he must be saying (because that’s what he always says).
If you expect her to criticize you, anything she says or does will be received as a criticism. The compliment was backhanded; the silence was judgmental.
Your expectation creates your reality in a very practical, very real way. When you predict, you close your eyes to all of the other possibilities.
How to Stop Predicting and Allow Enchantment
You can stop predicting by opening yourself to change, by having new eyes.
Marcel Proust said,
The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is….
In our day and age, much of the outer world is known, but we’ve placed a do not enter sign on the path to our inner selves, the space in between the physical. Hey, I get it: it’s scary in there. So much darkness, so many possibilities. That is, however, also where the enchanted happens.
Enchantment, the space in between, is frightening because it shows us something new, and when we encounter something new, one of two things must happen: we must close our hearts (which is painful and numbing) or change our minds (which is scary as hell).
Stay closed or change. There are no other options.
Now the change need not be drastic every time, maybe just a refinement of perspective. But change is intimidating because there are so many possibilities. The field of potential is infinite and dark and scary. We know but a pinpoint of it. It’s so much easier to believe that what we know is all there is.
Like the multitude of people who were confronted with the truth that the world might not indeed be flat, we have the choice to remain in denial, in smallness, in flatness, or to acknowledge the limitations of our current perspective and see possibility.
In order to fully embrace the enchanted, we have to admit the smallness of our world, the singularity of our perspective. We have to shed layers of assumptions, habits, and ways of looking at and engaging with the world. We have to be able to don new eyes.
And that ain’t easy, my friend.
But that’s where the magic happens, where life happens.
Every moment spent in true enchantment is a step off the ledge into the unknown. It’s the new layer of intimacy with our lover, the discovery of an unexpected friendship, dancing in a thunderstorm, letting go of our preconceptions about others, opening up to the enormity of the Divine. It leaves us exposed and vulnerable, no doubt, and it’s not efficient or predictable, but it’s freedom.
It’s beautifully dangerous.
Anything less is just a comfy jail cell.
The path of your best self is a combination of consistent small steps, large shifts, and quantum leaps. The fastest way to step onto the path is with a small daily step. You might think of this as a daily acknowledgment of your path, a refusal to spend a day without a step, albeit a small one.
Ideally, the step will be enveloped in a ritual, but even as an item on your to do list, it is exponentially more effective than inconsistent action. Anthony Trollope once said, “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.”
This could be a physically productive action, such as exercising, eating a pound of vegetables, or cleaning the kitchen at night. Or it could be more spiritual in nature, such as meditating, praying, or journaling on limiting beliefs. As long as the daily action is on-path, the effects will compound and reinforce your desired direction.
So what’s one thing that you can do every single day to move closer to your best self? Choose one path-aligned behavior and perform it daily, starting today.