Getting ready for my bike commute this morning, I felt an indistinct longing. Wanting to feel connected to the world, wanting companionship. I felt receptive, open, needy.
This is the moment when we have the most choice—what are we going to open ourselves to?
Often, the unconscious habits, influences, or thought patterns we reach for don’t serve us. We pick up our phones to see if anyone has liked our most recent post. We return to ruminating about the fight we got in with our spouse last night or our favorite inadequacy. We shop in a frenzied cycle of constant optimization.
We are always being influenced by something—choosing what is powerful.
Today, I realized that I had a longing to be with a wise elder, someone who had walked this path of life longer than me and could both commiserate with and lift me up. I chose Joanna Macy, and found this interview to listen to in one ear while I rode through town. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to her talk about the Great Unraveling, and how the Great Turning is simultaneously possible when we recognize our oneness with the earth and grieve our disconnection from it.
The interviewer asked what about her life and legacy gave her the most satisfaction. Joanna was quiet for a few seconds, then said, “It is not what I have accomplished that has brought me the most satisfaction. It is what I have opened to.”
I’m certainly not the first to bemoan the 24-hour news cycle and the barrenness of the influencer landscape. But here’s the thing—if you are intentional, you can also open yourself to great teachers, infinite wisdom, deep community, the generosity of the earth, and nourishing silence. If we long to be influenced by those things, they are easy to find. But we have to risk taking a different path.
I don’t want to leave the front door of my soul wide open to anything and everyone. I don’t want advertisements for bathing suits and expensive skin cream to come marching through. I don’t want envy of other people’s living rooms, angry talking heads, and entreaties to buy vodka elbowing one another in my precious space when I wake up in the morning or before I fall asleep at night.
Like Joanna, I want my legacy to be what I have opened to. I want to open to the generosity of the earth. I want to open to sadness, loss, joy, and longing, recognizing that holding those emotions at arm’s length takes far more energy than letting them move through me. I want to be influenced by the cycles of the natural world, by being in community with people who help me rediscover that I am, you are, stardust.
I want to opt out of the stockpiling, image-driven, isolating influences telling us to work hard and play hard, telling us that the earth is a warehouse that exists to outfit our pursuits. When I reach the end of my life, what will I have opened myself to? How will it have changed me?
We are malleable. The good news, as my friend David says, is that we are beings who change. The bad news is there are lots of forces and fortunes vying for our affections. Who will you let in your front door? I am currently being very picky, and it’s marvelous.