Photography and Text by Jules Steffen
The choices we make each day influence the pacing of the healing for which we long. The pre- and perinatal wounds that occurred for us very early on in our existence, and the mirrored wounds that follow throughout our life, have huge impacts on us, and remain tethered deep within us until we create openings that heal us. It's these wounds and their impacts that influence the choices we make in life. Choosing to find the open spaces may be a healing doorway. What happens for us when we become still and silent as a deer peers in to our being, or when seeing a wild coyote standing motionless in one's driveway? An open space.
Pema Chodron, renowned Buddhist nun, tells the story of when she was 6 years old, walking by an old woman sitting in the warmth of the sun. Pema kicks everything in her way as she walks while feeling lonely, unloved, and angry. The old woman speaks up, laughing, and tells Pema, "Little girl, don't you go letting life harden your heart." Pema shares this little piece of wisdom so that we take note of each situation that comes our way in life: "we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us." (The Places That Scare You, Pema Chodron)
Each moment of every day, we have a choice. It may be a difficult choice, but nonetheless, we have a choice. Open spaces have incredible power and presence in our life, whether we know it or not. In the moments of experiencing an open gap, the choice for healing and health is potentially paramount. When we witness an open expanse and experience it within, we rest in the silence and stillness that is offered there. When walking, we may stop and breathe in to the space that is offered in the cracks of the cement that lie at our feet. Or it may be the openings sited between the majestic branches hovering above. It may be the gaps between the squash and other vegetables lying in a kitchen counter basket.
Whatever openings may be revealed before us and within us, breathing into these open spaces may allow a widening of relaxation and stillness within. We may notice the expanse that reside between the inhalation and exhalation of our breath, that may lead us to another widening and opening within us. Dr. Emerson and Arrow De Groot speak of dialating the open spaces within. As we intend the open spaces within us to deepen and expand even further, we may relish in the presence, silent speech, and stirrings of the Divine.
An excerpt of my post, "Riding the Long Tide," (August 2010) refers to the open space that is integral during our prenatal development as it prepares to contain the human heart. Once we experience and ride the stable tides within us, we touch a myriad of open spaces, reflective of the Divine Stillness within us:
During our embryonic development, the Primary Respiratory System finds expression from what is called Dynamic Stillness. The third week of prenatal development reveals the notochord (vertical midline, spanning from the nose to the pubic bone), a significant developmental process from which all other organs develop. The Long Tide and Mid Tide call forth the stages of embodiment as experienced from within, and our embryonic reality begins to shift from primarily fluid to that of the fluid now being protected by membranes, revealing an empty space in the middle of the inner and outer membranes that will eventually be filled by the heart, thus, completing the cycle from what began from Dynamic Stillness and concludes with a stillness that resides deep within the heart. (Shea)
What's present in the moment as a child opens her mouth in awe of a bouncing bunny rabbit? An open space. What miraculous event occurs between the in-breath and the out-breath as a baby sleeps? An open space. What stable and sustaining rhythm of silence and stillness occurs deep within the pulsations of our body, if we will but lie motionless, and invite it to us? An open space. What lies in the middle of each word we think - or speak - if we will only take time to slow the pace - and breathe into this expanse? An open space. Herein, lies the stillness, presence, and silence of the divine stirrings within us, comprising the Middle Ground: Where Sages Dwell.
Jules Steffen, LMHC