“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”
The tulips were a treat because we had company coming to spend the night. There isn’t much lovelier than fresh flowers, in my opinion, though I usually like to clip them from our yard. I am a sucker for tulips, though. They are beautiful when they are closed, very slender and clean looking, but when they open, wow! Remaining open or closed, a part of their beauty would be missed. The beauty of life would be missed if we were to remain open or closed all the time, too. I find myself opening and closing my hand, at least mentally, as I read the words of the Persian poet who was born more than 800 years ago, I am reminded of a simple truth: we will only grow if we are willing to live in a balance of opening and closing ourselves throughout life.
Desperately, we cling to relationships that are unhealthy simply because we are afraid of change, to dreams for our children that do not interest them any longer, or to careers for ourselves because that is what we believe is expected of us. What if we open our hands and allow for the possibilities of new relationships, new dreams, and new careers to unfold and to grow where life has become stagnant? Have you ever done it–let go of a dream you had for someone else, walked away from a job or a relationship that held nothing for you any more? It is scary. Worse, did someone else do you the favor of removing you from the job, the relationship, the dream?
It is often said that we should thank the people who make life difficult, who fire us or who leave us, because they are helping us to grow. I disagree–a jerk is a jerk, and a painful situation is no less painful simply because it might have been for the best. We can, however, take those painful moments and embrace the growth that comes with them. We can watch a tulip open in the morning and close at night and be reminded that being open to nothing is as unattractive and unhealthy as being open to everything. We need balance in order to grow.
If you’ve had children, you might remember the early visits to the doctor to hear what percentile your baby was–was he gaining weight, was she as tall as she should be? If a baby isn’t growing properly, it can be cause for concern. Hitting a growth spurt is not particularly pleasant for the older child, nor are most growth spurts pleasant when we are the ones growing. Losing your parent or your partner can be excruciating, and in the aftermath you might be surprised at how much you have grown. Losing your chair in the band or your race on the track team is painful, it is humbling, and in the aftermath you might find yourself working in a new way to accomplish your goals. If your money (or investments), never increases, it might feel safe to know you haven’t lost anything, but you haven’t gained either. If you have to pay bills out of that money, it will eventually run out if you have no gains.
If your hands (mind and heart) are always closed, you will have few gains in life–in jobs, in relationships, in life experiences. Practice opening and closing your hand, your mind, your heart and watch things change. You will fail and you will succeed, and most importantly you will live a fuller life with a deeper presence.