A friend of mine, whom is an avid mountain biker, shared a metaphor with me about open heartedness and cruising the trails.
Her notion rides something like this: the emotional ebbs and flows of your heart is like riding a bike down a mountain. If you do not use the breaks, you’ll eventually move too fast, too recklessly and crash. If you are cruising down the trail and slam on the breaks you will fly over the handlebars and crash. If you feather the breaks as you journey you will be able to enjoy the ride, manage the twists, turns, roots and rocks, avoid crashing (most of the time) and maintain fluid relationship with the path, the descent — with the heart.
Sometimes you need to be fully open and go full speed to enjoy the rush. Other times, feathering the breaks (closing just a little to keep you safe) is important for managing tough situations. Perhaps even fully clenched — completely stopped — is what you will need to survey the landscape, to recover from a previous run or just to catch your breath to enjoy the view.
This concept is about finding the balance between too little and too much. Gotta find that “just enough” gage. Of course it will be different at different times, but hey, that’s part of the fun.
In the New Age we often hear, “open your heart,” “surrender and trust,” or “allow your heart to be free.” Sometimes this is great advice, especially if you’re white knuckling the breaks at the top of the hill. Other times, it may not be the best, especially if you’ve just flown over the handled bars.
This mountain biking metaphor is useful in learning the ways of our emotional landscape. Sometimes we need to let our heart out and go for it. Spontaneity in a new relationship, taking risks and exploring new territory with passion can be fun and exhilarating. Other times, we need to close down to pause, rest and perhaps lick our wounds. Especially after a tough break-up or loss, grieving and re-evaluating our choices could be the best option before “getting back out there.”
More often then not we need a balance of full engagement and complete abstention, especially for longer journeys. Not having an open heart is ok, even in the middle of the ride. We need space for ourselves. We need time to be with what is coming up for us in the moment. That might mean closing down for a morning, a day, a week or even longer. Once we’ve engaged fully with ourselves it’s time to oil the chain, tighten the bolts, release the grip on the breaks and begin to ride again.
The only way to come to a place where we can journey emotionally with others is by finding our edges. Discovering when we are shut and need to open and conversely, when we are too open and risk crashing comes with time and experience. With a healthy sense of adventure and willingness we can find our edges. We can learn what we need and when. Of course, this comes with some bumps, bruises and exhilaration along the way.
Cruising down the path of life means that some things are unavoidable, no matter how skilled we are. Random things happen, like rain, wind or swallowing an insect. With a bit of practice we can learn to navigate through, with and because of what the road offers us. We might not be able to decide what the uniqueness of the trail is that day, but we can choose the best response. As Viktor Frankl once said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
And there it is... Travel the road, navigate the journey and recognize the things we can choose and the things we cannot. Openly or closedly (or anywhere in between), it is up to us.