The Threshold: Opposition

Opposition tends to evoke in us one of two reactions:  run away, or kill, metaphorically speaking, most of the time.

When I encounter opposition, I may decide to forget what I was trying to do and walk away.  I may also find the opposition to be a fuel for a fight and charge in to “kill” the opposition.  Both of those reactions can create real loss, for obvious reasons.

Brene Brown is one of my favorite speakers because she combines two elements that I think are essential for rich, human living:  good data and what I will call magic.  Brene Brown is a sociologist with all the academic rigor one could imagine, but she is not willing to stop with simply sifting and reporting data.  She wants to know what the “so what” is of the data as well as the “how to.”  The so what and the how to are the magic of any human work.  Brown observes : we stand before a moment of joy, and almost in that instant begin to dread its opposite.  She calls to mind parents’ common experience of looking in on a sleeping baby, being flooded with the joy of the child, and then being overcome by the thought:  “but what if . . . ”

This sort of threshold of a joyful experience which is instantly blocked by an almost equally instantaneous feeling of fear is common to us all.  Will we ever be able to cross that threshold and fully embody the joy that we see, or must we always stand on the outside and tremble with the fear of what could happen otherwise?

There can be another way.  Brown suggests that as we approach the threshold of joy, we can choose to soften into the moment, that we can enter the heart of the event and choose to be just there, just then for all it is worth.

That sort of choice is another example of mindfulness, a reminder that the only time that ever exists is the present moment, and that our whole life is always lived now.  Is “now” offering us a threshold over into joy?  We can choose to enter it fully.  Doing so will tenderize our hearts,and while that may feel temporarily frightening, it makes us more fully human.

Bob Patrick

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