“The hardest part about gaining any new idea is sweeping out the false idea occupying that niche. As long as that niche is occupied, evidence and proof and logical demonstration get nowhere. But once the niche is emptied of the wrong idea that has been filling it — once you can honestly say, ‘I don’t know’, then it becomes possible to get at the truth.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
Getting openhearted first requires becoming openminded. Most defences are defences; they keep out the good with the bad.
For me, one of the first steps to enlightenment is simply the ability to say “I’m wrong.” That simple acknowledgement that your current level of understanding is imperfect, flawed, in error is the starting point for opening your mind, your heart, your world.
This is not that difficult for children who no one expects to know everything perfectly. It is much harder for adults who are supposed to be fully-baked, authoritative, expert.
Dropping the walls you built to defend your tender heart and your vulnerable spirit is, as Mr. Heinlein says, the hardest part of becoming new. It’s not just because it leaves you exposed and tender, it is also because to drop those barriers means you have to question just how much keeping them up has cost you in limits and pain. We are invested in our defences more than it is comfortable to admit.
Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. Death is required before rebirth, just as winter always comes before spring, clearing away the last year to create space for new growth.
Our expectations of how things should be and of how things are shape our lives by shaping our choices. Those expectations end up having us reject and ignore whatever doesn’t fit into our current worldview. Rather than being grateful for divine surprises, we become threatened by them, believing we are entitled to what we know and expect, entitled to our own vision of normal.
It is our vision of normal which limits us, of course. What we know for certain must give way to testing in order to slice away the jewels from the tailings, the truth from the conventions. To achieve the exceptional and unexpected, we must try the absurd and astounding. Being playful enough to risk failure is a key to breaking through old, musty habits.
The world doesn’t change, we do. A change in our perception is the real miracle, opening us to new possibilities, new choices and new connections that were blocked from us before.
When our life has been built around resisting change, around doing what we know others expect, around staying fixed and entitled in our worldview, transformation always comes hard. We have learned not to be grateful for revelation, grateful for insight, grateful for revelation which shows us where we have to become new. Pain is a signal of distress so when we stuff it, ignore it or otherwise refuse to engage it, we reject the gift of awareness.
Dismissing the call to change by arrogantly holding on to old patterns of entitlement, refusing to see a bigger picture, or not valuing other viewpoints keeps us stuck. Dismissing the truth of others around is a rude luxury that maintains the illusion of our correctness and allows damage to happen as we deny and avoid the lessons that are in front of us. We can laugh and resist, but in the end, resistance is futile. Adaptability is required because change always wins.
We are obligated to always be questioning that which we take for granted, that which we assume and that which we base our choices on. Everything needs to be tested as we learn to drop the pretense and hold onto the essential, let go of the superficial, easy and placating while clinging to the deep, potent and enduring truths. We need to become both smart and stubborn. stubbornly holding on to only that which passes our smart and open minded testing while letting go of the rest.
Letting the scales drop from our eyes to more clearly see the truth requires letting our illusions, our fantasies and our wishes also drop away. We cannot receive divine and surprising gifts while also tenaciously clinging onto our old expectations, defences and habits. Removing the broomstick from our own butt and learning to flow in the moment allows us to become new, to celebrate change and to experience deep connection that we have not felt before, with our heart and with others.
Our resistance to change, desperately holding on to old ideas and habits in the face of new situations, depletes us. Our growth renews us, giving us pride and satisfaction as we successfully reveal our integrity in co-creating ourselves afresh with the universe.
How can I possibly put a new idea into your heads, if I do not first remove your delusions?
— Robert A. Heinlein, “Doctor Pinero” in Life-Line (1939)
Becoming new requires becoming new. The first step in that process is always seeing things in a new way, seeing possibilities and gratitude rather than seeing victimization and entitlement.
Letting go of old habits, old expectations and old defences may be hard, but can you really keep the same old same old and also expect new and empowering results?