It happens to all of us - we get hurt, we fall, someone disappoints us. We get fearful and so we close ourselves off - slowly but surely. It sneaks up on us. Our defense mechanisms are like instinct and many times we don't even realize they are there. We only know that life isn't as joyful as it once was and that we've become cynical and more cautious.
I remember talking to a counselor years ago who asked me point blank "Why are you such a smart-ass and so cynical?" "I don't know, it's the way I am" was my answer. An unexplored child's answer.
I've since spent many hours for many years exploring how and why I became so cynical and closed off from life. It really isn't who I am. I can spare you the details - it was life and we've all faced it. The particulars don't really matter. What matters is how we face our challenges. If we allow our hearts to close then we die an early death. I don't want to live or die that way and I hope you don't either.
In my ongoing journey to be open and to experience life fully, I've found the following steps useful:
1. Use meditation, reflection, and insight to identify your defense mechanisms.
2. Read, read, and read some more. Study how others have dealt with fear, pain, and disappointment. Be informed and inspired, but don't stop here. You've got to get out into the world and put your knowledge into practice.
3. Have faith - in God, the Universe, your higher self, nature...anything. Just have faith in something bigger than you.
4. Reach deep down and find courage. Return to step three when necessary.
5. Get out of the mindset that got you where you are. Meditate, pray, and open up.
6. Let go and open up to life. You can't always control the outcome. Let life happen and enjoy the ride - even when it's a little scary.
7. Take risks. Nothing in life is guaranteed. Life is fragile and that is what makes it precious.
8. Do it all over again.
Learn new things - experience success and failure.
Connect with others - experience love and pain.
Learn to live again.
Be wide open.
Some of my favorite resources are listed below.
Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living
“The only way to find true happiness in life is to risk being completely cut open.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk