Brace or Embrace? That is the Question.

Photo by Jennifer Bonauer on Unsplash

You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation…and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else. (Herman Hesse)

What was the last time you had something happen to you that you really didn’t want to happen?   That thing that created in you a kind of digging your heels in, push back on reality kind of bracing.  “That is not what I needed today!”    Like driving to a car preventative maintenance appointment and having your car break down on the way.   Or finding out someone you believed was a friend has been spreading untrue stories about you, behind your back.   Or getting a health diagnosis for a loved family member that leaves you feeling powerless and devastated.

Life happens – when we brace for it, we are saying with our bodies, with our whole selves – “This is not what I want to experience, not these emotions, not these sensations.”  This is my reality and I want it the way that I want it.   In this moment of bracing against the reality we are actually experiencing, this moment of tension soaks up considerable energy, considerable attention – a proverbial square peg in a round hole as we protest how what shows up does not fit in our template of what we feel should be showing up.

So we should just accept what comes, right?  I hear and feel the calling, the higher self that can express in the moment, like a cosmic voice over, “Everything is all right as it is.”   The call to step back, tune in, expand out and feel that this road block, this upset, this unexpected change in fortune is all alright.  Yes.  Yes and…..I acknowledge I am my highest self – right now and also the self who is balancing connection with the people in my life and the list of priorities that come with work, with school. With caregiving.  With self-care.

I visit my higher self and live daily the really real with the rest of me.  I find it is often the mundane moments that bring out my tendency to brace rather than embrace, the spilling of the coffee grounds, the aftermath of taking the wrong turn on an unfamiliar road, the gap between small expectations of how time shared with a loved one will be and what actually happens.  Even when not identified with the clash of expectations and experience, I can’t claim to occupy the kind of spaciousness to embrace fully.  Sometimes.  Sometimes not.  Maybe you can relate.  I can go with the flow, finding that easiest when I don’t have a plan, when I am not following purpose.   But bracing happens when something that matters is at risk, when we project our fear of what could happen onto the event unfolding in front of us. 

What does love have to do with it?  The core of embracing what “shouldn’t” be happening comes from love, from warm attention, from greeting the experience.  From acknowledging what I have here, including my reaction to the experience as part of my experience.  A reaction that can flow into a response.  No extra baggage, no sticky labelling of the happening, the start of a story that surrounds your experience.  Just naked experience.

Being naked might feel freeing.  Or make you shiver.  Bracing stops the flow of our experience.  Puts on the brakes.  Might feel more stable.  Much harder to move from there.  We might feel the freedom to flow from one experience to the next, having our reactions without stopping the flow of our experience.  The flow of unimpeded tears, the flow of frustration mingling with ongoing curiosity and attention to what can happen next.

When you notice yourself next in the posture of brace, is there space to pause? To soften?  To open up just enough to breathe into the moment?  I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about what happens, to let go of what matters to you. You will have so much more available to you from a posture of embrace, so much more than hunkering into a defended stance.   I feel this choice strongly, in the daily work as an entrepreneur, the daily invitation and the daily discipline to invite openness into my purpose, especially when the networking connection fizzles, the client cancels.  This is a form of personal leadership to receive, without relinquishing, to connect without being overwhelmed.  To embrace what is at stake for you when things are not working out.  To lean in, to discover again what is valuable and maybe in that space another way will become visible on the path to your purpose.  

This is a personal leadership that can be with what feels like chaos, the breakdown of our predictions – the familiar tool of projection we use to withstand not knowing what will happen next.  We brace because it feels too vulnerable to embrace the unknown, because it feels slippery and we are afraid of falling, of losing what we would hold close.   Compared to our habits of bracing, embracing can feel defenseless, weak.  So start with embracing the mundane unwanted things, the car breaking down, the spilled coffee grounds.  Find out what is on the other side of embracing your fear of what you don’t want to happen.