When I see photos or watch home movies of myself as a young child, I notice the trust in his eyes. The fearlessness, living without hesitation. Yet as I’ve grown older, it has become a challenge to stay in that space of fearless self-expression. Growing up we’ve all had experiences which have made us slowly retreat in one way or another. Experiences that have taught us that it’s unsafe to express some small or larger aspect of ourselves. Bit by bit we stow away those delicate aspects of our spirit, protecting them so that we won’t get hurt again.
As we grow, we often leave these gifts behind, and our attention focuses more and more on moving forward, on building our lives up. But what if what we’re truly looking for is behind us? What if the completion we’re looking for doesn’t come from achieving a successful career, but from recovering what we long ago left behind?
I have been on a journey of remembering. I have often felt myself hesitate to share words from the heart. I’ve deleted heartfelt text messages without ever pressing send. I have put back a piece of clothing after feeling it was too bold or expressive. Yet when I look at the people I admire most, it’s the one’s with open hearts who express themselves freely, without approval, without invitation, or expectation that inspire me the most.
I am reminded of a plant medicine journey I took years ago. This wasn’t what you may typically think of when they hear the words “plant medicine journey”. I wasn’t in the throws of an Ayahuasca ceremony purging my innermost demons. This journey was a bit more gentle.
A teacher of mine invited us to wander around her property, finding a plant that called to us. So I wandered off, down trails and wooded corridors looking for a sign or magical plant that called to me. But I had trouble knowing what to look for. Finally, as I retraced my steps and headed back, I found myself stopping to gaze at an unassuming milkweed plant by my feet. I decided to sit, legs crossed in front of the plant, and asked if I could journey with it. I then closed my eyes and began to rattle. The repetitive rhythm of the seeds beating against the sides of the dried gourd led me on a journey. I traveled down through the roots of the plant, past the topsoil and bedrock of mother earth, and ended up in a meadow. In the distance I saw the milkweed plant looking magnificent, glowing in the sunlight. I watched it’s leaves outstretched like joyous green arms embracing the light of the sun. As I continued watching, I saw the sunlight slowly fade as ominous clouds came rolling in from behind. Returning my attention back to the milkweed plant, I noticed its leaves unchanged, still outstretched in joy and trust. This act of unconditional self-expression struck me. The milkweed doesn’t care weather the sun is shining or the light is hidden behind heavy clouds. It doesn’t care if anyone takes notice of it’s beauty, or if the butterflys simply pass it by. It remains open, always. It’s leaves are forever outstretched, for the whole world to see. Without expectation, without hesitation or fear. When I catch my leaves curling inward out of fear of judgement or rejection, I remind myself of the gifts milkweed taught me.
We’ve spent years tredging the neuropathways that make unconditional self-expressing difficult for so many of us. The only way to correct it is to step outside of that comfort zone, and make ourselves a bit more vulnerable than we’d like to be. Resistance can be a signal, not a signal to run away, but TOWARDS those little fears with arms outstretched. Remember the child that first felt that fear, comfort them, and let them guide you.
It's more important now than ever before to live with an open heart. Bit by bit that comfort zone will expand, and you can return to the fearless child you have always had inside. Don’t withhold the gifts you have to offer others. Someone needs your medicine right now, embrace the vulnerability it takes to live with leaves outstretched.