This is a photo of my favorite food treat – a cranberry kombucha drink that I love. And to be honest, it’s something that I’m often crabby about sharing.
You’ll understand why in a bit. But for now, I want to share a story – a story of my buying back to school supplies with my kids this fall.
I don’t enjoy shopping. Back to school shopping – which often feels busy, rushed, and crowded – especially.
And yet with four children, it’s necessary. So this September, I found myself with other parents in Target buying pencils, markers and protractors. As I scanned my kids’ back to school lists, I saw that several teachers asked for optional extras – things like copy paper, art supplies, and tissues. In years past, I skipped this step. After all, it is optional. But truth be told, I skipped this because I felt angry that I was being asked to give more than I was already spending.
As I sat in the Target back to school aisle and felt my anger about buying Kleenex and copy paper, I recognized that the squeeze in my heart was a signpost – an invitation to lean in, and listen. In my anger over tissues, I realized that I was trapped in the “trance of scarcity” – the belief that there isn’t enough money, love or of anything to go around.
At times, I’ve noticed a similar mindset towards food. I have a fairly narrow range of treat foods – so I tend to be possessive about the ones I can and do enjoy. When my kids ask for a taste of my carob almonds or cranberry kombucha, I can feel the same tight squeeze of anger in response, the same unwillingness to share that I experienced in the Target aisle.
In both cases, the trance of scarcity is at work. In both cases, I feel like there’s not enough to go around. And in both cases, I feel afraid that by sharing, I won’t have what I need.
When we feel like we don’t have what we need, we feel deprived, cut off from life and love. We may feel helpless – like we can’t or won’t make it. We may feel frightened or angry. In our response to this separation, we may hoard or cling to the object that we think of as our security in the moment – what we think will help us assuage these feelings of lack and panic.
So we hoard our money or hoard our kombucha or our favorite dessert.
Like everyone else, I live on a budget. And yet I could spend an extra $20 on tissues and copy paper. It may not feel like I could, but I could. So I decided to buy the tissues as a conscious decision to soften my heart and to care.
A week later, I went to back to school night and met my children’s teachers, the recipients of my tissues and paper. And seeing them in person, looking into their eyes, shaking their hands, and seeing their classrooms – all unique to each of them – I felt a wave of gratitude for all that they give to my children and to my neighbor’s children and to our community. I felt so happy that I had given the tissues – that I was able, in a small, small way – to complete the cycle of giving and receiving, and to give back to them.
When we feel connected – when we feel attached to our own hearts, to each other, and to our communities – we naturally care. In fact, I would argue that we can only care when we feel connected; that it’s this connection that feeds our caring.
When we feel disconnected, we contract and self protect. It’s easy to view other people, parts of ourselves, and the earth as objects – as something to meet our needs, or something to manipulate so we can get what we want. We may offer care out of a sense of duty, not from our hearts. Ouch.
When we feel disconnected, we armor up. Our hearts can feel stony and hard. Sometimes my heart feels squeezed dry by the pressures and stresses and rush and hurts of modern life. I feel like I have to do everything myself and feel burdened and alone. Rumi says it well here:
Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.
You’ve been stony for too many years.
Try something different.
The answer to disconnection is to connection: to connect. And the answer to a stony heart is to crumble, to soften.
Buying tissues can soften your heart. So can sharing your favorite treat food. So can asking for help when you’re the one needing support.
Healing occurs through relationship, through connection. Asking for help and support from trusted companions – what I call scaffolding – is the most important and essential task when you’re healing a habit of overeating, sugar bingeing or binge eating. It’s also the most vulnerable.
So much comes up when we find ourselves in the vulnerable space of needing! It is more uncomfortable to receive than to give, because relying on and opening to others puts us in a dependent position. This can bring up tremendous fear about being hurt, and we may try to fix ourselves on our own in an attempt to avoid this vulnerability.
This week I’m on the receiving end of support, recovering from a bout of poison oak. I had to surrender my heart to receive care. And yet this care helped me feel cared for and seen in a vulnerable place of being irritable, grouchy, and in pain.
Our true abundance is in each other, in our interconnectedness. Like a tree that is rooted to and in the living earth, it is connection that enables us to freely give of our fruit; it is in connectedness that we find peace; it is in connectedness that we find our caring. It is in connection that we soften, find rest, and feel the safety of belonging, where we can lay down the mantel of needing to do it all on our own.