Robert Althouse, teacher at the Zen Life and Meditation Center of Chicago, writes that “one of the best ways to make significant changes in your life is to commit yourself to living a Zen-inspired lifestyle of openness, empathy and clarity.” He elaborates ten reasons for living in this way, with the first being —
a more accurate sense of self, [which] helps you clarify the nature of your true self by giving you a more expansive way to approach your experience. By learning to be less fearful and more open, you are able to balance many aspects of yourself that were previously hidden, repressed or not appreciated.
Yes, yes, and … ouch! Living less fearfully, I find every day, does indeed open my mind’s eye to a panoramic view of my/self, the people I encounter, and the troubles I see in the world. Dropping my guard and setting aside closely held views offers glimpses of a life that is filled with surprises. Over the last eight month, for example, a new kind of love has entered my perception: love of another, of myself, and love in its own pure form. Allowing love to penetrate has softened the protective shell and emboldened my easily spooked heart to venture beyond its self-protective enclave.
The “ouch!” speaks to the flip side of all this sweetness. Living less fearfully brings with it all manner of risks: it makes me vulnerable — assailable, defenseless, exposed, naked, susceptible, tender. That is the cost:benefit of living authentically.
Exposed on the cliffs of the heart.
Stoneground under your hands.
Even here, though, something can bloom;
on a silent cliff-edge an unknowing plant blooms, singing, into the air.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)