How to Stay Open to Life, Even When You’re Afraid of Getting Hurt
What if I get hurt?
I don’t think I can cope, I can’t take that risk.
It’s better to stay safe, right?
I have a dog, and walking is something I love to do. When I do, I feel at peace with nature. For the past three months, I’ve been travelling alone in France and northern Italy. Every day I like to go off exploring. Where I am currently staying, there are acres upon acres of forest and beautiful little walks along the pilgrim’s path that weaves its way through the region.
As I have gone along my journey I have become more confident on my walks and have felt braver to explore further afield. My fears have abated. At the beginning, I was afraid of getting lost, which I have faced by getting lost twice. Both times, I was OK.
I have been rewarded for my bravery with stunning fields of butterflies and mint, being up close to a wild deer – not to mention the stunning views I have seen, and the sensation of tranquillity and oneness with nature I have experienced.
But the fear that has lingered in my life, which I have had to face up to and overcome time and again on my three-month journey, is a fear of being hurt.
This fear has penetrated my relationships, has prevented me from following my passions and longed-for career, and has kept me from truly giving of myself, in case I am hurt once more, by failure and making mistakes, or letting myself down.
For a long time, I stood safely on the side-lines, protecting myself, but missing out on the experiences and opportunities for me to grow, to love, and to receive recognition and success.
So when I decided to start my three-month journey I decided it would be about letting go and living fully in the moment, with no planning, no safety nets. I would trust in life and relish the challenge of exploring. I have been moving on every few days and, because I knew that the moment and opportunities were truly limited, I chose to commit to every moment. Instead of standing on the sidelines, I gave myself fully to the experience, to what I was doing and what I saw, heard, smelt, tasted and felt with no expectations, just curiosity.
Some of those experiences, people and places were good, stunning or extraordinary and others were bad, ugly or disappointing, but they were all experiences that I have lived. They make up my memories and part of my adventure. I have learnt a lot from both about myself and have grown in confidence.
I have been fully present, opening more and more each day, and living totally in the moment.
Today, as I set off on my walk into another area of unchartered nature, feeling buoyant and confident, I strode out at pace with the sun shining on my back, enjoying feeling my muscles working. My dog Faith and I followed the wooded trails here and there, at times having to backtrack as the path became overgrown or petered out, but this didn’t deter me.
I felt goooood…
Then as I was heading back to my car about an hour or so later, my foot slipped, my ankle twisted and I heard the scrape of gravel as the rocky path loomed up to meet my face as I reached my hands out to meet it. I slid forward, scraping my bare legs on the gravel and ripping the skin on my palms. I was flat out and face down. My skin burned and I felt a little stunned.
I picked myself up slowly, noticing that I was on an uneven path on a downward slope. I found a grassy patch to one side and sat down to survey the damage. A little blood here and there, the odd graze, but overall not too bad. My ankle hurt and my skin stung.
So I sat and breathed and let the moment pass, and gave my ankle a wiggle. All that was left was a big grazed cut on my left palm. I was hurt and I felt a little pain, but the damage was minimal; nothing that a bit of antiseptic cream and some important TLC wouldn’t heal.
Taking my time, I brushed myself down, picked myself up and re-found my footing.
Mistakes happen; I didn’t berate myself for it, which I may have done in the past. I felt no embarrassment or shame I felt able to cope with the situation.
But after my fall I made sure I took slower, steadier steps, concentrating on where I was going and staying present in the moment.
I realised that, before it happened, my mind had been wandering, thinking about a client, not looking or focusing on what I was doing. I had been walking at the same powerful pace as I had uphill and on the flat, but the terrain had changed and I hadn’t adapted to it.
Going downhill is the same as living in tune with the flow of life you don’t need to put so much effort in; you just need to allow the force of energy or momentum (gravity, in this case) to do the work.
The same is true of life. If we relax and go with the flow and listen to our intuition, it’s easy and almost effortless at times, and a clear sign that you’re on the right path.
It is essential, though, that we give our full attention to what we are experiencing, so we stay attuned to the situation, and don’t push too hard and fall flat on our faces. If we lose concentration, it is then that we make mistakes and get hurt!
By being open and staying connected to ourselves ~ our emotions, all our senses, our bodies and our natural vulnerabilities ~ we don’t have to be afraid of getting hurt. We don’t need to close down, stay small, avoid risks.
Instead, we can listen to ourselves and feel what we need, be in tune with our environment and the current situation, including the people in it. We can adapt our behaviour and responses accordingly, knowing that we have the resources and the skills to be brave and move forward with love and our best interests at heart.
And even if we trip for a moment, we can readjust ourselves pretty quickly and return to what we were doing and where we were going. We can learn from the experience what not to do next time, so that we can keep growing in confidence open to life’s experiences.
Photo by Robert Bejil