Each semester I begin teaching Psychology with a series of questions, How do you know if you have an open mind? Why is it important to keep your mind open and how do you know when you are closing it down? As we brainstorm the answers there is always a little discomfort in the room, not only because we barely know each other but also taking a look at yourself isn’t always easy.
To support my students I give them one of my personal examples. This semester I shared how my daughter chose to make her own Halloween costume. Immediately, my mind was open to the idea. I knew because I felt interested in what she had to say, curious about the creative process and willingly to let her surprise me (no attachment to outcome). She did an amazing job, pulling it together with odds and ends around the house. Old sheets, glue sticks and some needle and thread were suddenly being put to good use. She did have a few requests from me however, one was glitter, and lots of it and a head band. She and I went to the store to purchase it and it wouldn’t be long after I would get the joy of watching her in this creative process. Although it took her several hours it didn’t look like work. She happily listened to music while I cooked in the kitchen. In that moment, our minds were wide open (in the flow and free).
The next night was Halloween. I noticed she started putting on her costume a little earlier than previous years. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until I heard her say, now I need to apply the glitter. I believe her exact words were, I need to roll my body in glitter. At that moment, my eyes got wide, I stopped breathing and started thinking (anticipating) the mess. It was almost as if my body was saying alert, alert, you may have a possible emergency here. With a concerned yet firm tone in my voice I said, “Ah, you are going to have to do that outside.” “Outside, said my daughter, it is way too cold out there you can’t make me do this outside.” “Well, you can’t do this inside” I responded. Immediately, I could feel my mind closing like a bridge with warning signs all over it saying, Don’t cross the line.
She did end up putting the glitter on outside, however, it didn’t matter because as soon as she came indoors it quickly started to fall off and track itself all over the house. To calm myself down, I immediately, went to self-talk, only the kind of self-talk I chose did not work. I heard myself say things like, she doesn’t listen, I am going to have to vacuum before we go out trick or treating, and I am so tired of cleaning up messes. In the end the vacuum did come out of the closet and I managed to put a weak smile on my face, shouting as she whisked out the door, “Have a good time, honey.”
Once she was gone, I felt a bit guilty for overreacting, I missed my open mind, living in the moment, breathing, being creative together, letting the process unfold as is. I wondered how I could have handled it differently. What I learned is open minds are not about being perfect or capturing a hallmark moment. They are about honoring your feelings and the insights of others without judgement. It is healthy and necessary to let someone know your limits. Beating myself up was no different than letting the air (energy) out of my tires.
Here is the thing, I would love to have my windows open year around but that would be impossible with the cold. However, I can maintain my open mind (energy) by gazing out the window and observing what I see. I can also observe the discomfort inside of myself when I find myself in tense or uncomfortable situations. This allows me to balance the art of keeping an open mind while setting healthy limits.
Today, consider noticing the difference in your own energy when your mind is open or closed. Observe without judgment and know it is your awareness (not so much your actions) which brings you the wisdom.
Sherianna is the author of six books the most recent being Mantras Made Easy, a simple way to both increase and sustain your energy. Check out her products and services at yourdailyenergy.com and sheriannaboyle.com.