I took a note recently in a workshop I was auditing. ‘…hear and understand in safe, honest and authentic interactions without the constraints of past experience…’ The depth and complexity of that statement astound me. So, here goes my perspective and story.
In a recent blog, I wrote about moments and how moments influence the general remembrance of the experience as a whole, at least for me. I think the clincher to the above quote is, ‘without constraints of past experience’. As an introvert, my reflection and rumination cause me to replay past experiences and moments in my mind. I feel the way the experience affected me, how I moved past the experience and whether I would like to have that same experience repeated. This has positive and negative connotations and results. There are so many details and instances that play into the way we feel about our experiences. Is it your first experience in this situation, is it a repeated experience, is that experience with the same person or a different person, and what are the feelings that encase that experience?
Anyone who has read my blog knows that I am challenged when in transition. I am challenged emotionally, mentally and physically. My life continues to transition in many areas. But I have found peace in those transitions. That peace manifests itself in the comfort of the knowledge that I do not have to explain my reaction to those transitions. I am wholly and honestly dealing the best that I can and my decisions are from the most honest, real, thoughtful and reflective space I can get to. And my past experiences play into that ‘dealing’. Past experiences inform me, affect me, and influence my current reality. But they can also spin the current into a less than positive place. My peace is knowing that I am using all I have learned while trying to always be present. And when I feel an experience creeping into my current, I try to reflect and understand where my heart sits at that moment, without constraints.
Reflection on your response to anything is important. And hard. I am working on not allowing my past experiences to rob me of safe, honest, authentic interactions. These ideas keep popping up in things I read and come across. At work, I like to look at the systemic reasons things happen and what system needs to be changed or enhanced to produce a different result. In our experience and life, there is a difference between what we think and the way we think. When we rethink our thinking then we can experience change, systemically and personally. So…’ without the constraints of past experience’ means to consider how previous experience might be influencing your ability to be present; safely, honestly and authentically. It may also be influencing the way you think about a given experience or possibility.
Exhausting, right? I could circle this idea for hours, but the question is, how? How do we safely, honestly and authentically approach interactions, experiences, and life, without constraints from past experience. For me, the answer to that comes from a specific experience. Shocking, I know.
I grew up with a fascination for horses. I loved them. I used to dream of riding a horse at full speed through an open pasture, wind in my hair, smooth long strides under me and the freedom that swelled up at that moment. I had no context for the feeling, I had never had that experience, I just imagined that was how it would be. About 10 years ago I had the time and chance to learn to ride for real. What I realized was that those huge animals that I loved were just that, huge. They were also strong and sensitive and had their own mind and ideas. So, each time I went to ride I had to talk myself into my abilities, which were minimal at best. Then, one day, it came together. The horse that taught me to ride which I ended up owning, Hana, gave me the experience of my life. We were loping and then moved into a gallop. We circled the arena and suddenly we were in sync and moving faster than I ever had before. I sat into the saddle, let her have more of her head and enjoyed the ride. It didn’t last long, and it wasn’t an open meadow, but it was the experience I had dreamed of. We slowed and stopped and I cried from joy.
You see, that was an experience that I had always hoped for. Leading into this moment, I had worked weekly for a year on overcoming fear, learning how to listen to the horse and struggling over my inability to get the right lead, among other things. But, at that moment, I did not let the constraints of my past experience stop me from authentically experiencing that moment.
So how? Hope. Hope without constraints. Things change us, but hope can be a constant source of dispelling what the past would have us believe and when we may need to challenge our own thinking. My hope is rooted and anchored in my experience with God. Regardless of how things may try to change me, damage me, inhibit me, judge me, or condemn me, I have enough experience with my God to know that those feelings and words are bullshit (sorry!). Hope is a strong thing. It’s a direction, an anchor, an awareness of something better and an expectation of an amazing experience without constraints. My heart sits in hope. So that’s ‘how’ for me.
“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” Psalm 71:14
By His Grace