As many of you know already, my family moved in early June to a rental home that came with five chickens. My husband had chickens as a child, so he immediately picked these ones up and held them with ease. The kids and I…well, it took us more time.
Chickens don’t stand still when you move toward them, so there’s an art to getting near enough to catch them. Eli (our 6-year-old) learned this art quickly, but when it came to the decisive SWOOP necessary to actually hold them in his arms, he’d balk. He’d get the chicken right at his feet and then freeze.
Charlotte (age 3) spent the first couple of weeks watching the rest of us play with the birds, petting them when they were in some else’s arms. But once her courage grew big enough, she took off. She was less about the art of anything and more about persistence combined with reaching, mid-sprint, for good, firm fist-holds of tail feathers.
The magic of it all has been ALL of us have learned to hold chickens. These birds are BIG, and their beaks and talons long. Honesty they STILL intimidate me. But by spending enough time in their presence…or watching other people doing so…and testing out our own methods of getting near and making contact, all of us can hold them in our arms.
I think fears are a lot like chickens. They’re often big – or appear to be with all those feathers – and their beaks and talons long. We know they’re in our yard (our bodies, hearts, minds…cities, nations, world) – we hear their sounds and scratchings and step often in their poo – but we haven’t learned to be with them comfortably. So we do our best to ignore them, or turn the volume up on everything else to drown them out: we drink wine and eat chocolate and schedule and surf ourselves silly. We stare at our smart phones and plan for trips and weekends and pour self help and creativity and positive thinking and entertainment and drugs en masse down our throats.
Because fear scares us. We want to keep it at bay.
My sense is that (unlike chickens) fear is the heart of every problem on our globe. And since big problems are echos of little problems and individual problems the pebbles whose ripples roll out into national and international and even galactic affairs, the ability to get comfortable enough with our own fear to look at it squarely and develop the art or persistence necessary to hold it in our arms until it’s size and beaks and talons terrify us no longer: this is the hope of our future. This is the skill that can take us to new and wonderful places – as a species, and, if that feels too grandiose a view, then as partners and co-workers and families and friends.
And absolutely not least, as individual people.
Tending trust is, in part, the practice of getting comfortable with fear. It’s the practice of looking at fear so intently that you learn to see beyond it, past its jagged teeth to a landscape of hope and possibility. Not a landscape painted over top of all our yuck, but a landscape that exists in all dimensions, right in the midst of that yuck. An environment within ourselves and in the world we inhabit that supports the changes we want and need to make, that offers the wisdom we need when we need it, that tends to our wounds and catches us when we’re in free fall.
Looking at fear, rather than running from it, is the doorway to this world. It’s the powerful threshold where hope and despair meet. It’s the possibility of living more and more of our lives in the Light.
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If you’d like to read more about this angle of tending trust, here are some related posts:
- One collective thing
- Ready in the wings
- Finding trust at earth’s bedside
- An interview with Christine Valters Paintner
And if you’re new here, my warmest love and welcome to you! If you haven’t noticed the free sketches in the side bar, they’re a wonderful introduction to what trust means here. I’ll be taking them down in September and folding them into another project, so if you’re interested in receiving them this way (30 days, by email), sign up by the end of this month.