The Small Moments
Updated: Jul 17
I recently went to see a live show that included 65 horses in the lineup. I was concerned about contributing my energy to a show that used animals in it. In the past I had refused to bring my kids to circuses because they tended not to treat the animals with respect while making them perform unnatural stunts to wow the audience. However, I looked up independent resources to see what I could find out about the treatment of these horses in the show. I found a couple of third party articles that assured me that this company does treat their animals with respect. So off I went.
Little did I know that this would begin a series of days designed to allow me to practice mindfulness.
The show was a feast for a creative soul. From the innate gracefulness of the horses to the colourful flowing costumes and silks, to the melodic movement of the music, I was lifted to a place where I could forget my body. I was drawn to that still place in me that sees beauty without judgment.
A place that is playful and sees possibility everywhere.
I’ve learned through experience that when something feels this profound, it’s time to pay attention. Gone are the days, as a highly sensitive person, of shutting down those glorious feelings because no one else seemed to get them or because I’d be too “weird” for others.
A word arose throughout the performance with such awe… TRUST. The immense depth of trust the animals displayed in their riders/trainers is so full and complete that it’s almost incomprehensible.
As well as they may treat the animals, let’s face it, loud (though beautiful) booming music, various coloured lighting and being on display for an audience is not a natural setting for any animal. So it takes an enormous depth of trust on the part of the animal to do what the humans are asking of it. Likewise, for the person to trust that the animals will follow the commands and not run amok.
Dr. John Gottman, a relationship expert, says, “Trust is built in the smallest of moments.”
Those horses and trainers must’ve had thousands of tiny moments of opportunity to build their trust in each other.
Now, when something like Trust comes up so strongly, I've learned to stay alert to what other messages may spring out of it. Oddly enough, along came one of those small moments where the opportunity for trust came into my experience, almost immediately after the live show I saw.
A small moment, like when your teenager is going to a party in another city and even though you know him to be a good person, level headed and not rebellious, you still blurt out phrases that tell him your trust in him is questionable.
And then come those tiny minute signs.
Signs that are noticed only when you allow your sensitive nature to open up fully. To be present with another and open to sensing their feelings.
The eyelids flicker, the head moves back so slightly it's almost imperceivable and the eyes… the eyes have a language all their own. They speak softly and booming all at once. “You don’t trust me.” “You think of me as less than who I am.” Even without him speaking a word.
Quite suddenly and surprisingly, shame and embarrassment flood your body. You could certainly mask it and be defensive. After all, there were those times when he messed up… and you’re ready to remind him of them.
However, your eyes speak just as voluminously as his do. He’s your son, after all, sporting a highly sensitive nervous system, as well.
He caught every word in your eyes.
So, do you drop the armor and reveal your vulnerability? Throw caution to the wind and tell him you trust him? Or do you hang on to every rivet and bolt in the armor even tighter, by taking the defensive stand?
AND, do you trust yourself to make the decision that expresses the real you?
Brene Brown is a well-known research professor who's had the opportunity to sink her teeth into dissecting some of life’s deep values. She says that, “Trust is built by small moments and by asking for help.” People tend to be better at giving help than asking for it. She also says, “As small as the moments of trust can be, those could also be moments of betrayal.”
The moments when we don’t take the opportunity to build trust, have the possibility to be small moments of betrayal, depending on the choice we make.
So my example with the teenager is exactly one of those moments. Taking the defensive stand by justifying why he “shouldn’t” be trusted is choosing a moment of betrayal. A missed opportunity to build trust.
By disregarding who he really is, to hold on to the fear of what could be, is a tiny moment of betrayal. It’s subtle and fleeting, yet a crucial moment to build something positive or negative.
Something out of love or something out of fear.
A choice point.
Brene created an acronym for the components of trust, starting with a definition,
“Choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else,” ~by Charles Feltman
B = Boundaries – be clear about your boundaries and hold them respectfully
R = Reliability – do what you say you’re going to do – always
A = Accountability – own your mistakes, apologize and make amends
V = Vault – share only what’s yours to share; what is shared will be held in confidence
I = integrity – act and encourage others - choosing what’s right over what’s fast, fun or easy
and practice your values
N = non-judgment – allow others to fall apart without judgment
G = generosity – assume generosity about another, rather than assuming the worst first
So while these were very profound insights on trust, it wasn’t over yet.
It goes deeper.
While visiting my sister’s cottage, on a beautiful still lake, deciduous and evergreen trees all around and pops of cottages here and there, I was happily reunited with the trees that first taught me to trust Life. A few years back we all piled happily into the motorboat for a tour of the lake. I had hoped I was hiding my nervousness well. I never did learn how to swim even after all those lessons at the YMCA. So I sat there with my life vest on… hanging on for dear life.
I pleaded with my brother-in-law not to drive too crazy, “Just go nice and easy, ok?” Oh yes, I was hiding it well. (Not at all!)
In the midst of gripping the seat and shallow chest breathing, I looked around at the view from the middle of the lake. I was genuinely overcome by this feeling of protection and strength around me. I was incredulous as to where this could be coming from.
It was the trees.
They became bigger than life. They reached through the layers of insecurity and fear that I held around me and they touched my soul. A penetrating, gentle and reassuring way, reminding me to… trust. It came in with such a resounding wisdom and strength, yet at the same time soft and loving.
My muscles relaxed. I let go of the grip I had on the seat. My body breathed deeply and exhaled slowly. My heart smiled and I thoroughly melded with the spirit of the lake and the majestic trees surrounding me.
Hermann Hesse was a poet, novelist and painter, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. He had this to say in his wonderful poem, “Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte” (“Trees. Reflections and Poems”):
“A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.”
So, in the beautiful culmination of a theme that had such a profound meaning, this reminder clarified that deepest and clearest opportunity of trust in Life itself. It’s not our job to control.
This line in John Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy”, fits perfectly here, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Questions to ask are: Have I been BRAVING the opportunities of trust? Or have I been giving others my shirt while I stand naked?
Even though there may have been betrayals in the past, by others or by myself, I choose to take the opportunity of those small moments and… TRUST.
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