Revelations on Cliffs

Before this weekend, I’d only been camping once. Though we only camped for one day, the cold night temperature was enough to convince me that the one time experience was sufficient. But, I like trees…really, really like trees…and I also really appreciate the feeling of oneness that nature facilities for me. So, four years later, in the spirit of ‘just doing,’ I gave it another go.

During this trip, I had a lot of space to be aware and sit with how events in my life these past couple of months have changed me, the emotions and challenges that have surfaced, and, most importantly, what they have taught me about myself and to what extent they reflect my progress in trying to honor my core values.

When you wake up much earlier than everyone else, when human conversations are shut off and replaced with the sounds of nature, and you spend hours alone looking beyond a cliff that overlooks the bay (this view):


….well, when that happens, let’s just say that the internal fog very slowly follows the external famous bay area fog’s starts to lift, little by little.

If you follow my blog, then it won’t come as a surprise how interested I’ve been lately in the healing power of storytelling. Storytelling as a means to connection is something that I believe in, and which has further inspired me to use honesty and vulnerability as a guide in my relationships with people.

But, during this time, I was struggling. I was struggling because I found myself not wanting to be open with my words, not wanting to share stories, and, ultimately, not wanting to be vulnerable. And, it was bothering me, because I couldn’t quite comprehend the logic behind it. But, as I sat by the cliff, sitting with all that I was carrying, I found a new compassion and kindness towards myself that allowed me to unpack why I was feeling so guarded.

It suddenly hit me; something so simple, but such a revelation at the moment: exposing ourselves, sharing, being vulnerable-that requires letting someone in to our sacred space. It is a space where we only allow those who we feel can receive us and accept us, with those whom we trust to hold our most fragile segments of ourselves. When we no longer feel that in a relationship, whether it be with a family member, a friend, a partner, etc., then our desire to share our stories, to open up and connect, is compromised.

And the magnificent part is realizing: hey, that’s perfectly okay!

When it doesn’t feel right, when our intuition is telling us that at that time we don’t feel safe sharing, then there is no shame in listening to it and we gain nothing from forcing it or trying to beat ourselves over it.

I recently read The Art of Thinking Clearly, in which Dobelli echoes many authors by stating that we often make a decision based on intuition and it is only after making the decision that we try to justify it by using logic. In other words, sometimes our intuition knows what we need before our logical selves has time to catch up. There are situations where we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss our intuition and I found myself knowing that this was one of those times when I needed to listen to it.

The most important insight that Dobelli left me with, however, is the concept of via negativa, the negative path. Dobelli writes a short anecdote where the pope asks Michelangelo to tell him the secret of his genius and how he created the statue of David. In response, Michelangelo says, ‘It’s simple. I removed everything that is not David.’

This response aligns with via negativa. We may not always know how to make things work for us, but we have negative knowledge – we are better at picking up what will not make things work for us. Dobelli makes the argument that through the negative path we can eliminate the errors, we can stay away from what we know does not work for us, and that in itself helps matters go up in life, instead of down.

Via negativa is a concept that the Greeks and Romans used, namely as a theology to try to describe the divine through negation. In relating it to this post and understanding that it is perfectly okay not to want to share with someone, via negativa is a concept that helps us comprehend that positive knowledge (what we need to do to make things work) may not always be apparent, but listening to the intuition of what is not working for us, what our intuition is warning us against, will, ideally, be enough to start turning things upward, if we choose to listen.

What internal insights have you discovered about yourself in the last couple of weeks?


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