Open Handed Writing

I’m beginning to wonder if the tightness in my writing is actually in my grip.


My writing felt tight this week.

So did my living, come to think of it. I didn’t love as loosely as I like.

In yoga, there is a constant ebb and flow between opposing forces. Effort and surrender. Death to re-birth. Breath in. Breath out.

Using the breath, we breathe into the spaces we are tight. Resistant. This may be a joint or a muscle. It may be an emotion or thought. In yoga we practice releasing these attachments. Physical, mental, and spiritual.

When I was in a college, I landed on a metaphor that I have kept with me.

Picture a hand holding an object.

When we hold things the pain we may feel when they are taken from us has more to do with our grasp than the object itself. If I clasp something to my heart, grip it with all my strength, wrap myself around it, then if it is taken, it must be wrestled from me, wrenched from my grasp. I cannot help but be injured in this struggle.

My pain is in my posture.

If, on the other hand, I hold an object in my cupped hand outstretched, though the object is secure it is not possessed in the same way. I am not possessed by it. It may be lifted from my grasp without violence or struggle.

At the time I came to consciousness of this metaphor, it was God who I imagined giving or taking away. This idea of open-handedness a practice in trust with the divine Father.

Anyone who has practiced or learned from Buddhism will recognize this metaphor as a classic illustration of the suffering that comes from attachment. That the end of suffering is the releasing of our attachment to temporal things destined to change, evolve, die.

Today, my yoga instructor said:

The world isn’t coming at you.

You are coming at the world.

I’m beginning to wonder if the tightness in my writing is actually in my grip.

Writing can seem so final. It ceases to evolve as soon as you hit “Publish.” A snapshot of your thoughts in a moment. And then your thoughts change. Grow. Your words, however, are static.

I have yet to figure out how to make my writing mimic the expansion of my life and spirit. How to hold it in the open-hand of offering rather than the grasping hand of ambition.


One of the things I love about the Catholic tradition is the ever expanding family of Saints. This acknowledgment that human holiness is not just a thing locked in the past, but possible today. Right now. In this moment.

Our Lady of Aparecida – Patron Saint of Brazil. She stowed away with me four years ago and has been my quiet companion ever since.

Once in explaining to someone why I had (seemingly) left Christianity behind I insisted, “It’s not that I’ve rejected the Christian Canon. I’ve just expanded my canon to include others in it.”

For many, this will seem like heresy or hubris. Ironically, it is the closest I come to humility, this acknowledgement of the vast wisdom that can be found from a multiplicity of human experiences across time and culture. Not just in the past, but in the present.

I was no saint this week. I do not aspire to be one next week either.

But in my practice to come, I hope to come at the world and my words with open hands and a looser a grip.

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