After the retreat I thought to share something with you, dear reader, and my sharing came through as a story.
Carol lived on a mountain. She was leading a quiet life, enjoying walks in the nature and occasional meetings with wild animals. In the evenings she would sit in her garden under a cherry tree watching sunsets. She would dream of places that she wanted to visit and quietly wish for her life to be different. The cherry tree was in full blossom, the air smelled delicious, fresh, promising. Carol was having tea and listening to birds singing.
Suddenly she heard something. She walked back into the house and heard that someone was at the door. That was strange, she did not expect anyone, no one was due for a visit.
Cautiously she went to the door and looked through the eyehole to see who was there. The was another loud knock. She did not recognize the figure so she asked-
-You don't know me, but I brought you a gift.
-A gift? Nobody ever gives me gifts. I don't want it. Please go away.
-Don't you even want to know what the gift it is? - the man's voice sounded confused.
-Nope! I don't take gifts from strangers. Leave me alone. PLEASE!
Carol felt anxious, it was getting late and the sun was just starting to set. The man behind the door felt somehow threatening. She was frustrated and one more time asked the man to leave her alone.
This time the man kicked the door, getting impatient. It was rather strange that the woman did not even open the door to talk to him in the eye. People are normally friendly around here. But Carol's door stayed shut.
Carol was looking through the eyehole in the door trying to see what gift the man had, she was a little bit curious, but also fearful, who knows what weirdo was behind the door.
-You can just leave the gift and walk away! -she shouted - I am not used to strangers here, can you please leave me alone.
The man did not move. He was here bringing gifts and this kind of rejection was surprising. He wasn't going to move until the gift was received. He took a phone out of the pocket and dialed a number. You could tell he was nervous by the twitch in his eye.
-Boss, she is not opening the door. What do I do? ... Right, you are going to send me some help? ... Thanks! Appreciated. Someone will come in an hour?... Ok then.
The man relaxed a little and sat down on the steps. He settled to wait.
Carol watched the man through a window, she was hiding behind the curtain peeking at him, still confused why would anyone bring gifts to her. All her life no one gifted her anything. She had to work hard for things she wanted. She was stubborn and she could set a goal and achieve it. But she never got anything for free. She never gave any gift to anyone either. Her life up till now had no such a concept at all. What people do was not of her concern. There were no people around here on the mountain. She was alone, self-sufficient and content with her solemn life.
This man was still outside, now sitting on her porch. Is he not going to move?
The sun was almost down and it was getting dark in the room. Carol switched the lights on and was pacing up and down the room getting more and more nervous. She went to the door again and shouted:
-You are scaring me, I don't want any gifts, leave now!
-Oh, Carol, don't worry, you will like the gift, just open the door and allow me to give it to you.
-How do you know my name?!
-I know all about you, I know that you will love this gift and that this exactly what you wanted! Don't be afraid, please.
-Now you are really freaking me out! I am telling you, I don't want gifts. I'm not interested in gifts. You can keep the gift, just leave me alone.
-Are you sure? You will really like it! - the man insisted. - All you have to do is open the door and let me give it to you. Then I will walk away. I have other deliveries to do. I can not just leave it on the steps. I have to give it to you by hand and I need you to sign that you received it.
Carol was getting panicky, she even thought about going to the kitchen and grabbing a knife, just in case this man would try to break in. She was still by the door, her heart racing fast, her breathing was getting intense, she felt the tension all over her body. But she wasn't giving in. The stubbornness was holding the front of resistance. She did not know what else to do, how to get rid of that man with his gifts. It hasn't even occurred in her mind that perhaps it's ok to accept the gift. She knew strongly that unwanted gift has to be rejected. Without a shadow of a doubt, she will hold the position and wait for the man to go away. But he was still there.
She heard someone else coming up and greeting the man. She looked through the eyehole again and saw another two figures approaching.
"Oh my god", she thought, "now what"?
-Carol, would you open the door please, we are friends, don't be afraid, we brought gifts to you!
-I don't want any gifts!
-But we are not leaving without giving you gifts!
-You can keep them, go away.
-But these gifts are for you. It's what you want. Can you allow us to give you what we brought and we will leave, I promise.
- now you are starting to really annoy me!- Carol shouted.
Her face was turning red in anger. How dare those people behave like that! Nobody asked for any gifts, she certainly never wanted to receive anything from strangers. And why they know her name??
-Listen, Carol, there is nothing to be afraid of. This gift is wonderful, please open the door.
-I am not opening the door, I told you already. Why do you want to give me gifts? I never asked for anything!
-That's why they are gifts, you don't ask, but they come.- A soft voice of a woman spoke back to her.
-That sounds like a twisted Santa story! I have never accepted any gifts. How can I trust that's it is not a bomb or something that would explode and destroy my home?
-It is not a bomb! Don't be ridiculous, woman. -the first man spoke. -So are you opening the door or do we have to start breaking in?
Carol raised her eyebrows.
-Really? Are you serious? Are you going to break into my house to give me gifts? What kind of insane idea is that?!
-What kind of insane behavior is to not open the door when someone wants to give you a gift?
-I told you, people, I don't accept gifts.
-But what if it's something you always dreamed of? Aren't you curious even a little bit what we have got for you?
-No, I don't want to know! I have all I want and I don't want any gifts, the best gift would be now if you all just walked away.
-But Carol, you are saying no to something that would bring you a lot of joy.
-I don't want that!
-You must be crazy!
-I'm not crazy, you are crazy bringing gifts and not going away when I say that I don't want them!
-OK,- the man said, -let's make this simple. You open the door, you allow us to give you a gift, you see what we brought, you sign that you got it and we will walk away. Does that sound simple?
Carol stood quietly. She did not know what to say. This was really strange and unbelievable. How could this be happening? She has no one to call for help too. That's why she lived in a mountain so that she could be left alone and away from so the worldly human interactions. She hated people. They always made her feel an outsider, not like everyone else. She learned that relationships are hard and it's best not to get involved in any kind of friendships. Stubbornness was her only friend. She could always trust that stubbornness will give her results and will get her what she wanted. Now, these people at the door were making no sense! Allowing to receive gifts was something that never crossed Carol's mind. It just was nonexistent. So this situation seemed like something out of a movie to her. Not real.
-Carol! Open the door!
-Ok then, we are going to stay here till you do. You like it or not. The only way out of this situation is by opening the door. Do you hear this, Carol?
-Jesus! I said no! No no no, get that?
-Fine. Be it your way. We are staying.
Carol saw all three of them sitting down on the stairs facing away from the door.
She suddenly thought, why was she so afraid. They said it's not a bomb. Hmm, shall she trust that? But why would she trust that? These people know her name and say that they know what she wants. That is rather odd. And why are they so stubborn? Why don't they just walk away?
"Ah"- she though. -"They are stubborn like me! Interesting".
Somehow at that point, she softened. It was kind of nice to see how stubborn they were. It kind of felt like they have something in common. Something that she never had with anyone else. It was always just her that would hold on to her way no matter what. Other people were changing minds all the time, but not her! She knew what she wanted and how she wanted. She was in control. She was the one that she could trust. Changing opinion was not an option. Once she got her mind set, that was it. Unbreakable. Unmovable. Solid like a marble wall. That's how she liked it. Her way or no way.
Interestingly for Carol, these people acted like she did.
That made her curious. She looked through the eyehole again. They were still sitting, talking among themselves quietly, nodding heads in agreement. She wondered how long they will stay. She knew she will not move from her position now when a competition of who is more stubborn started in her head.
And then she saw, that winning at stubbornness is not a win at all. This situation will stay here as long as she will hold it. It was really up to her to end this ridiculous game. She had that power to open the door, allow the gift and let them go, but what to do with resistance? She had the idea that being stubborn is the only way to be. But now to get her way, to get those people leave, she had to give in and change her mind. She had to open the door to breaking her hard rules and she did not like that. "Rules are good", she thought, "they help to hold everything in control and being stubborn, never changing what was decided, was the rule number one". So for Carol, this was a tough nut to crack. She thought about walking out of the house through the back door and never coming back, that could solve it. Possibly.
She looked through the window into the dark. The three siluetes were parked in front of the house and not moving.
Carol made herself a cup of tea. She was sipping it and enjoying the delightful warm. She thought about people outside in the cold. Somehow she felt something new, her heart was becoming warm towards these strange people.
'Is that what they call compassion?' -she wandered.
The tickle in the heart was an interesting sensation. Her heart was closed for all this time, there was a blank feeling there. There was no warmth towards other people. She liked animals and birds, but humans were something to stay away from, they felt unsafe. And now something was different, unknown. The feeling almost made her stand up, make tea and take it to those people outside. But Carol did not move. She sat on a kitchen chair, sipping from her cup, confused by what was happening. She wasn't sure if to go to bed or not. Eventually, she did.
The morning came early. Carol woke up with the first rays of the sun, she immediately went to the window to check if people were still there. And they were. Sitting in the same place, unmoved. She made herself a cup of coffee and sat quietly thinking on what to do next. She can't spend the whole day trying to get rid of them, that would be a waste of time, she thought. So how to break that barrier inside, the one that screams for holding on to the rules? How to open to allow the gift so these people can simply walk away? Something has to happen! She almost cried in desperation. She almost asked for the help of angels.
Then she stood up, her hair messy, eyes wild, knees wobbly and she found herself walking to the door and opening it. She has surprised herself by such spontaneous action.
-Hello! Do you like some coffee?- words came out of her mouth that felt like someone else was speaking.
The three heads turned at her, nodding- "yes, please! That would be really nice".
Carol closed the door and went to make coffee. She felt like some kind of meltdown started, her arms moving, her mind silent, something was very unusual.
Then she surprised herself even more- she opened the door and called people inside. She welcomed strangers into her home. That was unheard of in her little bubble.
They came in. They sat quietly at the table and thanked her for the warm coffee silently nodding heads. Nobody spoke. They were waiting for Carol to take action, to open up.
Carol sat with them too. Sipping coffee silently, she looked in these people's eyes and felt the warmth. She felt connected like they were no longer strangers, but welcome guests. She knew that the only way forward now it to open up. She felt tears in her eyes and softening in her heart. She felt that by allowing these people in something shifted in her whole being. She no longer felt the need to protect herself, she actually felt a delightful sensation of melting the walls that were built around her heart. And the silence grew deeper.
She was the first to speak. She mumbled 'thank you'. Tears were running down her cheeks. Her heart was open, she did not care how she looked, what these people would think of her. She felt warmth in her heart and that was very sweet.
The first man stood up, got close to her and hugged her, while she was silently weeping. That felt good. He held her for a while letting the woman soak in the warmth of the hug, giving her time to heal. Still, without saying a word they stood there surrendering to the moment.
Then Carol laughed, she felt relieved. She realized what the gift was- the delicious softening! She no longer felt the walls that she had built so carefully around herself. She felt that being open is safe, that allowing is healing, that being flexible and curious is not scary at all. She laughed as she saw how ridiculous is to resist.
The people were laughing too, giggling in delight. So sweet that this hardcore woman could finally relax. All three of them had a shine in their eyes. Their job was done. Now they can go. Their gift was received. They bowed to Carol and walked to the door, smiling silently, they left like ghosts.
Carol was left alone, she felt that something clicked, that something deep has changed. She stood smiling, allowing life to bring her gifts. No more resistance. She felt open and raw, that was unusual but very sweet. Like a river of honey was flowing through her heart. She whispered 'thank you, thank you, thank you...'
The day has started, there was a mystery in the air and softness that was never known before. Carol felt a delicious feeling of surrendering. Who knows what happens next, but now she felt open. All gifts are welcome!
Knock knock- there was someone else at the door...