The Practice of Trust

“I am open and present.” Bullshit.  “I am grounded.”  Nope, I don’t believe you.  “I am nature.”  I don’t think so, lady.  I am sitting across from a stranger.  We are practicing a way of dialoguing called “diads”.  I am supposed to be in the now and notice my thoughts.  What I notice is that I don’t believe a thing this woman says.  Over and over again, no matter what she says, I don’t trust her with her own truth.  And I smile at her, welcoming her comments.


I have found a fundamental root of how my mind has decided to make sense of the world around me.  If I don’t believe in you and what you have to say about yourself, I don’t have to trust you.  If I don’t trust you, I don’t have to risk getting close.  If we are not close, I don’t have to be vulnerable.  And, if I am not vulnerable, I stay safe and protected.  And I don’t even have to let on to you how truly distrustful I really am. By knowing this, I can choose it.  As a friend of mine says,  “what I am aware of, I can control…what I am not aware of, controls me”.


On to another practice.  I am moving how my body wants to in silence with a group of other people who are doing the same. I’m supposed to have my eyes closed.  “It’s ok if you bump into each other, just be gentle”, says our leader.  No, it’s not ok, I think.  So, I keep my eyes slit, letting hazy figures  not come within arm’s length of me.  I move and delight in my body’s strength and the exploration- I even let my hair fall in front of my face, so I can try having my eyes as closed as possible.  And then fury rises in me.  There is someone touching me.  I let my guard down for just a few minutes and someone encroaches on my space!  On me!  What are you doing here? Why are you touching me??  Clearly, you are trying to take from me…take my space, my attention, my body…I am livid.  And quiet.


In previous years, I yelled from behind placards and marched in the streets.  I sparred in martial arts circles.  I got in bar fights.  In retrospect, all of these ways of being were an attempt to reconcile the storm within and discharge the pain of a lack of intimacy.  Now, I’m reluctant to get wet out in the rain, hesitant to clash in the ring, and not interested in ducking punches anymore.  However, my emotions and thoughts can still be as strong as they once were in my 20’s.  They don’t know time.


How I do something is how I do everything.  These practices I keep willingly engaging in are bringing to light how I think and feel.  And it turns out, I am full of distrust and anger.  I kinda know that, however I didn’t know how pervasive and corrosive these thoughts and feelings are.  I know that when I see others being distrustful I either recoil or collude with them.  I know that sometimes I can only barely tolerate scrolling through Facebook, for fear of learning more about friends political views and thus finding reason to distance from them.  I know that I tend to engage with others with a smile on my face and a, sometimes metaphorical, sometimes actual, fist at my side.  I also want to be more authentically me. And my authenticity efforts are calling up icky, nasty, shadow-sides of myself.  Including the part of me that denies what I’m thinking and feeling and behaves like all is well.  I also want intimacy and joy, however that can only come from being vulnerable.  It’s a complicated exploration.


I am standing in circle with 40 other co-workers.  We are tied to each other’s wrists with scarves.  We are told we need to go into another room and make each other ice cream sundaes.  I am the newbie, so I follow the other’s and watch.  Listening to people’s comments, they are respectfully irreverent and inappropriately hilarious- I am relieved.  I have found a group of people who are as distrustful of others as I am.  We gather sundae supplies from around the room, and try and be careful with each other as we tug on one another’s arms. Twenty minutes into the exercise, the boss says,”I want one!  Bring it to me.”  First we try to hand supplies down to the others, as the boss is far from the table of supplies, and it is awkward and uncomfortable.  Not even a minute later, I look up. Half the circle has surrounded the big table the boss is sitting on.  With barely a few words among them, they pick the whole table up.  And in a fit of ooo’s and aww’s, they carry the table to the ice cream. We are all laughing in shock and pleasure.


“The process of growth is, it seems, the art of falling down…” says one of my favorite Stephen Levine quotes.  I am finding places to fall down.  Safe(r) places, with people I (barely) trust.  It’s a beginning.  What I am finding is that if I choose to engage with others in trust building and exploration, I learn.  I learn what I think and feel that guides how I behave.  I learn new reserves of distrust and anger that I can welcome out of the shadows.  I learn how not to blame others for how I feel.  As a survivor of trauma both in my childhood and adulthood, I get to shed my layers of currently ineffective protection and false safety. True intimacy can only come from vulnerability.  So I find small ways to be intimate, with myself and others, to explore vulnerability and get used to its unfamiliar discomfort.


I also get to be gentle and laugh with others on a similar journey.  I keep finding “compadres” along the way.  “Compadres” is Portuguese  for “godparent”.  When I think of the universal life force that is growing me up, maturing me, and carrying me through life, I can see that force manifest in the humans around me.  These compadres are everywhere I turn.


The poem finishes, “Growth is measured by the gentleness and awareness with which we once again pick ourselves up, the lightness with which we dust ourselves off, the openness with which we continue and take the next unknown step, beyond our edge, beyond our holding, into the remarkable mystery of being.”  I am being.  Being me.  Hoping to get to be your compadre along the journey.


Learn more about the practice of trust at

Oriana Noël Lewis
Oriana engages in authentic movement as often as possible and writes when she can. Dancing and relationship building are the cornerstones of her wholehearted living. She also savors nature through hiking and surfing. Her professional expertise are in curriculum writing and instructing life-long adult learners on a variety of subjects including conflict-resolution, communication skills, oppression liberation, and leadership. As a state worker, she values stability and consistency, while finding freedom and variety in outside explorations of facilitation, mediation, and teaching. She is a State Certified Mediator since 2000 and a Register Yoga Instructor RYT 200.

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