This I Believe

Sarah - Lincoln, Massachusetts
Entered on June 13, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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“Flare-Your-Nostrils Approach to Enlightenment”

I learned how to flare my nostrils during math class in 8th grade. My friend, Kate, could flare her nostrils, and everyone thought she was cool. I wanted to be cool like Kate, so, one day, I decided to develop this talent.

I didn’t know of any “how to” guides on flaring one’s nostrils – and this was long before Google searches – so I wasn’t sure how I was going to achieve my goal. I began by focusing all of my attention on my nose and willing its muscles to push out. Nothing happened. The problem was that there didn’t seem to be any connection between my nostril muscles and my brain.

After getting nowhere through sheer willpower, I decided to hold my finger to my nostril to get a better sense of this part of my body. Well, to my delight and surprise, sometimes nostril muscles move on their own! It felt like a step in the right direction.

My next experiment was to try to hold my nostril open if it suddenly flared. At first, this seemed a bit harebrained, because one would think that “holding” would require the same skill as “opening” the nostril. Perhaps. What I do know, however, is that I could eventually do it. It took a few math classes before I had it down, but somehow it was easier for my brain to learn how to maintain a position that my body had already achieved, rather than to get my body to a position that it didn’t understand.

Well, it occurred to me this morning that this is how greater enlightenment may be achieved. Not through the flaring of one’s nostrils, but through trying to maintain moments of joy, love, peace and fearlessness, rather than trying to attain them.