If you ever get the chance, ask a firefighter to show you what he carries in his turnout pockets.
As this firefighter is pulling out the tools that she has carefully deemed the most necessary and beneficial ones that she wants at her side in the storm of an emergency, ask her to tell you about them, and why she has chosen these specific tools for her pockets. You will come away having learned a lot about firefighting and the firefighter too.
What Are Your Go-To Tools?
Some of the tools in my own pocket include a black ninja-like hood, to be worn under my helmet that provides protection against the intense radiating heat from a fire; a brass pocket spanner for charging the hose with water from the fire hydrant; a multi-tool spring-loaded center punch with a seat-belt cutter, for breaking out glass of a vehicle where a patient needs immediate extrication; a pocket knife and cable cutters for cutting entangling wires and cables that I may encounter as I crawl through the darkness of a building, where the structural elements that hold ceilings and walls together are falling apart or melting away; a hose strap for a quick rescue drag; and tubular webbing attached to a carabineer for a hasty escape if necessary.
I continually pay attention to the tools in my pocket, keeping the ones that serve me and changing them up if they don't.
In our own lives, we each carry a set of metaphorical tools in our pockets. Many of our tools are ones born out of the necessity of our individual experience. Do we move through life with a positive outlook, fierce determination, appreciation, practicality, fear-based mentality? Maybe our go-to tools are ones we have used to survive not-so-ideal environments we grew up in. Defensive walls or victim consciousness or people pleasing may be what we use to help us get through our present situations.
Whatever our stories, and whatever tools we rely on as we move through our journey, it serves us to go through our toolboxes once in a while to see if our instruments of choice are truly serving us. When we abandon the tools that no longer work and try out new ones, we may be surprised at the shifts that may occur in our experience.
The Elusive Tool
Let me tell you about an elusive tool that I have found very helpful in my own life toolbox. She doesn't look or feel like one of your traditionally manufactured devices. She does not push, shove, or pry. She's called Allowing.
Huh?? To my inner firefighter this sounds like a pretty passive, even weak and laughable tool. "Move over Allowing, and let my axe and sledge hammer get this job done!" my inner firefighter bellows.
It was many years ago on a fire academy drill ground that I met Allowing and was able to practice her art, first hand. Like every new fire recruit in a fire academy, I found myself fully suited up in my heavy turnout gear, my SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) on my back, breathing twenty minutes worth of air through my mask, ready to practice going into small, dark, and undesirable spaces.
I was crawling on my belly through a hundred-foot long, pitch-black commercial pipe--feeling the hot sweat that I could not wipe through my mask, dripping down my face and into my eyes. I could feel the constriction of the pipe, as my helmet would bump up against the top of it. My arms were uncomfortably bent to the sides of me, pulling me inch by inch through the blackness with the rhythmic push of my steel-toed boots. There was only slow forward movement here, no room to turn back or even reach my arm behind me. I felt for my academy mates of football player stature.
At about the halfway point of this limiting space, I stopped for a second. I could feel the rising potential of a dark, confined, imprisoned freak-out coming on, even in my self-assured, non-claustrophobic nature. In that moment I knew I had three choices:
• Freak out - not an option, not here, no way!
• Push through - better than freak out, do-able, but I would lose a lot, if not all, of my limited air if I pushed and struggled, or
• Allow it to be.
The Art of Allowing
In that second, I went with allow. I closed my eyes, which made no difference in terms of the blackness in front of me, and invited Allowing in. In my allowing of that moment to be exactly as it was, all was transformed.
The darkness, that seemed to suffocate me, became a safe and comforting cocoon. The confined walls of the pipe stretched into an expansive space that cradled me. As I even allowed myself to feel the fear, the fear dissolved into peace. I continued my journey through the pipe, out through the end, like a baby crawling through a playhouse. When we allow, we invite movement, we open space for change, and we invite transformation.
Where can you invite allowing into your daily experience? I have found that she can transform many a situation. When we allow ourselves to feel fear, for example, it might be uncomfortable at first, or even terrifying. However if we allow ourselves to feel it, we will move through those feelings eventually. Conversely, we may choose to push our fear away. This may work in the interim, until it comes up again.
Can we practice allowing in our every day encounters with strangers? Can we allow people to be who they want to be, with out our judgments pushing against the situation? Can we allow ourselves to feel our array of human emotions, without pushing them away? When we allow in these ways, we may find ourselves growing in leaps and bounds.
There is a beautiful element of trust that accompanies allowing, I have found. Do we trust that the people, situations, and circumstances that we encounter are there for a reason, or for a lesson for us, or even for our own good? When we practice the art of allowing, we open up space for change and transformation in our lives.
I admit that there will be times when we feel that other tools in our pockets work best in certain situations. The push-pull tools of determination and struggle are often at the top of our tool chest. Perhaps the next time you are pushing and struggling, you will pause and dig a little deeper in your cache, and look for the unassuming tool that patiently waits underneath. Give Allowing a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.