We didn’t hug too much or say, “I love you,” in my house when I was growing up. If I got sad, I’d usually go in my room and cry so no one could see me.
Like just about everyone I know, I’ve built a sizable fortress around my feelings. I use sarcasm like a protective filter. I like to test people, push them, and keep them at a safe distance.
Thankfully, I’m a pretty smart dude and it’s become quite clear that I’ll have completely wasted my time on this planet if I don’t start practicing presence right now. I need to be open to the little things — the people, the routes I walk, the movements in my body and actually tasting my food instead of pretending I’m in the US Army every time I eat. As someone with a severe aversion to “openness,” this practice of vulnerability has been quite brutal at times.
On occasion, I’m able to crack myself open. Gosh, some days I’m all gooey inside and I feel like warm chemicals are coating my brain cells. Other days, though, I think I could punch the Pope if I saw him.
Ultimately, it’s no longer serving me to be the closed off cynic. I do earnestly care about people and I want to feel exciting things (that I can later use in a script for an indie film).
So what can I do everyday to ensure that I don’t become a crusty old man? This:
- Look people in the eyes. Usually when I walk through the streets, I ’m plugged into my headphones and I pretend like nothing else around me is real. But when I stop and look people in the eyes I’m ripped into attention, I don’t stare for long — because that gets creepy — but there’s something about the eyes that are so truthful.
- Thank someone if I think it in my head. People around me are doing great things all the time and I often don’t say a damn thing. Some of it has to do with my stubborn competitiveness, but I’m mostly just avoiding an intimate moment. When I stop and thank someone for his or her contribution to my life, there’s a good pure moment. Then I quickly tell them that I will kill them if they ever mention that moment to anyone. Ever.
- Practice embarrassing things in public. I have the craziest dance moves. But I usually reserve them for the mirror at home or in public bathrooms, strangely enough. When someone opens the door behind me, fear electrifies my body. So, naturally, I pretend like I was looking at a zit. I’ve always admired people who have an I-don’t-give-a-truck attitude. So, in an effort to be more like them, I try to spend at least one block of my daily walk practicing made-up choreography. Regardless of how many cars are driving by. I might look crazy, but it feels so good not worrying what other people are thinking.
- Tell people exactly what I need from them. I have spent so many hours in my companies trying to do everything myself. It’s fucking exhausting. To avoid that, I’ve tried to be clearer about what I need. When I’m successful, the best people come forward and take it right off my plate. Then I’m left to worry about how to spend all my free time, which can be quite stressful.
- Write and publish. I avoid talking about my feelings with other breathing human beings by writing them down and publishing them for the world to see. I’m a perfectionist and it kills me to know that I can’t control what people think. But it also brings me so much closer to the people who understand me.
Most of us aren’t as happy as we should be. I can’t keep feeling one way inside and then acting another way on the outside. It will shorten my life span. So I moonwalk from Park to 13th Street a few times a week and I thank someone for making my life better, as much as I can.
Kirk Hensler was raised in metro Detroit on a steady diet of meat, potatoes and team sports. As a competitive athlete, he relied on his power and dominant attitude to excel. Years later, when he took up martial arts, he was tossed around a sweaty dojo for months by various women and children. This led to an exploration of ancient Eastern philosophies, which, in turn, led Kirk to Taiwan, where he taught English, studied martial arts and ate a lot of delicious and strange street food. Today he owns a yoga/kickboxing/green smoothie studio in San Diego, and is the Co-Founder of the Hale Foundation – yoga/martial arts/creative arts for at-risk kids. Check out his blog, Kale & Cigarettes to keep dibs on his journey to becoming a hip-hop dancer, connect with him on Facebook, Twitter& Instagra