Opening Cans of Worms: A Spiritual Practice

Now and again, it’s worthwhile to open up a can of worms.

Before we get underway, let’s define our terms. A can of worms is something we don’t want to deal with and isn’t going away, something that’s unpleasantly settled and solidified, something that may clash with our priorities, but nonetheless, remains the same.

It’s stuff we’ve acclimated to being the less-than-terrific way it is. The computer keyboard, many argue, would be more efficient if the letters were rearranged. But that would open up a whole can of worms, so it remains the same.

Opening up a can of worms kicks down the door to change. Usually change that we will need to stretch ourselves for. Or we, ourselves, will need to change for. And that’s a pretty solid definition of a spiritual practice.

Perhaps you’re thinking of scads of exceptions. Bringing up politics with Uncle Mitch, say. Or taking a backhoe to a compartmentalized emotional wound. Yes, like everything, there are exceptions to the rule. And we each have to discern what our exceptions are.

But we each have cases that prove the rule. The crummy website we keep adding to. The mission statement that’s not accurate anymore. The years-old holiday travel that nobody actually likes. The garage that’s made us a brilliant parker because of all the junk we dodge to pull into it.

We have atrophied ourselves to keeping these worms in their cans. Worms which are there because they were forced there, not because they fit there. And there in that can is where the worms will remain unless we risk doing something about them.

So when we’re feeling fresh and strong, it can be a radical spiritual practice to open up a can of worms.

Not all of them. One of them. Since one can often pop open another one and another one. One often asks more than enough stretching and more than enough changing of us.

But this stretching and this changing are the building blocks of meaningful spiritual growth. The life we want to live won’t show up one day in the mail. We have to bring it about, have to be willing to risk the status quo for something better and bigger.

And often, these are worthwhile prices to pay so we don’t spend our irreplaceable time sitting uncomfortably on cans, trying to keep the worms from coming out.

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