Turning Towards

Respond to every call that excites your spirit.

Rumi (1207-1273; Persian poet whose work focuses largely on love and mysticism.)

Are you wondering whether I omitted something accidentally from the title? I didn’t. I left the title open-ended, deliberately. I’m hoping that it prompted you to ask, “Turning towards what?” Yes. Precisely. Towards what?

Towards this. Towards that. Towards everything. Towards everything that matters in our lives. Towards the truth that’s right in front of us, the truth that’s teetering on the brink of all.

As simplistic as it might seem, sometimes the greatest truths are the ones right in front of us, staring at us, bidding our attention, asking that we turn towards … the truth.

What got me to thinking about this truth–the importance of turning towards–is an article that I read a few weeks ago. Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, happily married for 35 years, have spent 50 years studying successful relationships. In one study, they were able to predict with 94% accuracy whether a marriage would last, after observing the couples for just 15 minutes.

“One of the biggest determining factors was how often a couple ‘turned toward’ their partner instead of ‘turning away.’ When a couple turns toward each other they make what we call ‘bids for connection.’

“Bids can range from little things like trying to catch your attention by calling out your name, to big things like asking for deeper needs to be met.

“The happiest couples are savvy enough to notice when their partner is making a bid, and drop what they’re doing, if necessary, to engage.” (“Here’s the No. 1 Thing that Makes Relationships Successful,” Make It, November 21, 2022).

When one partner makes a bid, the other partner can respond in one of three ways.

  1. Turn towards–engage with the attempt to connect.
  2. Turn away–ignore or not notice the attempt to connect.
  3. Turn against–shut down the attempt to connect.

As I read the article, I swayed and nodded in total agreement. Of course. Turning towards–engaging with the intent to connect–is the truth that can make or break a relationship.

After my moments of affirmation, I had an epiphany. If turning towards our partner is the number one thing that makes our love relationship successful, why wouldn’t “turning towards” other types of interpersonal relationships bring equal success? Family relationships? Pet relationships? Friendships? Acquaintanceships? Professional/work relationships?

And what about straightforward, simple things in our lives that place bids for our attention, bids for connection. Maybe they’re so routine and so mundane that they’ve lost their curb appeal. Maybe we’ve turned against the bids. Maybe we’ve turned away from the bids.

But what would happen, for example, if we turned towards the bed to be made? The dishes to be washed, dried, and put away? The furniture to be dusted? The floors to be vacuumed? The windows to be polished? The trash to be taken out? The grass to be cut. The list is endless and never ending. Yet I wonder: what would happen if we turned towards–leaned in, faced, and engaged–those mundane bids for attention as soon as they called to us?

And what about bids that call to us from other life ventures?

What about work? What would happen if we turned towards our careers? The noble work that we are called to do? The opportunities that seem to fall in our laps? The opportunities that we can create because we have a vision, because we have a dream? I wonder: what would happen if we turned towards–leaned in, faced, and engaged–those work bids for attention as soon as they called to us?

What about our physical well-being? What would happen if we turned towards those pounds to drop? The muscle mass to gain or regain? The bike to pedal? The weights to lift? The marathon to run? The mountain to climb? The walk to the mailbox? The 10,000 steps a day? The healthy dietary choices? I wonder: what would happen if we turned towards–leaned in, faced, and engaged–those physical bids for attention as soon as they called to us?

What about our financial security, short-term and long-range? Our assets? Debts? Income? Expenses? I wonder what would happen if we turned towards–leaned in, faced, and engaged–those financial bids for attention as soon as they called to us?

What about our psychological well-being? What would happen if we turned towards accepting ourselves as we have been, as we are, and as we are yet to become? Towards the things that add meaning, give us purpose, fill us with hope? Towards all that brings us joy, contentment and delight? Towards our worst fears and greatest expectations? I wonder what would happen if we turned towards–leaned in, faced, and engaged–those psychological bids for attention as soon as they called to us?

What about our spiritual well-being? Interestingly enough, many world religions reinforce the importance of turning towards. Buddhists often turn towards the East. Christians turn towards the Cross. Jews turn towards the Wailing Wall. And Muslims turn towards Mecca. I wonder what would happen, regardless of our belief or our unbelief, if we turned towards–leaned in, faced, and engaged–that spiritual bid for attention as soon as it called to us?

And, then, ponder this. If we spent our lives turning towards–leaning in, facing, and engaging–all the things that really matter, what do you suppose would happen when the time comes that we must turn towards death itself? I cannot help but believe that we would be ready to lean in, face, and even embrace that most unknown of all the Holy Unknowns, fully confident that the truths we turned towards throughout our life’s journey will see us safely through to the Great Beyond.