Porous to Life

I only know one way to keep or regain a passion for life.

The word is porous.



Able to be penetrated by.

Capable of being drenched all the way through.


There are as many ways of living as there are humans, but there are two main ways of being that determine how much we can absorb of this thing called life:

Open or Closed.

You and I, well, here we are. We were born naked and shivering. I was and so were you. Tabulae rasa – soft, fragile blank slates. We had no choice except to experience everything.

At first, we screamed and pooped and crawled around and stuck our fingers into wall sockets, potted plants, ant hills, and that jar of delicious face cream on mother’s vanity stand in the bedroom. We crayoned walls and family heirlooms, stripped out of our diapers, and wandered around the front yard delighted by the grass tickling our naked skin.

Before long, though, we learned. We ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and nothing could ever be the same again. One bite at a time we discovered how unsafe it was to be a walking, talking experiencer-of-everything.

Remember the time you were jumping around, telling a story, and suddenly noticed that they weren’t looking at you? Their eyes were glassing over and maybe you caught the shake of a head or a cruel little laugh barely veiled.

But you learned. Oh, yes you did, and so did I. And in the learning, began to close the portals of ourselves. One at a time, in subtle, quiet ways, we plugged those chinks in the armor.

The armor was heavy but it was safe inside there. We learned how to block out experiences and how to numb ourselves against pain and fear. You’ve seen them, these armored souls. They grow shells of spirituality or cynicism or optimism or whatever other -ity or -ism they use to keep out the freezing rains of life.

You know them because you can only ever talk to the outside of this shell. You ask a question. Something curious, an invitation to tell you something true. What you get in return is a mantra – a memorized phrase designed to fend off your thrust of interest. It can appear so beautiful, too. An elegant, sugarcoated,wise-sounding response is often as much a shield as anything hard or brutal might be.

We can’t blame them or ourselves for cladding our tender, passionate spirits in this way, either. Though it limits our movement, this unporous armor keeps out the badness of life–helps us feel safe enough to get out of bed and mingle with those terrifying others out there.

But it’s no way to live. If someone told you that they would keep you safe, feed you every day and be sure that nothing would alarm you so long as you would agree to live inside a prison cell with only that one high barred window showing a patch of sky, would you do it?

Probably not.

Because what is a life of safety if it means cutting off our senses? Would you cut off your arms to guarantee that you’d never be burned or put out your eyes to be sure that you could not see ugliness?

But this is what we do to our spirits in tiny, invisible ways every day when we choose Closed instead of Open.

So what does it mean to live porously?

  • It means remembering to (as often as possible) unbuckle the armor and step out of it into a naked experience.
  • Look strangers in the eye.
  • Say that honest thing that has been hiding inside but, if said, will set you free.
  • Speak a non-rhyming, spontaneous poem at the sunrise.
  • Read a book that goes exactly opposite of all your beliefs.
  • Stand on the ridge of a hill and let the wind blast your face, then imagine that your body isn’t a solid block but able to let everything blow through.
  • Risk loving deeply.
  • Do something uncalculated and stay absolutely curious because that intense, passionate child living inside you just wants to know what happens next.

Oh, and much more important than any list of ideas I might offer, the main thing is to take this moment – the one right here – and swan dive into it without looking first.

Just ask, “What feeling is this?” then say, “Oh, hello Feeling. Tell me all about yourself. I know you won’t stay here long but you have so much to teach me.”

In the real world, I’ve learned to notice my body and the signals it sends. If I sense my jaw clench or my body contract, that’s a sign to remind me that I’m closing down on something that hurts or I am afraid to feel. This reminds me to take a deep breath, and open my body and mind to whatever has shown up at this moment. Opening, opening, opening…again and again. Body, mind, and spirit.

And what is the payoff for living like this? There must be some great reward or it wouldn’t be worth the risk.

The reward is death.

Death of boredom. Death of fear. Death of that petrified shell that keeps everything and everyone out. Death of what is not alive. Death of cynicism. Death of death.

And when you, I, we begin to live this way, we change the world. Because the world is begging for change, but not merely for change’s sake. It wants to remember. It wants to recover what came before the first bite of that fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It wants to know that it can use all the experiences and learnings but somehow regain its senses.

Don’t do it for the world, though. That’s too big, too much to ask. Do it for yourself. Do it for your children. Do it because there’s no other way to “…live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”.

The only real question any of us must ask if we wish to live in this way is, “can I keep opening myself to myself again and again, as long as I live?”

You know porous people as soon as you meet them. It isn’t that they are always nice, or make you feel good. The thing is, they’re real. They’ll look into your eyes and ask you an honest question. They are quick to laugh at themselves. They are raw, they listen, they watch. They have the courage to get up in the morning and do what must be done whether they feel like it or not. They go all in. They try things. They fail faster.

If you are reading this, you are probably one of those people.

You can’t know this right now, but…
your ragged, rugged honesty…
your crazy, passionate, naked vulnerability…
your trusting plunge into the unknown of Life at every turn…
your journey of love and healing…
these change your world, the world of those around you, and the world as a whole.
Someday you’ll know how important you are.


Copyright Heal + Create. All rights reserved.
Jacob Nordby

Jacob Nordby

Jacob Nordby is the author of The Divine Arsonist: A Tale of Awakening, and Blessed Are the Weird – A Manifesto for Creatives. His third book, The Creative Cure, was released by Hierophant Publishing in 2021 with a foreword by Julia Cameron. He is the co-founder of The Institute for Creative Living and also a highly introverted person who can often be found working in the quietest corner of some Boise coffee shop. Meet his on his website at www.JacobNordby.com.

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