Learning to face our fears and to challenge our fervently held beliefs provides the spaciousness to feel the pull of our hearts.
The Zen of Letting Go
I keep finding myself drawn to Rodney Smith’s Stepping Out of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self as a great framework. Last week, we looked at Rodney’s 4 R’s, and covered Relax and Release. This week, we deal with the remaining two: Relinquish and Rejoin.
I got to thinking, though, that I first want to say something about what all of this applies to.
Initially, I thought I’d be writing more about bodywork, and “letting go.” I think I still will do that in coming articles. But the key is that learning to find stability and release is all about everything. No exceptions. I would hazard a guess that you’d like a exemption or two, and have all kinds of reasons for not being willing to risk letting go, and all I can do is quote Dr. Phil: “How’s that working for you?”
Two examples: a client couple were talking about a hiking trip to a high place. The woman walked over to the edge to look over, and lots of her fellow hikers freaked out. “You’ll fall!” and variants. Her partner was aghast, and “encouraged” her to step away. I laughed, and said, “Perfect! The two of you need to go zip-lining!” They stuck it on their “to do ” list. I suggested that he do what he is afraid of — to “let go” of his resistance to heights by “letting go” of the platform and trusting the zip line. Rather than get into a big thing about “why” he or others find heights scary, I proposed a simple and safe way to experiment.
Example two: some time back I mentioned Penelope Trunk, and her blog, The Brazen Careerist. I just got a blog post entitled How to Make your life More Stable. Now, I LOVE Penelope — in addition to being “hot,” (you’d have to read her other posts to know why this is important…) she’s made her life an open book, sharing in an intimate and chargy way.
In the article, she wrote:
“This is why I always try to stay where I am to solve my problems rather than move away. It’s ironic that this stay-where-you-are advice is coming from me, because I moved every year from age 18 to age 30. I’ve lived in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Madison, WI. And now I live on a farm. The best thing about marrying a farmer is that I know I can’t move. Well, he can’t move. So if I’m with him, I’m in one place, for the rest of my life. I love that.
Staying in one place forces you to think about what you can do to make your place great. I’ve spent a lot of years trying to figure out where I belong. What is the perfect city for me. And what I learned is that I make the same type of friend in each city. I live in the same type of area in each city. The city does not change my core needs, and no city is so myopic that there are not people who can fill my needs. Sure, there are probably more people like me in New York City than in Madison, WI. But honestly, I don’t need 1 million friends. I only need ten. Tops.”
I love this. Combined, of course, with her other articles, you discover a woman who takes her challenges, (Aspergers being one) and stays put while experimenting with other ways. In other words, in keeping with our stuff, she engages with her life in the here and now, drops what doesn’t work, seeks others to help her explore, and takes total self-responsibility both for where she is, and how to move from there.
Many that I know, on the other hand, have just stayed stuck in their old dramas, for years, decades, out of fear, out of embarrassment, out of lack of focus. All that would be required is a bit ( or a lot) of shifting of behaviour, and voila!, but that’s not, seemingly, on the agenda.
So, let’s look at the other two “R’s,” and tie together how shifting to this relaxed and focussed way of being leads to profound change.
“Relinquishment is letting go of everything that is not authentic and natural. It is returning to zero by peeling back the onion of pretentiousness, layer after layer. When we begin, we do not know the difference between an authentic life and the one we are living. We discover the difference through persistent self-observation and by challenging our conditioning.” Smith, page 102
Letting go of the story we have built up, over decades, takes persistence.
It’s like learning anything new- it can feel like one step forward, two steps back. This is where contact with others comes in handy.
There’s something beneficial to having one or two people that one trusts. People willing to blow away our pretensions and games. To call us when we get stuck, repeat old patterns, or declare ourselves “wise and all-knowing.” Relinquishing requires, first and foremost, knowing what to let go of.
It seems to me, though, that getting quiet and really looking causes us to rapidly identify our games. I’m amused by how seldom, when I point some behaviour or another to a client, they react with, “I didn’t know that!” Mostly, they sigh and offer up an excuse, a defense, or try to get me to change the subject.
We challenge our conditioning by noticing the repeating patterns. Relationship issues, for example, tend to repeat until we learn to do relationships differently. Mostly, people tend to change people, as opposed to looking at their own responsibility. Others are unwilling to risk letting down their hard won walls, and end up endlessly thinking they are alone, as feelings of cold isolation run rampant. In each case, there is a simple cure. Notice, and let go.
Exercise: pick one thing that you have decided would be difficult to do, and then, do it! Press against your comfort level, and go one step beyond. This is how we renounce our self-beliefs and limiting behaviours — by meeting them head on, and then taking a step.
The mind will forever create the assumption of difference, but the heart sees from the vertical dimension of interconnection. Each time we rejoin, we reinforce the truth of that organ until they finally takes control of perception. We do not lose the capacity to know differences; it simply is no longer our default position. Smith, page 103
Smith suggests that the “Now” exists at the junction point between the horizontal “universe of time,” and the vertical plane of timelessness. There is, if we notice, a moment of “penetration,” where the endless moment of heart-felt “now” touches the seemingly endless flow of past, present and future. Of course, this moment is also every moment, and the only question is, will we notice?
This is what Smith means by the “assumption of difference.” When we see only from the horizontal, it appears that “things” are separate from each other, and time is discrete, and “passing by.” He posits heart energy or heart focus, which is the “organ of “now” perception.”
The mind divides and categorizes, the heart gathers and makes whole.
What is interesting is that this is not a question of which position is correct.
At the moment of meeting, or rejoining, it is possible to see both sides of the same coin. Sure, arguably, you are not the same as your coffee cup, your neighbour, even the person you are bonking. You are you, and ever shall be, until you aren’t. Nor are you a speck of something that only exists in a moment. Both are perspectives about the same thing. We realize who we are when we bring the two together.
Our mind then does its thing — discovering differences — but without the passionate need to support and defend what it believes. It is joined with the heart, which sees that you and your coffee cup are essentially the same.
Exercise: think about softening your edges, rules, regulations, and assumptions. As you lecture yourself, say, “Well, that’s certainly one way to see things. Here is another.”
From that other side, let go of the burning desire to reinforce the belief — the view — of separateness, pain, confusion. Simply let go, and shift to what your heart tells you to do. Open up, invite someone in, invite new ideas and energies in, and watch what happens, without needing to label, judge, or run and hide.
You just might see what happens when you join your heart and mind, and let the energy play.