Letting go. Release. Surrender. Faith. They’ve troubled me.
American independence, evidence-based decision making, and rational-thinking have been my foundation — and I’ll always be steadfastly grateful to these more striving, linear traits.
They’ve brought me many successes.
They may even have helped me and my college roommate refuse an offer from a GQ-handsome, sensitive, super-smart Religious Studies major. He’d invited us to come to his place… after a screening he’d arranged of a film by Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
Yup, Polly and I actually did go to the movie. Our classmate was quite tall and fit, BUT what really drew us to his screening was our ongoing obsession with the ineffable.
An equation (!I heart equations!) explaining this unavoidable side-effect of being human:
Our verbal, analytical thinking (Mind)
Our ability for non-verbal pure presence (Spirit)
= Awareness of a huge and enticing Mystery that can’t be described.
That’s the ineffable.
And it flings us into desire.
I believe that our longing for the ineffable is the root of all desire. Which means desire’s not bad — it’s sacred.
Our inevitable problems arise only because at one time or another we all grasp at/for/onto what we want. Desperate grabbing feels unpleasant and — worse yet — just plain doesn’t work. As we’ve all experienced.
We’ve heard lots of pretty words about how letting go of something we really desire is the enlightened thing to do. but more importantly, it’s paradoxically effective. How often have you gotten what you wanted only after you’ve forgotten about it? Quite often.
But it’s not so easy to release when you’re grasping.
How EXACTLY does one go about letting go?
You recall from my equation (!heart!) that it was the combination of Mind + Spirit which created desire. Therefore it makes sense that desire can be fully humanized by bringing into play our third human quality: Body.
1. Identify a grasping kind of desire you have where you haven’t been able to let go of your attachment to a certain outcome.Think about that something you really really want while you do Step #2.
2. Tune into your body’s language — physical sensation. Notice every part of your body. Find every area with a tingle, pain, openness, tightness, warmth, coldness, churning, ease, or any other sensation.
Emotions (i.e., sad or happy) and thought (i.e., “I was like this once before” or “I’m not sure this is a good idea”) are good information too, but go right into them and see where/how YOUR body’s registering the feeling or idea.
Caveat: It’s hard to use your body as a compass if it’s altered with drugs, alcohol, or maybe even — sigh — more than four shots of espresso.
3. Ask yourself one question — Does this feel free?
As you practice tuning up your Body Compass, you may notice that your truly unpleasant sensations feel similar to being trapped. They’re tight or heavy or constricting. Martha Beck calls this “shackles on.”
You’ll immediately know the opposite sensation — “shackles off” — when you feel it. You’ll feel free.
And that’s how you let go.
4. Give yourself over to what feels free in your body. Always and only.
Surrendering to freedom feels GOOD. And it is.
The Buddha said that just as we know a body of water is a sea if it tastes of salt, we can identify wise teachings and practices because they taste of freedom.
Test this idea by considering examples you’ve heard of or, better yet, experienced. Put yourself back into a desire that turned out badly — how did your body feel? Excited maybe. But did you have the lightened ease that you get when you take off a heavy backpack you’ve been carrying for quite some time?
Certainly Polly and I felt oppressed by the Unification Church’s best effort at convincing us of its glory. Despite the lure of a supposedly spiritual guy with a slow, radiant smile directed especially at us (well, at Polly anyway) plus a definite cinematic propaganda buzz, we RAN out of Sayles Hall before the movie even ended.
It wasn’t polite or in keeping with what we originally wanted — a nice civil discussion with this guy to find out why someone like him would be interested in what seemed to us like a cult — but that mad dash felt glorious.
I’ve come to believe we were relying on more than just cool logic. I think we “followed our guts” toward freedom.
We each can trust our own bodies to let us know what liberates us and what traps us.
Your body will always tell you the truth even if the Mind is confused or the Spirit feels inaccessible by other ways. That’s why lie detectors work.
And we can trust freedom.
I’m starting to believe that letting ourselves fall into what feels free is, in fact, faith. This kind of surrender transforms any grasping into a joyous, opening kind of desire. Such desires unfold us. They reflect our true love for the Mystery. They are our heart’s desires, and they’re what drives us toward our greatest good.
I know — you’re just waiting for me to call for an Amen! — right? I’m getting pretty carried away with this revelation lately, so thanks for letting me preach. As a reward, here’s some not-COMPLETELY-random eye and ear candy:
And, you know, if you DO want to send me an Amen, that’s okay too! Or an Aloha.