Letting Go 3:3
…continued from Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn
Letting go is probably the most difficult concept to grasp and the most challenging action to perform on the Quiet Corner path. Yet without this in our repertoire, all else is for naught. I continue to learn valuable lessons about myself and my world according to both the ease with which I am able to let go and the tenacity I exhibit as I cling desperately to something, unwilling to release my hold, however tentative.
My first glimmer of understanding about what it means to let go came while I was in the back seat of a New York City taxicab. A friend and I were on our way to meet a group of people to see a Broadway play. We had plenty of time to get to the theater fifteen minutes before curtain time and decided to splurge on a cab rather than take a subway or bus. We flagged down a cab and relaxed in the back seat for the fifteen-minute trip. About ten or fifteen minutes later I became aware that we were neither moving nor sitting at a traffic light. We had twenty blocks to go. Looking at my watch, I noticed we had five minutes to meet our friends and twenty to make it on time for the start of the play. I immediately began to worry.
I sat on the edge of the seat I assessed the traffic. I constantly referred to the time and noticed it slipping away—faster than usual, it seemed. I talked to the driver, asked him what he planned to do to get us to our destination on time. I fretted. I twitched. I watched.
My friend was much calmer than I, sitting back in his seat looking quite relaxed. Traffic wasn’t moving, our friends were waiting, show time was now only ten minutes away—how could he sit there and do nothing? He then suggested that I join him and just relax. We couldn’t move the traffic any faster than it was moving, sitting on the edge of the seat in an anxious state accomplished nothing, our friends would understand if we were late, chances were the play wouldn’t start exactly on time anyway, and we were moving, however slowly, so we’d get there eventually. Why not let go and just relax? I laughed, exhaled, and just let go, slouching down in the seat. We got to the theater on time, and I was never so relieved to be someplace. It has been at least ten years since that cab ride, (more than twice that today!) and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I use it as a reminder each time I notice that I am trying to control the uncontrollable.
People seem to magically appear in our lives when we need to learn a spiritual lesson. If we are open and willing and able to listen, we will find that our lives are filled with these spiritual teachers. When we first learn about letting go and are told by one of these spiritual teachers that we are not in charge of things, that there is a force greater and more powerful than we at work in our lives, we might think that we then have to do nothing. Give up control, let the universe do its thing, and just sit back, not participate in life, and wait to die. Or we might believe that being in our life means being in charge. We don’t know how to just be. But gradually we learn that being in our life and turning the reigns over to a force much greater does not mean being in a static, dull life. We become more active than ever, more fully alive and in our life than ever before.
One important lesson about letting go is that the greater our fear, the more we cling. The less fearful we are, the easier it is to let go. When we can let go, even as we sit in fear, miracles happen.
The 1996 gold medalist in women’s platform diving was said to have no fear as she stood ten meters above the water preparing for each dive. Her composure was rock solid, her dives were graceful, and she deserved the gold medal. Her competitors were skilled Olympic divers also capable of winning the gold. I believe that the winner showed up prepared and well trained like everyone else. What stood her apart from the rest was her lack of fear. Without fear, she was free to simply concentrate on her technique. I admired this in her, but even more so I admired the other divers’ ability to climb to the top of the platform with their fear and dive the ten meters anyway. Years of training on each dive couldn’t eliminate their fear. Each of them deserves a gold medal. So take their example—don’t wait for the fear to leave before letting go. Just dive.
Show up, train, participate, learn the skills necessary to compete, and then just let go and trust. If we can do this each day of our lives, then we will all win the gold. Allow the divine to enter your life. If we hold on in fear, clinging to our achievements and desires, then grace will not have an opportunity to visit. If we sit in fear, our hearts and mind, will become clouded and our true voice will get pushed deeper and deeper. So free your voice by letting go. And letting go. And letting go.
JUST THE FACTS
For one week, observe your behavior and try to be aware of times when you are anxious or fearful. Each night, record in your Quiet Corner notebook unpleasant encounters you had with other people or simply the unpleasant feeling you walked away with. Become your own private, personal life reporter. Just write the facts. Don’t judge. Don’t even try to change. Just try to heighten your awareness.
The next week, notice these events as they’re happening and practice letting go, right there and then. Not forever. Just one incident at a time. When arguing with a friend, let go of the need to be right, even if you are right. Let go of the desire to help someone who resists it. Let go of the delusion that by simply willing it you can change the flow of traffic. Write about these experiences. How easy or hard was it to let go? Were you successful each time you made the attempt? Record your struggle, your feelings, your awareness.
Let go, let go, let go. And let the universe carry on for a while without your help.
At the end of the week, review what happened or didn’t. How different were your feelings the second week versus the first? Write it all down. This is important stuff. It may not be learning the way you’re used to, but it’s learning nonetheless—about what truly makes you tick and how you can let go and invite grace into your life and give expression to your inner truth.