Day 14–Letting Go
..Continued from previous entry…
The work of letting go has been to discover what life is like when I’m not spending it in offense or defense (protection or grasping).
These offensive and defensive moments often happen during interactions with others, of course, but the most profound offensive and defensive behavior was what I discovered inside of myself.
I woke up every morning and noticed that there was a part of me, that was already chattering away about the day ahead—what will I do, where will I go, what do I have to do, what do I want to do. Then there was the afterthought associated with the list of to do’s, perhaps resenting those “have tos,” perhaps excited about those “want tos,” but either way not here. Not here, in my body, waking up, making breakfast. Already there in the imagination of what’s to come, or what might not.
As I watched this chatter I began to notice that along with it there is a general feeling that comes. The feeling is of a low-level anxiety or unease—a pressing on the skin from the inside. In words, I’ve come to think of it as the general sentiment of “there is a problem.”
It was this very feeling that prompted me at a young age to develop an eating disorder. At first I was just a runner, cross-country practice prompting me into more and more miles, and then I started to like the feeling of exhaustion. I started to long for a body so tired it didn’t have to feel, a body so beaten it could fall into bed and sleep, anxiety out-run… until the next day when it would all begin again. At that time I wasn’t aware that I was attempting to escape anything, I was just a fifteen-year-old going through the motions. Though an eating disorder is long behind me, I discovered in adulthood that I was living with this low level anxiety, or “there is a problem” attitude driving me.
When I first consciously noticed this anxiety in myself it actually got worse. I think it was because I was paying attention to it, whereas before it was just the thing that made me jump out of bed in the morning. Now I noticed it every turn and I couldn’t do anything to make it go away because I could see that it was there. It was amazing to watch how this ego, or mind-chatter, was literally never satisfied.
I’d start a project I was excited about and there would be little more than a moment’s enjoyment before I was wishing it would end, or complaining about the details, or running into “issues.” I noticed it in conversations with friends, both in my words and in theirs:
“There’s always something…
“I’m so stressed all the time..
“It just never stops…
“Go go go, you know I’m busy.” Pause. Sigh. “Busy but happy.” Forced smile.
I began to be able to see in my own thoughts the constant, unceasing, never satisfied search for the perfect moment, perfect schedule, perfect balance of work and play and family that will finally, ultimately, perfectly be enough. Enough money, enough time, happiness, fulfillment, space, recognition…
But what if it doesn’t exist?
Except for here. Right now. Only ever and eternally, now.
I imagine that every single one of us has had the experience of thinking out or planning out a whole day or weekend, or even an hour. And then actually experiencing that day or hour and finding that it did not at all fit our plan, perhaps it was better than we imagined and we feel happy, perhaps it was worse and we feel disappointment.
What if we did away with all of this? Wouldn’t it be so much easier, to just experience life as it is? To walk into the day and let it happen… instead of making it mold to our will?
For a whole year, maybe more, every time I was able to notice this anxiety pressing inside of me for things to be different, faster, slower, better, not that way…this way, I would stop. As soon as I noticed that I was gripping or pushing, by holding my pen too tightly, or manipulating a conversation, or defending an idea I would just stop. No matter if I was late or tired, or lonely, or in the middle of a conversation. I would stop. Take three deep breaths. And just gently say to myself, “There is no problem.”
And as I did this practice, at first frequently—literally before I’d make it from my bed in the morning down to the kitchen to make coffee I might have stopped myself 20 times! Until I needed to say it less and less and I began to feel this deep, calm, relief and spaciousness where anxiety used to reside.
“Enlightenment is the deep understanding that there are no problems.”
Jennifer said those words to our women’s group and something deep inside of me listened, though my mind got very active trying to prove her wrong:
…Deforestation, global warming, Rape, Poverty, Murder…
A problem implies that it shouldn’t be happening. But if it is happening, if it is what is happening, then there is no way that it should not be happening because it is. That does not mean that we do not leap to stop the falling child or change actions in our lives to live in better harmony with our nature or our families and friends, or protest gun violence, or women’s rights. It simply means that no thing that is happening in our lives is a problem. It just is.
We simply are.
We are here
and we are here
and we are here.
Over and over again we are here.
And if we work with, and respond to our lives from unity rather than inner division, from acceptance and investigation rather than the mindset that there are wrongs and problems and we are victims, and they are victims and it is all so screwed up, so why even bother?
I wonder what kind of world we could create.