Letting go day 01

A series on “letting go” seemed wrong a couple of weeks ago, but now I feel the need for it.

Clarity is good, but I don’t just want clarity. I also want ease and trust and letting go.

In the martial art I learn, it’s just not possible to focus on every aspect each time we train. As much as I wanted there to be a single correct way of training, there are many different aspects that need to be kept up turn by turn if you want to progress.

It reminds me of a story from the Zhuangzi:

‘I have heard my master say that they who skilfully nourish their life are like shepherds, who whip up the sheep that they see lagging behind.’

‘What did he mean?’ asked the duke.

The reply was, ‘In Lû there was a Shan Pâo, who lived among the rocks, and drank only water. He would not share with the people in their toils and the benefits springing from them; and though he was now in his seventieth year, he had still the complexion of a child. Unfortunately he encountered a hungry tiger, which killed and ate him.

There was also a Kang Î, who hung up a screen at his lofty door, and to whom all the people hurried (to pay their respects). In his fortieth year, he fell ill of a fever and died.

(Of these two men), Pâo nourished his inner man, and a tiger ate his outer; while Î nourished his outer man, and disease attacked his inner. Both of them neglected whipping up their lagging sheep.’

I’m hoping this series will remind me each day to let go and trust, and enjoy the ease that comes from it. I’m hoping it will take me deeper and deeper into letting go and allowing my life to unfold without resistance.

From relief to appreciation

Everything is changing, evolving, and expanding.

The last few days of meditation have been like a flood of relief. Today it no longer feels like relief, and once upon a time I’d have lost faith and given up because “it’s not working anymore”.

But relief is the feeling of releasing resistance, and it doesn’t make sense to think that there must be never-ending resistance to let go.

Think of relief as preparing a space for appreciation. When the same practice of meditation – letting go of your thoughts and your stories – is no longer bringing relief, that’s actually a sign of progress.

Appreciation is a more stable, powerful, aligned energy than relief. Relief only comes when we let go of resistance, but appreciation can be forever.

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on relief without finding the appreciation implicit in it. It’s a relief to get what you want after a long period of feeling deprived. But often we get what we want and then immediately forget about it, moving on to the next thing.

It’s how you play the game

I’m gradually getting my head around this idea, from the Abraham-Hicks teaching, that life will always contain contrast and always call us to expand. The question is how we welcome (or don’t) this call.

From a negative point of view nothing in life will ever be “enough”, we will always want more and never find contentment. No sooner are our desires fulfilled than we want something new.

But from a positive perspective this inherent incompleteness is the source of growth and expansion. If we can just learn to appreciate what is, and find a way to feel eager about what is coming next, then instead of an unending struggle or Sisyphean frustration, the exact same life is revealed to be an infinite journey of discovery and ease.

The flip side of “something always goes wrong” is that things are always getting better.

Floating downstream

When we look at life in ways that feel bad, we are fighting the current that carries us.

But as we learn to let go of the oars, we feel relief at giving up the struggle followed by enjoyment of the easy journey before us.

It’s the ease of this journey, and the sheer genius of the blessings along the way, that offer us endless opportunities for appreciation and savour.

Relief comes when you rest your tired muscles. But when they are no longer tired, then relief is replaced by enjoyment, satisfaction, and appreciation.

In the receptive mode

God wants us to be happy.

“All things work for the good of those who love God”.

God is always shining love and light and blessings upon us. He is always turning circumstances and conditions to our advantage. He is constantly bringing us satisfying and fulfilling experiences.

All we need do is appreciate, allow, and receive these benefits. There are no preconditions or requirements unless we call “receiving” a requirement or “appreciating” a precondition.

Allowing, trusting, accepting, these attitudes let us see the good things coming to us and feel the alignment with God’s love and joy within us.

It’s easy; it only seems difficult or elusive because we have practiced looking for difficulties and treating happiness as hard to find.

As we practice feeling better we begin to appreciate this lightness and ease. We appreciate and enjoy the feelings of relief that well up inside as we let go of any struggle or effort.

Allowing life to be easy is all it takes for life to actually be easy. Allowing good things to come is all it takes for good things to actually come.

It is only our resistance that disallows, and resistance lies in thoughts like “life is hard” instead of “life is easy”.

Remembering ease

I have this recurring suspicion that the answer to all of my questions in life will turn out to be “just stop trying”.

That’s partly because I used to be so intense I turned relaxation into an effort and “giving up” into a long-term goal that never got closer.

I’m so much happier these days, and my current themes of ease, trust, accepting, allowing, and letting go of the oars resonate so strongly.

Occasionally things are going so well that I forget. But the beauty of ease is that everything can always get easier. There’s no limit. The wonder of trust is that it just gets stronger the more you do it. There will never be a time to stop trusting, to stop enjoying ease, or to stop letting the current carry you downstream.

There will never be a time when happiness, appreciation and joy aren’t the only game in town.

So remind yourself to let go of the oars, let go completely, and allow God to reach you continuously with all the love and the blessings He has made for you.

The excitement of contrast

Contrast refers to anything unwanted in your experience.

According to the Abraham-Hicks teaching, contrast is an essential feature of our physical experience. We welcome it because contrast provides a basis for new desires to evolve, and desires are the essence of new creation.

But at first it’s hard to see it this way. We don’t welcome unwanted conditions, instead we long for them to vanish.

As we become more and more aligned with our own inner being, the part of us that is always united with God, we get better and better at handling contrast.

We begin to appreciate that the “fly in the ointment”, the one thing that’s ruining an otherwise perfect experience is actually the path or thread calling us on into bigger and better things.

And when we are aligned enough to see it that way, then instead of the wanted and the unwanted, life is about the wanted and “what’s next?” Satisfied with what is, and eager for what is coming.

There’s a delightful moment that keeps recurring for me, where I feel an old issue, problem or struggle coming up, but all of a sudden I realise it’s not a problem or a struggle, it’s contrast!

I know how to deal with contrast!

Deal with it by looking for the wanted, the desire that springs from it. Follow the thread of the joy latent in sorrow, the ease called forth by struggle, and the hope implicit in despair.

Ask yourself “since I know very clearly that I don’t want this, what is it that I do want?” and then start focusing in that direction.

Then you will find that the experience of contrast is truly exciting and thrilling, because an encounter with the unwanted is the doorway to all we desire.

Waking up happy

I’d heard it could be done.

This morning I woke up, and my first thoughts were good ones!

Not even trying or reaching for anything, just the momentum of day after day’s focus on feeling better, suddenly paying off.

Seamlessly picking up where I left off.

And I noticed it. I appreciated it. And then I lost it as I got up to light the oven, have a shower, bake some bread, get the coffee ready.

Still, it was there! I’m so enthralled by the ease of it. I can’t even remember what the specific thoughts were, but in that dreamy state of wakening I was, without trying, thinking thoughts that felt good, and that makes me happy.

Tibetan dreaming

I don’t remember all of it, but before I woke feeling so good I dreamed my wife and I had become Tibetan Buddhists.

It was her idea (of course) and I was okay with it. Then it occurred to me that the spiritual practices we had been doing were Tibetan inspired anyway, so it all lined up.

My feeling was “well if we have to pick one, it makes sense to choose this”. I guess being spiritually eclectic I’d be happiest with a path that respects religious diversity.

I don’t think the dream is actually about Tibetan Buddhism, moreso about accepting that I truly am on a path, that what I’ve been doing these past two years is a path.

Stream-enterer

I love noticing omens in life, and dreams like this are big ones.

Together the dream and waking up happy remind me of the Buddhist teaching of Sotāpanna or “one who enters the stream”.

Wiki defines it as:

a person who has seen the Dharma and consequently, has dropped the first three fetters (saŋyojana) that bind a being to rebirth, namely self-view (sakkāya-ditthi), clinging to rites and rituals (sīlabbata-parāmāsa), and skeptical indecision (Vicikitsa).

I’ve been writing about learning to trust and let go and allow, and I’ve mentioned the Abraham-Hicks metaphor of letting oneself be carried downstream to all happiness and fulfilment of desires.

Well it’s not Buddhist teaching, but it’s a teaching (Dharma) I’ve embraced. And along the way I’ve definitely released my skeptic indecision, clinging to rites and rituals (of my own), and my old self-view.

I’m trusting in this stream that carries me. Each day I’m feeling good in new ways. My happiness is gently evolving, deepening, and giving rise to a new world of experience like I always dreamed I would find.

Letting go: going downstream

The words “letting go of the oars” trigger a profound sense of relief and trust and letting go.

Abraham-Hicks use the metaphor of “going downstream” to depict the ideal attitude for us in daily life.

Imagine you are in a boat on a river. All your life you’ve been told to paddle upstream: no pain no gain!

But in fact there’s nothing you want upstream. Everything you desire is downstream of you, and if you’d just let go of the oars the stream will turn you around and carry you effortlessly and pleasantly on your way.

This metaphor is all about trust and ease and letting go. And by checking how we feel we can immediately tell if we are fighting the current or allowing ourselves to be carried downstream.

Upstream thoughts or downstream thoughts? Those are the only options available to you, and all you need do is choose downstream.

The sage does nothing, yet nothing is left undone.

I love this idea of doing nothing, because I used to spend all day driving myself upstream with worrisome and anxious thoughts.

That image of being effortlessly carried downstream is so perfect for me.

I think that’s why “letting go of the oars” feels so good. What would happen if I trusted and did nothing?

I’ve caught a few glimpses of that state, and ironically that’s when true inspiration tends to strike, drawing me suddenly into excited, joyful, and happy activity.

So trust the stream, trust the current, let yourself be carried effortlessly towards the happiness that awaits you.

Letting go: tension

I want to use my daily writing discipline to focus on letting go. But is that a contradiction?

Years ago I told my Chinese philosophy teacher that meditation tended to make me more tense.

“Relax harder, dammit!” he laughed.

I’d love to find better ways to let go of the tension I’m used to holding; and I’ve been noticing lately that the tension really is intentional.

Like most long-standing yet unwanted conditions, the thoughts creating tension in me have a lot of momentum to them, from a time when I very intently sought control over my physical body.

An intentional state

That’s the other way tension is intentional: it’s a state of stretching or reaching for something. Longstanding physical tension isn’t arbitrary, it’s informed by an effort that uses the body in a taxing way.

Expecting criticism and attack from others, I intentionally tried to control my gaze, my facial expression and my observable physical reactions.

I had this ideal of always looking implacable and unperturbed.

But the only way to maintain such tight control is to prime those muscles with tension, inhibiting spontaneous and natural responses.

Have you ever tried not to laugh or smile at an inappropriate time? You can do it if you clamp down on your expression, clench your jaw and look away as if concentrating elsewhere.

Or what about trying to hold back anger? Again, clench your jaw, stare straight ahead, set your face like stone and seem impassive.

But the worst is being ridiculed, criticised or mistreated on account of your natural expression. “Wipe that stupid grin off your face”, “watch out, the wind might change”, “what are you looking at?” “Don’t just stand there looking like an idiot” These kinds of comments teach you that you are judged for your expression and body language, fairly or unfairly, and imply that there is something to be gained from monitoring and controlling it.

Letting it go

Self monitoring and control are a recipe for chronic tension not only in your face and head but likely your neck and elsewhere as your body’s natural balance is inhibited.

But as we have seen, such tension is a consequence of anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts about how we are seen and perceived by others.

The antidote to such thoughts are simply thoughts that feel better.

As children we took harsh comments at face value, but as adults we know that people who offer unsolicited criticism like that are typically full of s***.

Looking back, the people who criticised me the most turned out to be the least pleasant people to be around, and their rampant negativity and even harsher self-talk is now obvious.

As an adult I’ve seen so many different faces, some anxious and uptight, many profoundly oblivious and relaxed. There are no rules to how we should look and carry ourselves and be. No one goes around, taking people aside to warn them against being too ugly, too stupid-looking, too arrogant looking, too anything.

If you can retell the story around physical tension in whatever form you inflict it, you will be able to let it go.

Our aim should be to soothe those thoughts in a direction of security, trust, and letting go.

Ultimately, people have all kinds of faces, expressions, and body language. But we know from our own observation that what is inside each of us will shine through. For us that includes tension and resistance and fear at the moment. But it doesn’t have to, and it won’t forever. As we soothe and soften our negative thoughts, we will inevitably find the ease and relief we desire.

Feel good all over

Alright friends! Thoughts have evolved, feelings refined, and new ideas received.

Trust, allowing, letting go are the next logical step.

Feeling good all day has served us well, but there’s a bit too much effort and action in it, and as I’m now learning, the way forward is all downstream.

Time to let go of the oars and accept that God is doing all the work here. Let the current carry me, trusting completely and enjoying the relief of no more struggle.

I can’t possibly plan, control or think my way to where I want to be. Time to accept the help I’ve always needed (and always been receiving despite my resistance).

I still want the focal point of daily posting, but this time it will be firmly relaxedly(?) focused on trust, allowing, and letting go.

See you soon! Isn’t this exciting? Happiness Challenge -> Feel good all day -> and now…I’ll just see what happens 😊

What is allowing?

Last night I had the inspiration to start a series focusing on allowing.

My sense was that I’ve been very successful with my focus on feeling good all day and my previous Happiness Challenge, but these still encourage me to be very active and intense.

Abraham-Hicks sometimes refer to their teaching as the Art of Allowing. But what is allowing? And can I actively focus on allowing without it becoming too much about effort and doing?

Step three: allow

In the Abraham teachings we create our reality via a three step process.

Step one, we ask for something. This happens automatically as we form new desires in response to our present reality.

Step two, Source, God, our inner being becomes a match to that desire. This also happens without us doing anything.

Step three, we receive what we have asked for, by coming into alignment with step two. In other words we now believe we have received it. In Abraham terms our thoughts are a vibrational match to our desire and our inner being, as evidenced by how we now feel about it.

Just feel good…?

Just by feeling good we put ourselves in the vicinity of our desires. But that’s what I’ve been doing, so how does allowing enter the picture?

It’s subtle, but there’s a difference between feeling good with the hope of being a match for your desires, and feeling good so as to allow them to come about.

Does the difference matter? Maybe not to everyone, but some of us are used to being intense and in control, and we can turn even “feeling good” into an intense effort to control our experience.

Allowing let’s us off the hook. It encourages us to take things lightly and easily. And it puts the emphasis back on the spiritual side of this reality, knowing that we are not here to push and strive and make things happen.

It also opens us to surprises, to ease, to answers coming out of every mysterious corner of our experience.

And it primes us to be more flexible, to go with the flow, and not be so dead-set on how we think things should unfold.