Letting go 08: making the emotional connection

Before my diet I only felt bad about being overweight when I caught a glimpse of my reflection.

Then I would feel bad, but the rest of the time it wasn’t really on my mind.

And eating? Eating was one of my great pleasures in life. I never felt bad about that!

Joining the dots

It wasn’t until I embarked on my search for a final answer to losing weight that I realised this didn’t add up.

How could I be happy about the way I ate but unhappy about my physical appearance, which was a direct consequence of the way I ate?

This is what led me to see that my body was merely reflecting something about my behaviour. I just hadn’t joined the dots or made that connection before.

I mean the emotional connection: it’s obvious that people diet to lose weight, and over-eating causes weight gain. What I mean by joining the dots is seeing the connection between feeling so bad about my weight, but feeling so good about eating.

Either I shouldn’t feel so bad about my weight, or I shouldn’t feel so good about eating. Something had to give in this emotional dynamic.

The hidden connection

When I feel bad about my circumstances in life, there must be something prior – something I enjoy or feel good about – that sets me up for that suffering.

The painful part of these circumstances is their unwantedness. It’s painful to notice conditions that are not the way I want them to be.

What is it that sets me up for this fall? What is it that feels good at the time, but leads me into situations that feel bad? What is it that feels enjoyable but shouldn’t if I could see the bigger picture?

Assertion

I’m going to call it “assertion” for now. It’s an inner assertion of control, wanting, grasping, or conditionality within me.

It’s as though I’ve put forward a claim or a demand on reality to be a certain way, and this leaves me sensitive to every contrary circumstance and change.

This is the part that doesn’t feel bad, yet sets me up to feel bad.

It’s not about desire or inspiration. Desire is implicit in our very experience of life. Desire is preference. Desire informs our personality and shapes our existence and our whole sense of wanted and unwanted.

Assertion is different. Assertion feels important in the same way that having a stake in something feels important. Assertion is like getting involved because you don’t trust others to do it right.

But like anything we do, it stems from a thought. Here the thought is negative and resistant. It’s the thought that I need to speak up or I’ll be overlooked. It’s the thought that things don’t work out for me so I need to get involved. It’s the thought that I can’t trust or rely on life to go well.

It’s the thought that by sticking my oar in I can steer this whole thing in a better direction.

False premise

These thoughts hinge on a false premise that uninspired effort and action will improve my life and make me feel better.

It’s a change in mode from inspiration, enjoyment and ease, to worry, control, and struggle.

That’s why unwanted circumstances feel like failure or loss. They push against this invisible force I’ve set up within myself, this effort of trying to assert my will on the world.

The big picture

We would all prefer life to unfold with ease. Inner assertion is, like over-eating was, an attempt to feel better that only succeeds in temporary escape by kicking the can down the road a little.

The attitude of taking things into my own hands feels temporarily empowering. But it comes at a cost of trust and faith in the goodness of God and the universe.

If I could trust instead, I wouldn’t need this assertion and control; and since assertion and control don’t work anyway, all I’m giving up is an illusion.

After all, if everything is working toward my good, then what sense does it make to say that some circumstances are wanted and some are unwanted?

That’s why the Abraham-Hicks teachings say that everything has both a wanted and unwanted aspect, depending on where we focus.

Refusing this dynamic

I think the way forward for me is to become aware of whatever lack of trust or faith moves me to assertion and control in the first place; just as I learned to become aware of the negative feelings that used to motivate my escape into over-eating.

All it takes is to decline the false promise of escape, and the whole dynamic will start to lose momentum and wind down.

Let go of the urge to control, and the frustration of unwanted conditions will go too. Stop endorsing the underlying thought of negativity and dissatisfaction, and trust and faith will return.

Letting go of ‘impossible’

Some situations in life seem beyond our ability to fix or repair or bring to fruition.

They feel impossible because they are impossible, at least for us.

That’s why letting go is so important. Even the effort to find an answer is a form of resistance. Wanting to know how it can possibly work out is reiterating how impossible it seems again and again.

Might as well say “I don’t believe”.

But we don’t need to understand how manifestations come about. And if we are troubled by this lack of understanding, then we are resisting the flow of ease, joy, and freedom within us.

The antidote to an “impossible” situation may be trust and faith, or it may be clarity in the form of realising that we don’t need answers, we just need to allow.

These situations are just manifestations. And manifestations are just the product of our thoughts, filtering the grace and blessings God pours out to us constantly and without end.

And in between thoughts and manifestations, our feelings tell us immediately how much we are allowing or resisting God’s blessings.

So being troubled about a subject and struggling to find answers is a sign of resistance, and that resistance is reflected in the manifestations that follow!

Let go. Let go of the oars. No amount of effort will make the things you desire come quicker or be more likely. Because it’s not a matter of speed or proximity or probability. Those desires are already granted in an unending stream; it’s just our resistance that keeps the manifestation at bay.

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.

Remember to let go

It’s funny how, when life is going well because we’ve let go, it can be suddenly enticing to pick up the oars and hurry things along.

Letting go points us in the right direction, but that doesn’t mean we can rush off in that direction and get there sooner.

Impatience, the desire to be in control, these impulses suggest some resistance to the journey, a refusal to find satisfaction in the moment.

Letting go, allowing, can’t be rushed because it’s all about learning to rely on a greater power than ourselves. What we need is practice: steady, consistent practice that will one day become permanent.

Making “ordinary” beautiful

I’ve had a prejudice against “ordinary” life for years. Now I’m seeing how that prejudice interferes with my own happiness.

It’s based on unhappy childhood memories and compounded by threads of cultural elitism.

Are you bohemian or bourgeois?

I’d had enough of bourgeois life and attitudes and culture, but bohemian lifestyles didn’t offer much hope of lasting happiness, so I continued in my search holding only to a disdain for everything normal, mundane, and predictable.

My main fear was getting “stuck” in a meaningless existence. But nor could I find my own meaning either.

I’m now married with children, and though we aren’t conventional (whatever that means) I’m still dogged by the fear of being happy with a “meaningless” life.

(It’s okay folks, my wife knows this is my own issue to deal with.)

But how stupid is it to be sitting here afraid of being happy with all the good things in life, just because I’m worried I might be embracing something that resembles a very unhappy period of my life?

Say that out loud again….

I’ve never known it with such clarity but there it is: my teenaged, horribly depressed conviction that feeling miserable was a symptom of a bourgeois existence.

Say that out loud: I’m afraid that if I am happy right now I’ll be miserable. 😂

Momentum of old thoughts

Part of me – some old thoughts – still thinks happiness lies in escaping “ordinary” life.

The rest of me knows that there’s no such thing as ordinary life. There’s just my life, and what I do with it is up to me.

Those old thoughts had some momentum and it was like they kept pushing and running without taking the time for an update.

It’s like these different parts of me had never spoken to each other.

But now it’s coming together, through the grace of finding relief and allowing happiness in bit-by-bit.

I’m seeing now that this old fear and need to “escape” was just mistaken. It wasn’t conditions of life I wanted to escape from, it was misaligned thoughts and the bad feelings that followed.

What is “ordinary”?

I’ve said it before, but ordinary really doesn’t matter. If you look at life from the perspective of creating your reality via your thoughts and feelings, allowing God’s blessings to flow to you, then what does ordinary have to do with anything?

It doesn’t matter what other people do or what is popular or commonplace where you live.

What matters is what you think and how your thoughts and perspectives feel to you. Find the thoughts that feel good, and you are finding your own alignment with God, whether that leaves you loving white picket fences or something totally different.

Take it for granted?

It might seem unfair, but good things in life happen to the most positive, happiest, easy-going people.

We might prefer that good things happen to us because of how hard life has been, or how much we’ve struggled, but it doesn’t work that way.

It makes sense, because the positive, easy-going people are appreciative of everything. They’re so appreciative that they take good things for granted.

Isn’t that bad?

Were told that it’s bad to take things for granted. We think it means the opposite of appreciation and gratitude.

But to grant means to give, bestow, or allow. Taking for granted doesn’t mean being ungrateful, it means:

“to regard (something) as not requiring proof”

In other words, taking for granted is believing without seeing.

Getting it wrong

Sometimes we resent positive, easy-going people for the good things they enjoy. We tell ourselves that we would appreciate good things much more, because we don’t expect them.

Aren’t we therefore more deserving?

But that’s not how it works. God is bestowing good things on all of us, but it’s up to us to accept or allow them.

God makes the rain fall on the fields of the good and the bad alike. Like the parable of the workers in the field, He undeservedly pays the same wage to the late-comers as to those who had worked all day.

When we look askance at those who seem to have good things just fall in their lap, aren’t we like the all-day workers griping at the unfairness of it all, and thereby missing the point about the One who grants us everything?

Taking as given

The good news is that we can change our attitude from one of negativity, struggle, and griping, to one of positivity, expectation, and trust.

After all, each of us has aspects of life where we take good things for granted – take them as given – however small they might seem.

It takes practice to change, but as I meditate I feel the relief of letting go of old stories where I’m struggling and hard-done-by. I begin to feel the tremendous ease of life. I feel that nothing could really be a problem or an obstacle unless I tell a story about it being a problem or an obstacle.

And if I let go of that story, I feel the immense reserves of pure energy quietly beside and within me. Nothing ostentatious or grand, but an ever-fluid ocean of potential, of power.

My only mistake is trying to put up walls in and around that moving presence. The walls of story and belief can’t capture or contain or limit this ocean; all they can do is make me sea-sick and distraught at the effort of holding them together.

As easy as that ocean feels, let me feel that same ease in life. Let me trust that I will float on its currents, and not be dashed to pieces on the rocks. Let me inhabit the breadth and magnitude of it, as I know that it uplifts and sustains us all.

Seeing the best in others

The greatest help we can be to others is to not join them in their misaligned thoughts.

Sometimes we find ourselves thinking that other people need our help. They need to be rescued, assisted, and it is our job – our responsibility – to make them feel better.

But this has to be false.

We create our own reality, and our emotions are a direct response to the thoughts we are focused upon.

When other people feel bad, it is because they too are focused on misaligned thoughts.

If we are noticing other people feeling bad, it is not up to us to make them feel better. In fact, if we are noticing that they feel bad it most likely means that we too are focusing on misaligned thoughts.

If you love someone and you believe God is with them, and you know they have their own journey and their own inner guidance and their own inner being constantly showering them with love and appreciation, then what exactly is the problem?

Rescuing people

Some of us grow up with patterns of thought where we feel accountable and responsible for the happiness of others.

The flip side is that we are always on the look-out for other people’s displeasure and unhappiness, with the disempowering premise that they can’t feel better without outside help.

It’s an unhealthy need to be needed and fear of being hated or blamed. But it doesn’t have to persist in us because it is only some thoughts with a bit of momentum.

No one needs rescuing

No one needs rescuing, no one can be rescued.

Everyone has access to the same relationship with God, and none of us is the special conduit of grace for anyone else.

We need to look past the appearance of their neediness and struggle, and recognise that this is really a matter of our own perception and our own thoughts about them.

If you feel bad about someone else’s struggle you are the one feeling bad. And trying to feel better by “helping” them is really an attempt to make yourself feel better by changing your circumstances.

They don’t need your help. You need your own help to focus on thoughts that feel good. Maybe thoughts about them and how capable and wise they are. But it’s still your thoughts that control how you feel and the reality you create.

Other people are as wise as you. Other people are as close to God as you. Other people have their own emotional guidance and experience as much as you. Other people’s happiness depends not on you but on God and their own thoughts.

So let them all off the hook. Other people are not your responsibility. You are not accountable for them or to them.

Everything is going as well for them as it is for you. They are as much on their path as you are on yours. Things are going very well for them, and you’d see it (and so would they) if you just stop focusing on thoughts that don’t feel good.

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.

Other people’s bad moods

I used to feel responsibility and fear of other people’s bad moods and negative emotions.

But like everything in my experience, how I feel is not determined by circumstances (including the circumstance of other people being moody). How I feel is determined by my thoughts about circumstances.

For example: “he’s in a mood again!” feels pretty bad. I could sit, tense with anxiety, because I think someone expressing unhappiness or frustration is the foreshadowing of angry outbursts and cruel attacks on bystanders like me.

And in most cases I’d be wrong. Not just wrong, but blinded to the many positive aspects of the other person’s experience of contrast, blind to the value it holds for them and me, and at worst unwittingly contributing to the outcome I fear.

For all I know they might look up from their moderate feelings of frustration to catch me staring sidelong at them as if they are something horrible.

For all I know, my fearfulness contributes to their sense of dissatisfaction and overshadows the ease and happiness that is there even in the midst of a bad mood.

And for all I know the reality might be entirely benign. A moment’s contrast amidst a sea of calm, but I fly off in panic and stick the label “bad mood” over the whole day.

Is the bad mood in them or in me?

I don’t really know how other people are feeling, but if I’m sensing a dark and foreboding mood then that mood is active in me too.

Even if someone is in a bad mood, how does that effect me?

No, a bad mood is just another circumstance, and it’s my resistance that makes it seem so dire.

It’s therefore within my power to ease my thoughts and find relief, either by changing the subject of my focus or by telling a new story about it.

What is a bad mood?

What is a bad mood after all, except misaligned thoughts creating negative feelings.

The person in question is experiencing contrast, and their emotional guidance tells them their thoughts are out of alignment.

It’s actually nothing to do with me, anymore than my emotional guidance is the “fault” of others.

In fact my guidance is telling me, in my fear of others’ moods, that I have the wrong idea about them. Other people’s moods can have no impact on me, because other people do not create my experience.

Other people do not decide what thoughts I will think, what stories I will tell. Other people do not control my perception and focus.

When I was a child people’s bad moods scared me because I thought they were about me, reflections of my self giving rise to anger and malice in others. I interpreted their moods as judgement, and anticipated a terrible punishment to follow.

Now I’m an adult and I understand how things work. Other people’s negative emotions are not about me, but about their own thoughts, stories and perceptions.

Change your perception

I’m lying here on the couch and my wife is watching a video with headphones on, and it sounds like she’s sobbing her heart out.

Except she’s actually laughing her arse off, quietly so as not to wake the baby.

My thoughts lead me to hear crying before I hear laughter (don’t worry, I checked) and that’s just a matter of practice and momentum.

What kinds of thoughts can we have to help soften our experience of others’ emotions?

People are happy most of the time. People are usually in a good mood. People have their own emotional guidance to help them find alignment. People have their own inner being to call them always towards happiness and joy.

Sometimes people get stuck in their resistance but it’s okay. Being stuck just increases their desire for freedom.

And if people are resisting, and feeling really strong guidance, I hope they get it. I hope they heed the call. I hope they learn to feel good too, as good as I feel right now.

I’ve had my own resistance too. I’ve dug my own hole deeper than it ever needed to be, and that’s how I understand now that it was never necessary to increase my suffering.

I can really relate to people in a state of resistance feeling strong guidance, and that’s why I feel good for them. I know the joy and the trust and the ease and the freedom that flows to them, even though right at this moment they are looking away from it.

I know how good life can be for them, and with that loving intention I can let them go, knowing that they will find their answers too. Knowing that there’s nothing really “wrong” about a bad mood.

Awakening to your higher self

There’s always been this dichotomy of two selves.

The self you are most aware of is more like a focal point than a separate entity. It’s how you participate in the physical world, but it’s not the fullest extent of your being.

When we worry, fear, struggle and fight, it’s as if we are focused on this self to the exclusion or ignoring of its true nature, and ours.

What people call the higher self, Buddha-nature, Christ dwelling within us, is an awakening to this greater being of which we are a part.

If we say the physical self is a focal point, then it is this greater, spiritual self that is focusing here.

We could live most of our lives focused only on the physical self, with only fleeting awareness of the bigger picture.

But the real joy and ease and happiness comes as we come into alignment with this higher, spiritual self that is an extension of God, and begin to merge those two perspectives.

Our higher self is always united with God. It knows only endless streams of love and appreciation and joy.

Our physical self can, as a focal point, be in harmony with our higher self and enjoy the resonance and beauty of that most satisfying relationship.

That is why ease and relief are important, because from God’s perspective there can be no reason, no obstacle, no thing to stand in opposition or resistance to the love and the light that is His very being.

This higher self, this relationship with God is always within us. It just takes practice of relief, practice letting go of the oars and turning downstream, practice of trust to the point where we can feel its presence as naturally as we feel a cool breeze on our skin or the rhythm of our own breath.

It’s only taken me two years of exploration and practice to cease feeling chronically depressed and find relief and trust available to me at all times.

And in that two years it only took about two months of daily focus to really hear the answers i was seeking: let go of the oars, again and again let them go. Let the current turn you downstream. Stop trying, stop efforting, let go into trust that the universe is good, that God desires your happiness, and rest in the utter totality of trusting the creator of the universe to carry you gently, easily into the love you always desired.

This trust is the spring of life-giving water. It is the abundance of joy promised us. It is everything we desire, and it is available to us always.