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She Let Go

by Jennifer Eckert Bernau
Santa Cruz, California

Without a thought or a word,

she let go.

She let go of fear.
She let go of judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry,

she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She just let go.

She let go of all the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning
and all of the calculations
how to do it
just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement.
She didn’t check the weather report
or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree,

she just let go.There was no effort.

There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good.
It wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

Here’s to giving ourselves the gift of letting go…

There’s only one guru ~ you.

Another photo – of some more artwork made for me by my daughter.  All together now… “Awwww!”

Geographically, I’ve traveled a lot of places.  But right now I’m traveling through a book.  I’m reading The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron.

The book is a compilation of short talks given at the beginning of the day during a month-long retreat.  The goal of the talks was to inspire the participants to treat themselves with lovingkindness throughout the month.

So far, I’ve gotten two main points from the book.

One I find rather revolutionary.  She talks about stepping back from ourselves and examining all of ourselves with curiosity and lovingkindness.  She talks about that being the point of meditation and other Buddhist practices.  The point, then, is not some sort of self-improvement, which she describes as an aggressive act against the self.  The point, rather, is to see, be curious about, understand, and be gentle with, all of the various parts of ourselves.  We are fully human because of the things we prize about ourselves as well as the things that make us feel ashamed.  So the goal is to embrace all of it.

When I was reading about this concept this morning, I started to cry.  I had been feeling really upset with myself over a laundry list of characteristics that I really felt needed to just go, be gone, depart from my personality already.   And the idea that I can instead step back and treat even (especially?) those parts of myself with gentleness made me feel so relieved.

The other concept she talked about came in the form of a story.  It’s an old story, an analogy really.  There’s the best horse, that runs without the whip touching its back.  The good horse runs as the whip grazes its back.  The poor horse needs to feel pain from the whip in order to run.  And the worst horse needs to feel pain down in the marrow of its bones in order to run.

She said most of us think it would be best to be the best horse, and we think that our lives and our various practices ought to lead us there.  But she said that it’s often where we feel we are the worst horse that we are able to learn the most about ourselves, and to feel the most compassion for others.  So she and other teachers do not recommend “trying” to be the best horst, but simply acknowledging the truth of which horse we are right now.  She said that being the worst horse is just as good as being the best horse, and that kind of orneriness is what gives that person characteristics that make the person fully human and fully unique.

I started applying this “worst horse” phrase to the laundry list of things I’d been judging myself for.  It gave me some significant relief just to say, as I’d think about this THING that was bugging me, “worst horse.”  Then I could both embrace it and dismiss it from my immediate thoughts.

One of my biggest “worst horse” characteristics is the tendency I have to overthink, overanalyze, everything.  This can lead to paralyzing feelings of upset and a simultaneous feeling of spinning out of control.

The idea that I can take this characteristic and see it, be curious about it, understand it, and treat it with lovingkindness; and that I can feel it as a “worst horse” characteristic (which is simply a statement and not a judgment), makes me feel greatly relieved.

I really really like that feeling of touching upon those places inside that I’ve recoiled from, those places that are a little sore and a little broken and that, even so, respond to a gentle touch.

Traveling to – relief.

The holiday time of year from Thanskgiving to New Year tends to be when I am suddenly extremely busy and then, equally suddenly, extremely not busy.

This year I am transitioning many parts of my personal and professional life while all of these holidays are looming.

So I believe, somehow, that I “should” be very happy already and very motivated.  Instead, I find myself somewhat stuck.  I’m not sure what next steps I have time to take in either the personal or professional realms in the next two weeks, and yet I feel a clamoring (internal and external) to Take Steps.

I’d like to focus in very small.  The word minute (pronounced my-NOOT) keeps coming to mind.  I want my world to shrink into itself, into just a few important people and priorities.  I want the rest to be superfluous.

And so I had the unusual experience of feeling unsettled and reassured at the same time just before Thanksgiving Day.  I had anticipated talking to a colleague about a job issue and spreading my own worries and making the situation worse by discussing it.  But I knew I needed to talk about the issue, since I had run out of options and since it really wasn’t my task in the first place.  Well – once we got to talking, I learned from this colleague that the very things I was worried about were not even issues.  Seriously.  I was extremely worried about complete non-issues.

It’s given me pause.  I wonder about worry – again and again, I wonder about worry.  I wonder if I use it to cover up how important my real life, my emerging life, is.  I wonder if I use it to stall a bit.

I wonder what would happen if I just decide that everything is OK this holiday season.  I wonder what would happen if I simply allow myself to focus on what brings happiness, peace, and that empowering sense of having taken that one more, small but significant, next step.

I think that worry drains me of the kindness I might otherwise show myself and others.  It turns me into a leaky faucet, draining energy that could be used to water my soul.

One story from my Christian upbringing stays with me as an inspiration here.  A man who devoted his life to many worthy causes in a country far from his homeland spent many hours a day meditating and praying.  An interviewer asked him how he could possibly spend so much time in solitude and meditation when it was clear that his many charitable projects called for incredible investments of his time.  The man replied that he had discovered that the busier he felt himself to be, the longer he realized he needed to spend in solitary prayer.  So his busiest days would also find him the most surrounded by spiritual solitude.

I’d like to remember that fellow’s name, bring him back in a time machine, and ask him a few questions about how he pulled it off.  But I suspect that the only answer is the one given by folks who meditate, pray, and seek solitude in any spiritual practice.  Start inside, and as things get more chaotic outside, go inward.  So then it’s not even a matter of time and schedule, but of the inner core.

I’ve had the experience recently of feeling completely supported in endeavors that mattered deeply to me.  I would have expected this experience to bring me into a state of unhealthy dependence on that support.  Instead, I’ve found that I can feel my own resolve, my own purpose, growing inside me.

So I pledge to be a refuge for myself this holiday season.  I pledge to nourish my soul.  I pledge to focus in with care on those folks who matter most.  I pledge to continue the small and monumental shifts in my life that emerge from taking refuge – inside a really good place.  My own heart.

Just in case you are one of the three people on the planet who haven’t seen this, enjoy the Hallelujah flashmob.  Complete with jazz hands at the end.