There it is. The thing we’re all scrambling around trying with might (and TV and cell phones, and movies, and drugs and alcohol and sex) to forget. No getting around it.
You could look at this with doom and gloom and try in vain to hold on even tighter, or you can allow it to liberate you.
I choose the later.
When my teacher spoke those words (…at some point in this life, you will lose everything you love) at a recent meditation retreat, I laughed out loud. Shocked, nervous laughter.
The immensity of it. The holy-shit-simple truth of it. The complete and utter freedom available in it.
If I can just stay with this wild discomfort and the vulnerability it stirs up in me, what might be possible? The trees become a bit greener and the sky filled with that much more wonder. There is a crispness or maybe the word is clarity to just walking down the street. The connection to the ones I love, achingly precious, no matter what shenanigans they are up to, fill me with deep appreciation.
My practice in the weeks following the retreat revealed three aspects all related to this:
Give yourself permission.
It’s not just one or the other. It’s all crazy and mixed up.
There are no doubt countless ah-ha moments available through this one teaching. That’s how teachings are, just one can take you ever deeper into bliss if you allow it to. These are just three that have come to me as of this writing.
Give yourself permission
It’s the magic genie granting me permission…I mean what the hell, if I’m going to lose it all anyway, why not relax and have a little fun?
Permission to say yes (or no, if that’s what leads to yes). And a deep sigh of relief. I can stop trying to hold on so tightly…
To the things I love (they will come and go and come and go and come and go) Best enjoy them when they are here. Like a puppy with a new squeaky toy or a child in a fountain, with abandon.
To my dignity (and the ways of being I have come to think are proper and socially acceptable).
To beliefs (in the words of Abraham-Hicks, a belief is only a thought you continue to think).
To knowing (“All that I know, is that I know nothing” – Socrates or as my BFF likes to say, don’t over think it.
Like my son who is preparing to leave for college. A process I’m finding begins months before he actually leaves. I’m not sure what’s happening for him as he cuts the strings that bind us, but for me, it’s kinda brutal. My heart is breaking. Sometimes he’s a bit harsh about it. Sometimes it feels like he hates me. When he was little, he would just want to curl up in my arms, all sweetness and love. He’s long outgrown that version of himself. Now he cringes and pulls away if I touch him. My dear friends who have gone before me assure that it’s part of the process. He’ll come back. Sweetness and all. Still, right now it hurts, as growing sometimes does.
My growth is in unconditional positive regard and keeping it real as I allow for his separate self to flourish. This is the work I’ve been doing (with mixed degrees of success his whole life). Bursting with pride, excited, inspired, gladness, touched…these feelings are there too.
It’s not just one or the other. It’s all crazy and mixed up
When we force ourselves to be this or that, some part of us is getting cut out, and that feels pretty bad.
This week at school, I was supporting a young girl after her mom left and she was showing me the peach in her lunch, holding it up to her nose and smelling it with unabandoned pleasure. “It smells so good, I don’t want to eat it. AND it smells so good I really want to eat it.” “I know,” I said, “It’s so crazy sometimes when we feel two different things at the same time!”
She tried to share this feeling with a friend, who said, “That’s weird. You don’t make any sense.”
This bummed her out. She felt misunderstood and judged and mad. As I assured her, I totally get it. I have crazy mixed-up opposite feelings about things all the time.
In the spirit of you can’t take it with you, here are some things I’m saying yes to:
Unreasonable — without reason.
Unsensible — I don’t need to make sense to anyone else.
Following fun and joy where ever it takes me.
Slowing down. The other night I went to the theater in my beautiful golden, extremely high heel platforms. When I wear them, I feel totally blissed out, sassy, freakishly goddess-like, fun. AND, I have to walk super, super slow. Each step is a moving meditation. I linger as one toe leaves the ground and feel my hips swivel as my opposite foot catches me. Delicious. I tug on my sweetie’s arm to go slower. Slower. Slower. As though I have all the time in the world and no place to get to. What luxury these shoes bestow upon me. My inner queen gets to come out to play. Slowing down like this almost feels naughty and giddy.
And in this moment, allowing my sadness and heartache all the space it needs (I needn’t put it on my son), but I can absolutely be there for that part of myself for as long as she needs. This permission actually creates a space where I can be with him free of heaviness and expectation. Neither he nor anyone else is responsible for my happiness. I’ve got that one covered, thank you.
And when my practices leads me to new levels of bliss and love and freedom, fear is never far behind. It seems to be equally tied to loss and big joy and excitement.
I’ve been noticing this Technicolor magic (the crispness mentioned above) that happens when you lean into it. It’s also the guidance given by many teachers of Zen. Lean into fear (or whatever discomfort you may be feeling). This may not look like you, laughing your ass off, although it may, but more like clarity, peace, harmony.
Here’s how it went down for me.
Big joy. The laughing my ass off kind. Followed by fear and worry and a variety of not quite right health concerns. At first, I wanted to analyze and fix the part of me who I determined must be feeling unworthy of joy if fear was a part of it. What’s the story there? Why? What did I do wrong? How do I get rid of this unworthiness?
Here’s how I’ve learned to talk to myself: Nothing, my love. You didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, you are doing it all quite right and that fear is part of it. No need to arm yourself against it or slice it up into tiny pieces…that would just result in slicing up a part of yourself. And rejecting it only fuels the flames.
Yes, this is scary. Yes, you want your family to be safe. You want to be safe. Yes, you feel rejected. Or mad or sad. You are not alone. I am here. I am with you. I love you. Nothing to fix. Nothing to change.
And nothing to do, or figure out. This is the part where you don’t overthink it. Breathe. Go watch the wind dancing in the leaves, listen to the birds singing, check out that wide open sky. That my friends is where freedom lives.
How about you, what freedoms would the permission giving genie grant you?