Letting go isn’t about birds & cages & things coming back if they truly love you.

Via on Sep 16, 2011

Weekly Editor’s Letter, from our Top-10-Blogs of the Week Email Newsletter (free—a great way to stay in touch just a little bit). 

~

On Letting Go.

Pablo Neruda, a poet for sad, bad mornings. Plus, Chögyam Trungpa, on tonglen.

Letting go sucks. Letting go isn’t pretty.


Letting go ain’t sad. Sometimes it’s bad. Letting go isn’t about birds and cages and things coming back if they truly love you. Letting go is about heartburn, claustrophobia, heartache, angst, growling.

Letting go is about needing, needing happy music, old 1950s How do you Like Your Eggs in the Morning with Dino or Greensleeves in the morning, ’cause you’re so sad and bitter you can’t breathe oxygen, you haven’t breathed in days.

Letting go is about the anger right before you open up and hug a friend and get their shoulder wet and salty.

It reminds me of this poem; I used to love Neruda back in college.

~

There is a Buddhist meditation practice for working with anger, or sadness, or loss, or things falling apart. Essentially, it keeps things flowing through you, instead of getting stuck and viewing the emotions as solid, or self-confirming. It works against the ego’s tendency, which is always to cling to pleasure and push away pain, even when reality is painful and pleasure is fleeting. Ironically, this pushing away of pain and pulling at pleasure tends to keep one cycling through dissatisfaction, disharmony, and self-centered turmoil—and one winds up not letting go at all, but just adding fuel to the neurotic fire called “samsara” in the Buddhist tradition.

The practice that, in my limited experience, works best as a tonic for sadness or madness is called tonglen, or sending and taking practice.

Chögyam Trungpa, Buddhist teacher (click for more):

Usually you would like to hold on to your goodness. you would like to make a fence around yourself and put everything bad outside it: foreigners, your neighbors, or what have you. You don’t want them to come in. You don’t even want your neighbors to walk their dogs on your property because they might make a mess on your lawn. So in ordinary samsaric life…you try as much as possible to guard those pleasant little situations you have created for yourself. You try to put them in a vacuum, like fruit in a tin, completely purified and clean. You try to hold on to as much as you can, and anything outside of your territory is regarded as altogether problematic. You don’t want to catch the local influenza or the local diarrhea attack that is going around. You are constantly trying to ward off as much as you can. [click for tonglen instruction via Pema Chodron]

In my day to day life, I try and exercise, eat real food, keep good friends around me and be happy. That’s okay—to the extent that my happiness is able to further your happiness. But if my happiness is fragile, brittle, a gated community, spiritually-speaking—then I’m selfish, not happy; I’m afraid, not relaxed; I’m lonely, not fulfilled; I’m willing to lie, cheat, steal from others if it’ll further my own happiness.

But life isn’t like that. The universe is infinite, and the kingdom of God, or Buddha Nature, is that universe. We can afford to extend ourselves to others, to open up, as they say in the Buddhist tradition, with a raw heart and strong back.

To be a spiritual warrior,
one must have a broken heart;
without a broken heart
and the sense of tenderness and vulnerability
that is in one’s self and all others,
your warriorship is untrustworthy.

~ Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala.

And that’s what, I hope, elephant is here for: to change the conversation in this world to one about us vs. them to remembering it’s a small world, and we’re all in the same boat.

If you’d like to help us continue to grow and reach beyond our choir and to those who aren’t sure they give a care about, say, mindfulness or our environment, fan our Facebook Page (free) or subscribe ($1/month)—we get enough supporters, we’ll be able to hire an editor and really raise the consistency and quality of our offerings.

~Waylon Lewis

About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom

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25 Responses to “Letting go isn’t about birds & cages & things coming back if they truly love you.”

  1. For me, this post warrants to deep and heartfelt words: THANK YOU! Throughout a very tough couple of weeks, I’ve rattled and battled with precisely what you speak of here. I’ve learned that letting go is diving DEEP into the dungeons of the dirt and giving it permission to suffocate me. Myself included, sometimes there is the seduction to just gloss over this tough ugly stuff in the notion that ‘this too shall pass.’ Absolutely! But more than passing — which inevitably results in return at some point — the real crux is being with it while it is present. This in and of itself gives it the freedom to exit in the right space and time. Bless Up, Nadine!

    • Jeanie says:

      I tripped on this post and I have to say I was very pleasantly surprise by the simplicity of it. Have you notice that the world receives the most simple answered to our problems and yet we try to complicate things. We have the problem and the solution. Threat others with respect because it is also a way of threating and respecting yourself. Let yourself feel your emotions even or especially if you need to ugly-cry because it will be the best time to feel into your soul and work through blockages and once you are done, love yourself for being human, for feeling that pain and above all for feeling like you were broken but realizing for the first time that you were whole the whole time.

  2. madgrooves says:

    AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for this confirmation of truth, succulent morsel of wisdom enriching my morning…my life =D Beautiful and so SO very powerful, essential and true.

  3. For me, this post warrants two deep and heartfelt words: THANK YOU! Throughout a very tough couple of weeks, I’ve rattled and battled with precisely what you speak of here. I’ve learned that letting go is diving DEEP into the dungeons of the dirt and giving it permission to suffocate me. Myself included, sometimes there is the seduction to just gloss over this tough ugly stuff in the notion that ‘this too shall pass.’ Absolutely! But more than passing — which inevitably results in its return at some point — the real crux is being with it while it is present. This in and of itself gives it the freedom to exit in the right space and time. Bless Up, Nadine!

  4. Chris Lemig Chris Lemig says:

    Thank you! So wonderful to see this kind of thing being talked about…we need this kind of thinking to seep into the collective unconscious of our society. Little by little… :)

  5. catnipkiss says:

    I love it when you bring the tough things back to Buddhist practice (for that IS what it's all about, yes?). The link to the Pablo Neruda poem did not work for me, but I do love his poetry. I plan to visit his house in Chile next winter, he named it CHASCONA, or woman with tousled hair, after his wife. My ex lover – yeah, the one I can't QUITE let go of – called me something similar (it's prettier in Spanish, though). Sometimes, I think, letting go means even if the thing you are trying to let go of WANTS to come back, you still need to decide – somehow – whether you still want to let go, even with the temptation of reclaiming your lost love (or whatever it may be). I am having a hard time with this. Yes, I'll probably blog about it! soon :) – Catnip (Alexa Maxwell) http://www.catnipkiss.wordpress.com

  6. Andrea Balt Andréa Balt says:

    Great post! The title is also a work of art. I used to like Neruda in college as well, when I had my first serious contact with poetry but we broke up after a while, too much romance at the time. I left him for Borges. :) But he's a great example of poetic vulnerability. He just lays his heart out on the kitchen table with no regrets, so you can enjoy it for dinner. The link to the poem you posted is not working, but my all-time favorite Neruda is the famous "I don't love you": link here – http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179257 – which I even memorized back then. The Spanish version is slightly more dramatic. :)

    • YES! "Tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
      tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño."

      So beautiful….I speak Spanish muy lentamente..but love reading Neruda & enjoy the Merwin translations the best.

  7. Beautiful…it's really all "us" isn't it? There is no "them." I hope that I can always keep my broken open heart….love is SO short, and forgetting is so long. I aspire to stay in that broken vulnerability, and never get around to the forgetting.

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  13. pixelrites says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for the many reminders

  14. Sarah J says:

    Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to read today.

  15. Monkey says:

    Yeah it sucks… sucks hard.

    I like to say/think… there is no such thing as a 'broken heart', only a heart breaking open…

    That pain, that is the fuel for peace, freedom, love and joy.

  16. charliehaskins says:

    Thank you for this read today. In having to let go of so much of what I thought was "mine" in the past three years and experience the "heart break" of letting them go, I have felt my heart and soul transition from closed vessels of protectionism, where I was trying to not let them be hurt and trying to protect them in very unhealthy ways, to the full acceptance that they are in fact, now broken wide open and revealed, aching, raw and most importantly, accepting. Of all the journeys that I have taken during my life, this is one that I know has no ending. I am thankful to the Universe for setting me on this (initially) most unwelcomed but fulfilling path.

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