An exercise in Letting Go - and Taking a Look at the 'Scary Stuff!'
I believe that compassionate detachment is a major component of self-mastery. To me this means, at least in part, that I learn to let go of my own fears and guilt and do not take up new ones, or ones that other people have. I don't try to rescue anyone or 'fix' them, I just accept others and myself as not being perfect, and that's OK. I don't need people to be perfect in order to love them.
And then there is the big idea that I don't need to be perfect to love myself! What a thought!
I'd like to say that for me compassionate detachment means that you do NOT have to walk away from your responsibilities to live in cave or a monastery on a mountain top. There were times when I'd have liked to do just that, but I was gently dissuaded from doing it by a very kind and wise woman named the Reverend Master Jiyu-Kennett, who was the founder of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and the abbey on Mt Shasta. I met her when I was just 19 and she had a profound effect on me. I immediately wanted to go live in the Abbey. She gently told me that I was always welcome to visit, but that in her opinion, I wasn't meant for that kind of life this time around. She thought that I would find that I couldn't live away from the world, meditating and praying this time. I would have to go out and be with people and learn in a different way.
I was slightly crushed when she told me this, but I accepted what she had to say.
Looking back at that conversation forty years ago, I think she was right. My life this time is about a path of self-responsibility and I could see that retreating from the world wouldn’t necessarily bring me closer to the goal of learning about that path. Detachment doesn't mean you have to walk away from everything. It does mean that you learn to let go of your personal attachment to people, places, things, old feelings, etc.
Among other things, I believe that it means that you love your fellow man and offer assistance, but you don’t get into dependent behavior, try to rescue them or make excuses for them (or self) when there is poor behavior.
These days I travel quite a bit to do my spiritual work. I go out into the world and see a lot of people and have a lot of experiences. Then I come home to my little ranch in Arizona and I lead a very quiet life and try to integrate the things that I have learned from each trip I take. It's a good balance for me.
A few years ago, I ended up in the hospital with a serious blood infection, brought on by a kidney infection that had gone nuts. I felt sure that this was a big lesson for me. A kind of "waking dream" - probably something about elimination…detachment and letting go.
"What do I need to let go of?" I asked.
The answer at that moment was a relationship I had thought long over and done with.
“Oh phooey,” I thought. “Well, OK, let's see what this is all about.”
I began a contemplation. I closed my eyes began trying to align my energy with a higher vibration. Almost immediately I went into a deep meditation and had a kind of vision. I found myself before a wall.
I must explain the "wall" I saw. I clearly recognized it. It was a place that I’ve spent many years, "sitting before", while in contemplation and meditation. It's a long wall and quite high. There are many blocks made of a gray, sparkly stone with only tiny spaces in between them.
My understanding of this "wall" is that it is a metaphor for what we all eventually come before. Ourselves. And the things we have walled off from ourselves that we don't want to look at. We come before this wall to sit and reflect. And as we "look" at it, the years pass; the lifetimes pass.
As we sit before it, we may feel like painting our wall to make it look nicer; we may note the rough places and try to smooth them out. In general, we spend quite some time making our wall "prettier." But as time goes on, we grow bored with this busy work, and perhaps a bit curious.
Someday, sometime, we wonder what is behind the wall. Finally, we climb up or trudge around it, and look. And we are shocked.
Behind the wall that we have made so "nice" is a pile of trash and filth. The most disgusting things that you can imagine. Everything is covered in a slime and grime, so we can't see much. We don't want to look at this after all. It is too upsetting. The thought of maybe ‘owning’ that horrible pile of crap is much too painful to bear. But the truth is, it is all ours.
We go back out in front of the wall and sit down again, trying to pretend that we never saw the filth and garbage. Maybe we are able to forget...for a while.
But at some point, in some life, we have to go look again.
Slowly, ever so slowly, we begin to clean it up, piece by piece. We find a lot of trash, but there are also beautiful things, hidden by the dirt and filth. All of the lives and the experiences that we have had are behind this wall. Sometimes the shock of seeing something keeps us from looking at it again for a long time. Of course, we'd like to think that ‘our wall’ has less behind it than other peoples walls! But I doubt it. We all have one of those walls, and we all try to hide our junk from sight!
I have spent my life looking at my own wall, then behind it; hiding from what I saw for a while, and then looking again. Cleaning it, finding my strength and beauty, inside and under the dirt and the weakness.
So, once again, in contemplation, I sit before my wall.
I sit there a while thinking about what is behind it and how far I still have to go to get it all cleared out. That's a lot of work left to do!
Then I hear a noise.
This is something new! In all the years that I have been doing this meditation, I’ve never seen anyone near my wall before. I turn, and see a vehicle coming, off to the left. A trail of dust floats behind it. As it gets closer, I see a run-down looking pick-up truck, painted a faded blue.
The truck stops before me and a man gets out. Surprised, I instantly recognize him as a spiritual Master that I have worked with before. He glances around and then looks right at me and says, "I'm here to help with the job!"
He pulls out a ladder & a huge box. Pointing at the wall, he says, "Take the ladder, and put it there – then climb up, lean over drag out everything you can reach that directly relates to the that relationship you are trying to let go of. As you find them, put all put all of the items in the box."
I climb up and start pulling stuff out and putting it all into the box. With encouragement, I reached into the pile of past life issues. I cried as I took all of the "junk" out of the pile and examined each piece carefully, remembering. Remembering the good and the sad.
As I placed each item in the box I felt lighter and more detached.
Finally, after what seemed like a LONG time, I was done. I climbed down and the Master came closer. "You forgot something", he said as he wiped the tears from my face. "Put your sorrow, grief and your feelings of betrayal in the box too."
Then, he asked me if there were anything else that I wanted to let go of, before he left. I thought about a few expectations regarding a group I belonged to and some "less than loving" actions a few members of the group had engaged in, with me as the focus.
I climbed back up the ladder, but this time, my eye found only a few items, one of which was a small blue - clean - toy airplane.
Turning to look at the man, I was about to ask him what this little plane was all about. But before I could open my mouth, he looked at me with a smile and said, "Hey, things may not always work out and ‘fly’ like you want them to, but they can still work!"
“Wow”, I thought, “What a concept.”
It's true. Sometimes we have expectations that aren't very realistic, but if we can drop the expectations, sometimes a thing can still 'fly.'
With this, he climbed in his truck, gave a little wave and drove off.
Now, the tears on my face were tears of gratitude.
By the way... soon after this, my fever quickly broke, and my kidney infection cleared up. I recovered nicely.
Back when I had the infection, I had a failed relationship or two in my past. Even today, I still have a few things to let go of in that area that will come up once in awhile. Writing about this experience once again reminded me of that. Time to give up my regrets, guilt, and yes, feelings of betrayal and simply let them go. My life will fly without them! In fact, I might even soar!
Hey... it works for me!
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