“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” — Pema Chödrön
My daily tarot card had been a series of reversals: the Lovers in reverse, the Death card in reverse, everything pointing to letting go of a past that seems to hold me hostage. Hostage to the doubt of not being good enough. Hostage to a body I did not wish to have. Hostage to a heartache that never seemed to abate. Hostage to past mistakes where the universe had let go, and yet I still lived in a vortex of fear, subterfuge, and suffering.
How many of us are living our lives like this, where we are captive hostages attached to suffering? Why is letting go and moving on so hard? And how can we develop a stillness of heart and mind to lead us from suffering and into sweetness?
Letting go might be the hardest thing to put into practice. There are many things in our daily life, both material and immaterial, that we attach to. For some of us, it is the expectation to live our lives in accordance to another’s rule book. For others, we are hostages to our own doubt. For me, it was overcoming the years of feeling not good enough and finally knowing worthiness. This attachment to “not good enough” is something that I continue to work through and with. That is the practice, why it is called “doing the work.”
When is say work, I am talking about daily practices like meditation, journalling, physical activity, and even abstaining: abstaining from what Buddist nun Pema Chödrön calls, “little hooks of suffering.” To paraphrase her book Don’t Bite the Hook, she says, “We are like fish, swimming in a pond of hooks, each waiting to bait us with suffering.” This is why we return to the meditation cushion to commit to the work and ‘let go’!
The work is where we can access the mind to heal disappointment and dissatisfaction that springs from attachment, but doing it is not as easy as saying it. This is because, chances are, we don’t want to let go. We want to hold on until we’re right. We want to hold on until the situation resolves itself the way we want it to. We want to hold on because the suffering that we are attached to is the only thing we know! After all, what’s the alternative? To go on without that person or thing that we thought we’d never be able to live without. Yet while we are hostage to our attachment, life has moved on and we’re still here. Life didn’t wait for me to catch up, and it never will. That is the lesson in the reversed tarot cards I kept pulling: to let go of what I was holding onto.
Holding on will not make something come back. I have come to learn, as painful as it is, that this attachment to our suffering actually pushes the life we want farther away. Buddhism has taught me that life is a series of actions and reaction. Even when we are brought back to where we hoped we would be, the path is lined with something we have to learn. There aren’t many accidents. In fact, I’d like to argue that there aren’t any at all. Consider the past for a moment, an instance where you were in the throes of depression or anxiety and couldn’t understand how or why your life was turning out the way it was. How did that situation turn out? Probably fine. Because that’s where we all eventually end up.
Life is not a series of problems to be solved, it’s a journey that we should be fascinated by. On our meditation cushion, we can reflect back and observe how we live. Signs and directions and messages are everywhere. For me it is the the daily tarot card, reminding me to let go of that which does not serve: the attachment that holds me back and holds me down. When I pay attention, something that comes when I give myself permission to do the work, I see the path clear. Seek that place of inner peace. It is an unwavering place where logic is put aside to know love. Love isn’t logical, nor are miracles.
Let us invite letting go and resist the worry and woe that comes when we lean into fear, lean into the attachment and expectation of not being good enough.Those thoughts only tear us down. Instead I invite you to lean into the practice and make way for the bigger, the better, the reckoning, the miraculous and the beautiful. Nobody promises the road will be easy, but the road is always right in front of us to release us from being hostage and welcome the hopeful heart of new beginnings.