The Monumental Effort of Letting Go
It is a time of great dissolution for me - perhaps it is for all of us.
It's interesting that this dissolution comes during the end of 2010 and the dawning of 2011 - during some significant astrological events - all mirroring what's going on in my life (the outer / the "out there" / the macrocosm) and in my internal landscape (the inner / the mind-body-spirit / the "in here" / the microcosm).
I remember doing some very deep work a little over a year ago now - 'La Medicina' - and facing what appeared to be absolute destruction. I vividly remember begging for mercy - and I am NOT one to beg. I think that anyone who knows me well, knows this to be the case. I now think I was being brought to the precipice for a purpose; to experience the utter helplessness and to fight-back with all I had. Not to simply win purchase, temporary or otherwise, or to win a perceived victory to further establish my worthiness or superiority (ego) in that sacred space and context, but to understand the effort it takes to both consciously stay here and to consciously leave here. It was the ultimate lesson in letting go. At once the most difficult and at once the easiest thing to do in my life. Ultimate duality is brought into a single moment - into a single, final, monumental lesson. A Herculean effort. I suppose that it's probably the same effort that it takes to come here in the first place...
The great masters have all gone to that same precipice. Terence and a few other intrepid, valiant, brave explorers have gone there too. And I believe that they all went beyond it - that they all had the courage to just "let go" into the void or Logos - into whatever was just on the other side - and then come back. It's "The Hero's Journey" by Joseph Campbell as expressed in its purest form.
I wasn't ready for that kind of journey - for that particular lesson and experience. At that time, I couldn't muster the courage necessary. And of course, I'm no great master and I'm no Terence McKenna, or Myron Stolaroff, or Ram Dass, or Alan Watts, or Dr. Leo Zeff, etc. These are / were great men of character, integrity, compassion, courage, and conviction. Heavy hitters one-and-all. While I aspire to follow in their prodigious footsteps and to begin to simply grasp what they were able to comprehend and bring back, I am not able to as eloquently or articulately share it with the rest of us as they have. These are great teachers. I am not.
One thing I do know is that we spend our lives building castles in the sand. Investing everything of ourselves in just so many houses made of cards - of dominoes. And of course we do - this is what we're taught, how we're conditioned, what has been designed for us. How else can we possibly be in this world if not for contributing our part to the Great Maya? It is the way of things. And for 364 days I honor that contribution and I honor that Great Illusion. But today, this one day, this New Years' Eve, I honor the dissolution - the ending - the transition - the goodbye.
I have segmented and silo'd my life into various slices and areas in an 'infographic' or 'pie chart' in my mind. It's representative of my 'day job' life as a data analyst. Each slice or area is represented by a classification. One is intimate relationships / lovers, one is family, one is friends, one is work / career / calling - and in the center - the very hub - is a circle or core that is this person, this mind-body-ego-personality, this barry fleming, and in the center of THAT is my spiritual practice / my Sadhana / my teachers / my gurus / my 'carencia' (Jack Kornfield speaks eloquently about the 'carencia' in one of his talks on DharmaSeed) - and the 'I AM'.
I have watched each one of those quadrants - each one of those 'slices of my life' - darken over time. It's just representative of my Karma - the way things worked-out. And when I say 'darken', I mean that the relative safety and stability afforded by each of those quadrants has waxed-and-waned at different times over the years. Today, I have noted that the whole chart, the entirety of the circle, has dimmed. All areas save one - the 'carencia' - or my personal place of safety. That is the very center of the circle - the inner core - my Sadhana - and the Witness - the I AM.
This is the lesson. The 'carencia' can sometimes be found - and many times we ascribe it to different places and at different times as we grow and evolve. This is often referred to as co-dependence! But when the 'carencia' cannot be found - when we have exhausted ourselves in the searching - all we can do - just like the proverbial dying bull in the ring, burdened by so many barbs and swords plunged into its shoulders - is to succumb - to simply let go. The fight is over.
If we always know that our individual place of safety (our 'carencia') is always with us - always available - then I suppose that even the letting go - the terrifying letting go - can become a simple transition - a right of passage for which we're probably unconsciously waiting and unconsciously looking forward to.
"The old skin has to shed before the new one can come. If we fix on the old, we get stuck. When we hang onto any form, we are in danger of putrefaction. Hell is life drying up. The Hoarder, the one in us that wants to keep, to hold on, must be killed. If we are hanging onto the form now, we're not going to have the form next."
Joseph Campbell understood that we must practice dying and to accept that death is as much a part of life as living. This is both in the literal and figurative sense of the words. Never overlook the metaphors...
So take this time of great transition to lay down your burdens - to honor your struggles - your suffering - to relinquish the control you thought you had - and to let go into the great unknown. It is just there - very close-by to us all - a hairbreadth away - and we must honor it just as we honor all the known or manifest teachers and lessons in our lives.
gate gate pāragate pārasamgate bodhi svāhā
gone, gone, gone beyond
gone altogether beyond
so be it
All my love to my brothers and sisters who like me, are stumbling as best they can along the path.