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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.




Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Freedom of Letting Go


 [freedom.jpg]
                                                          Courtesy of Google Images


My three year old son often likes to wake up in the morning and tease my daughter. He runs up to her, eyes shining with mirth, telling her he had a dream. Now, I somehow doubt he has this recurring dream. Instead,  sense that he only longs to tease his older sibling and bring up a memory that was actually a very traumatic one when it had unfolded itself in real time.

"Guess what Tana? I had a dream!" He announced  this morning,  yet again, jumping on her bed.

"I know, I know Noah. You were were on a water slide and I lost my favorite hat!"  Montana no longer gets upset as she once had. Her initial reaction, tears immediately surfacing, is what I believe prompted my son to continue in his teasing for so long. I know, not very nice, but he is three. I'm working on the compassion part of things!

This summer we were at a local amusement park. We had waited an  hour and a half to get on a ride in which our family would set sale on a large raft and meander up a long incline only to swoop down a sharp decline that simulated white water rapids. I had told my daughter repeatedly as we waited to put her hat she was wearing, her very favorite one, in the safe confines of our backpack. She refused stubbornly. Ever since the moment the hat had become hers, on hot summer days she and it were inseparable. 

It was of no surprise when our raft descended down the sharp decline that her hat fell off. I was so close to catching it, but alas, my fingers were just too far away and I watched, my heart sinking, as the hat did, beneath the current's untidy water.

My daughter mourned the loss of her hat,  tears continuing on the rest of the day and intermittently in days to come.  Her hat had served as a tangible reminder  to a meaningful experience of a day that just her and I shared together at Provincetown, MA.  We had spent rare time together, going on a whale watch where we saw two whales breach, sea beasts of mammoth proportions defying logic with their graceful bodies pirouetting as they heaved their large masses out of the water in a display that challenged our senses. Sun's light blazing off wet slick skin. Eyes wide my daughter let it all sink in. She had been delighted at her new hat, sharing a fried dough on the pier in the lazy afternoon sun in the moments that followed.


Well, this morning when my son brought up his "dream", my daughter replied with her own counterattack.

"Well I had a dream too Noah. That we went down a water slide and lost YOUR favorite hat!"

My son coolly replied, "I don't have a favorite hat Tana, so ha!"

This reminded me of the principle of non-attachment.  That in order to find joy, clarity, God Himself, we must rid ourselves of the attachments that steal our sense of peace and muddy our experiences of the Divine in the present moment.  A current theme in many of the world's religions, coming from their many inspired voices,  from Jesus, to Krishna, to the  writers of the Upanishads, comes the message that we are not to invest our hearts into the temporary superficiality of the material. That within harbors eternity's real treasure. Eternity itself. And all of these things in the world that distract us are mere illusions promising a gratification that will only turn bitter in our mouths in the end, leaving us unfulfilled and craving for something more to satisfy us.


Sometimes it's as if my little son is a zen master. It's not that he doesn't take joy in the things of life. He does. With passion he dives into things, fully immerses himself in the moments that captivate him. But he doesn't become invested, attached to things in the sense that when they move beyond his reach, he feels that part of him does as well. He lets things rise up , enjoys them while they remain, and with what seems an uncanny wisdom, bids them adieu with grace as they vanish.

A few verses I memorized for passage meditation from the Bhagavad Gita flashed through my mind this morning as the discourse between my son and daughter ensued:

He lives in wisdom
Who sees himself in all and all in him,
Whose love for the Lord of Love has consumed
Every selfish desire and sense-craving
Tormenting the heart. Not agitated
By grief nor hankering after pleasure,
He lives free from lust and fear and anger
Fettered no more by selfish attachments,
He is not elated by good fortune
Nor depressed by bad. Such is the seer.
                 ~Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2 (emphasis mine)


When our love for the eternal and awakening to the awareness of His Being begins to take prominence in how we prioritize earthly things and pursuits, then our "Love for the Lord consumes us", and we are no longer tormented by the fleeting illusions of life.  We empty ourselves of our attachments to sense cravings and ego and in our emptiness God fills the void. And then we find the real treasure in which our soul can truly rejoice!

It's easy to let material things determine our sense of joy. But everything, except the eternal within us, is governed by the law of impermanence. Things that we become so easily and habitually attached to are constantly evolving. It's a given that the things of life will erode, fade and tarnish. Jesus told his followers, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (Matthew 6:19) Jesus was encouraging us to pursue spiritual treasures and not earthly ones, for it is the spiritual that is eternal and all other things merely fade away.


In order to unfold our layers of ego and encounter the Divine within, we have to let go of these attachments. Meditation and the practice of mindfulness can be powerful aids in helping us accomplish this.  To become mindful in our ordinary waking moments plunges us into the reality of God that stands poised between every breath we take. We begin to enter into a state of awe at seeing the divine everywhere, in and through life, and begin to sense a oneness with God.  The superficial starts to lose its charm as we realize there is no beginning or ending to God, all is God and God is all,  therefore there is no real reason to cling to anything.

 To become non-attached to the non-spiritual  definitely doesn't mean that we shouldn't enjoy the things that life has to offer, we just shouldn't allow them to define ourselves and become spiritually or emotionally invested in them to the point that they hinder us from maintaining an awareness of the present moment and contact with God. We shouldn't allow things to have the ability to steal the peace and joy God offers us for this wastes precious energy that we can be used to manifest His love to those around us. To lose our attachments towards earthly things is to enter into deeper stages of spiritual freedom loosening us from the chains of suffering and moving us to deeper states of peace and well being.


Thoughts? Comments? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section. Thank you!

30 comments:

  1. I loved the story of Montana and Noah. I do agree with you that oftentimes our attachment to things, ideas and people lead to pain and suffering...

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  2. Corinne...Glad you enjoyed the story about my two little ones.

    "I do agree with you that oftentimes our attachment to things, ideas and people lead to pain and suffering... "

    Yes...and there's much freedom in letting all that go...though it involves a continual process (not always easy)...one worthy of undertaking! Meditation has helped me so much in this... :) Thank you for stopping by!

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  3. Loved the way you intertwined the message with interactions between Noah and Montana and it really helped to demonstrate your message. Material possessions mean little in the long run and only distract us from the real treasure...God!!! I had a cherished blanket growing up like Linus that was toted everywhere and it was heartbreaking when it became tattered and eventually discarded. Later I realized the blanket was a temporary source of love and all earthly items are worthless in the end. Only God can provide what we truly desire and that's riches in heaven. Great post...Blessings :)

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  4. Thank you so much David for sharing your reflections and your own experience towards the revelation of futile nature of holding on to the material. "Only God can provide what we truly desire" So true!
    Thanks for stopping by :)

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  5. Reading that last paragraph again, I think it's important not to become attached to the spiritual, either. Enjoy it, don't own it.

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  6. Thank you JR for your thoughts. I couldn't agree more :)

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  7. Great exchange between the children! You tied it seamlessly to the gist of this reflection.
    It is always good to be reminded that it is in the losing of "self" we find our true selves, not in the temporal, but in the eternal scheme of things . . . Letting go, and letting God.
    Beautiful post, Jessica!

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  8. Thank you Martha! Always great to have you stop by :)

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  9. This story of Noah and Montana is the perfect illustration of the non-attachment principle, which is so counter to the world’s materialistic value system.

    He who binds himself to a joy doth the winged life destroy
    but he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity’s sunrise. ~ William Blake

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  10. Debra...great quote from Blake! Thank you so much. You always bring some great insight or truth with you when you visit. ~blessings

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  11. Like everyone I also loved the way you wove your thoughts about non attachment with the incident of Noah and Montana. Letting go is not an easy thing but with practice and meditation it is possible. I try but when I think of Ron my son and my attachment to him, it tends to be almost impossible. But not impossible

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  12. Lovely post Jessica.

    Isn't it funny how we always think of attachments as our material possessions when in fact they are usually relationships of desire - the desire to have 'another' attached to us in some way like a parasite on a host animal.

    In my checkered experience many of these attachments have been with religious leaders who model a matrix of 'connectedness' that is ultimately the antithesis of freedom.

    We also hold on tightly to the roles that we play that in some way define us. The call of Yeshua leads us into the Void where the freedom of non attachment awaits us in the embrace of Divine Love.

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  13. Attachment to things in the end leads us to miss the point and joy of life. Material things can include many things that we might not at first consider: for example our career or hobby. Love the way you include the innocent wisdom of your children in the post. You make me think....

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  14. Wonderful post, Having the wisdom to see in your children their own wisdom is a gift in and of itself. Your willingness to see and grow is another. Blessings to you.

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  15. Nice post, Jessica. I like your kids and their sibling rivalry, reminds me of my own :) Attachment is a tricky thing and letting go of it takes a strong will power and character. Expectations reduces joy, but we expect. Attachments bring suffering but yet we are fond of so many things,life is hard.

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  16. I like the way you have interpreted simple brother-sister exchange into something profound and wise. In moments like this one, we hardly try to find any wisdom but you have surpassed the usual observer. Wonderful, Jess.

    And indeed, we have so much to learn from our children. Ther is no end to their unconscious/accidental wisdom.

    Joy always,
    Susan

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  17. Attachment is something we, be it kids or adults are attached to! We go through different stages of attachment to learn, understand, realize what and how the self requires etc.
    As we age our attachment varies in many ways too... I enjoyed reading Noah's and Montana post.

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  18. I feel so sorry for Montana losing her favourite hat. It must have been a terrible thing for her. It is true we get attached to material things and when we need to let go it is often difficult. This was a great post Jessica.

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  19. I've often entertained the serenity that is marketed by disposing of material goods and vacating attachment to "things." Perhaps this is because by trade I'm a Marketer and understand the gimmicks and borderline harassment of marketing consumerism. But objectively, when I examine these issues more closely, it truly is the items and things we put in our lives that reveal real value. Whether it is the family we aim to have, the hobbies we enjoy, or the occupation we choose, they all have commercial veneer or lure that attracts our psyche in ways we can't seem to fully grasp. The latest cognitive research compels these giant corporate dealers to invent new ways to get our attention while we dismiss, often times on moral grounds, this type of behavior. I wonder if perhaps humankind is meant to be led, or even destined to conjure an identity through some extension of materialism. After all, the past is littered with relics, icons and wonderful archetypes reflecting ownership and class. Isn't religion a type of product one buys? Some sort of intellectual property? Is God really any different than Starbucks or any other brand? The same way the professions we choose or the clothes we buy brand us, so does religion. So, instead of running away from these associations (purchases), perhaps we should revel in them as these are the things that truly define who we are as people, at least on the outside. I don't think humankind of today would be any different from its human lineage from assuming this perspective.

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  20. Hi Jessica:
    I'm reading Eknath Easwaran's The Bhagavad Gita in bits and pieces thanks to a column you wrote recently. REALLY loving what I'm reading too.

    Your son is wise beyond his years and his ability to let go will serve him well as he grows up. He must be learning that from somewhere.

    You? I'm sure you play a role in that. Seeing you grow in your spiritual search I'm sure has made an impact on him. Children do learn what they're around. You may not even be aware of the influence but he seems to be soaking it up.
    --
    Chris

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  21. He lives in wisdom
    Who sees himself in all and all in him,
    "Whose love for the Lord of Love has consumed
    Every selfish desire and sense-craving
    Tormenting the heart. Not agitated
    By grief nor hankering after pleasure,
    He lives free from lust and fear and anger
    Fettered no more by selfish attachments,
    He is not elated by good fortune
    Nor depressed by bad. Such is the seer."

    best lines that you described through your story. often we are stuck to our materialistic needs. we find difficult to sacrifice. but once we have learnt the greater values of life, we get the strong mind and will power to let things go and thus grow.

    loved reading your post:)

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  22. I am here for the first time and I came across a wonderful post full of wisdom and truthfulness. Shri Shri Bhagwatgeeta is an ocean.
    Thanks for this poem!!

    Love
    Mani
    www.mani-wheniwaslostinme.blogspot.com

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  23. What a great post since we are about to enter into a new year! Your post made me think about the things that I hold onto too tightly...what is God asking me to let go of, I can't hold onto God's hand if my hand (really my heart) is full of something else; probably something else that is trivial and needs to be washed away...

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  24. I loved your post "Do Not Be Tethered to an Ass" and now come this experience on detachment. Isn't it simpler to understand when children show us their way?

    I was reading a similar post by Bro Mark in his blog. I was struck by what the Popes said:

    "If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?

    No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! " (http://campionproject.blogspot.com/2011/12/happy-happy-what-is-happiness.html)

    We surely learn a lot from the spiritual masters through their lives.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful reflection. It's very apt for the Advent season. I wish to make a manger for Him when He comes :)

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  25. Children are so smart! It is hard to not get too attached to things, but you are right that it brings freedom and peace. :) xo

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  26. Children are sages. They have wisdom. No wonder, Jesus the Master encourages the grown-ups to be childlike.

    I am your new blog follower, Jessica. Please do visit my site and follow if you find it good. God bless.

    http://www.eyeof1001.blogspot.com

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  27. Childhood is the world of miracle or of magic: it is as if creation rose luminously out of the night, all new and fresh and astonishing. Childhood is over the moment things are no longer astonishing.
    You have given such an important message through the lives of your wonderful children...Thank you Dear Jessica.

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  28. Cute story Jess. As a little brother myself, I can relate. I'm a master teaser. Attachment is not an easy thing to defeat. According to the stories, if you actually do it, you become a Buddha. I can honestly say I'm not a greedy man but I certainly desire things that would make my life more comfortable. I'm not selfish, but I sometimes find my generosity misplaced and I leave myself open to be taken advantage of. We all have human needs that must be met and a certain amount of materialism is required to make that happen. These are easy conflicts to solve, however. Stuff comes and goes and as long as I don't make my way at the expense of others, I'm cool. The less tangible qualities are tougher to tackle. Spiritual attachment, spiritual materialism, ego, desire to remain with loved ones, aging and death. Do I truly feel the presence of spirt or am I forcing it in order to comfort myself and silence my doubt. Do I read different scriptures and philosophy books to better myself or do I secretly want to impress my friends and present myself as insightful. Perhaps my study is motivated by a secret desire to win favor with a possible deity. I can't even begin to discuss ego here. I'd take too much time I think. It's enough to say that ego is the true stronghold of attachment. The source of all desire and self importance. A formidable adversary. As for feelings of grief or elation being quelled, I doubt I'll ever accomplish it. I still feel grief for loved ones who died years ago. I can't imagine not feeling agitated after loosing someone special. As you can see, I wrestle with these issues. In any case, thinking about it is better than not thinking about it so WE RULE! Was that too much elation? I'll work on it.

    MAQ

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