'Sunset over a River'
We hear in spiritual work of letting go. Still, the most in-depth work of emotional detachment is not our letting go. Letting go happens, but we do not feel we are doing the letting go. It feels more like a dropping away or dissolving of emotional attachments. Once we consent, letting go happens. In fact, trying to let go can hinder the transformation of irrational clinging into altruistic love.
A new acquaintance spoke with me about my past work as a Christian pastor. I told him what of the work I missed and that I would always be a pastor, but differently, not the role but its essence. I said what we do changes, and when it goes, it is gone - that is life. "Pastor" is a synonym for "shepherd." That has changed much for me. I do not recall any moment when I let go of that image as the or a pastor; it seems just to have slipped away. And I am at peace about that. I discovered new ways to guide, encourage, and inspire others spiritually and without the limitations of working in a religious institution. A death of what was births a newness now. We will live in peace by blessing the slipping away of what has been and welcoming the newness that takes its place. If we look closely, we will see what left has only transformed into a fresh expression that could not be without what went prior. There is continuity between my interspiritual, contemplative ministry now and being licensed to Christian ministry forty-five years ago. Yet, now, there is a greater freedom in expressing myself and the work, for I followed the heart outside the religious institution and its doctrines I once clung to in an unhealthy dependency. This same process applies to our spiritual practices, as well as all life.
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Jack Kornfield, in After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, tells of a nun dying holding her rosary. After reviving, she died again. The last time, she declined her rosary.
While objects, rituals, and techniques can assist us in our spiritual path, the natural progression is from attachment to nonattachment to these aids. If one engages these, one will do so free of reliance upon them. I refer to this new posture as playfulness. Playfulness is consciously sharing in the dance of Life and includes anything by which you celebrate the Way.
Yet, you may sense a time to let go of the aids. When you feel this, such is good news. You are changing your relationship with everything outside yourself. You are becoming free of attachment to them.
This freedom through detachment is not a cold aloofness. There is a warm aloofness. This aloofness is for egoic clinging to manipulate and use others is dissolving, transformed so that inner energies reshape into a more selfless sharing with others, including the Divine.
Hence, this can feel impersonal. Such a relationship with objects, persons, and other things feels impersonal for prior we related so personally - meaning, egoically. We did not realize this. Now, we can see the contrast.
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Anam Thubten -
I feel that the process of awakening has two flavors: one is letting go and one is more like flourishing and blossoming. When I say flourishing and blossoming, I mean that you feel like you are arriving at a spiritual insight. You feel that your heart is blossoming; you feel that your love, your joy, your true freedom are blossoming and flourishing. You feel that you are thriving inside in a very non-egoic way.
*The Frangrance of Emptiness.
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So, likewise, you will notice your relationships with others enhanced; they become more loving. You feel a freshness, a blossoming. As they were, they are gone. As they were, they will not return. Now, you can enjoy the same persons but more than before. You might have thought, "Oh! I'm losing the feelings of love." But you were not unless you meant those personal, clinging, and demanding sentiments many call love. This change encourages us to keep engaging our spiritual path, knowing we can grow more in this natural, joyful benevolence.
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The nun saying "no" to the rosary indicated a new relationship with her God. That is our journey, too; after all, we will lose everyone and everything in our lives as we have known them: we lose ourselves, also, as we have known ourselves. We keep nothing as is.
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When a young preacher in my early twenties, I was asked to speak at a church on its last day being open. I arrived at the white-frame rural sanctuary in the early evening. Some ten persons sat inside. They could no longer support keeping the church open. The building was old, and the people there aged, too. I gave the message. The small group spoke of this being the last worship meeting, and all acted calm about it. What had enriched them and their community was slipping away, decades dying into this one hour together.
That night, the sanctuary door was closed, and everyone left. What the people could not keep was leaving them. What it could not lose remained where it had always been - within - like a nun saying "no" to her rosary, for she was holding what she could never lose, even while seeing the life she knew slipping away, freeing her from her temple to elsewhere. The door was closed, her rosary - her whole religion - left behind, but not how she had used it to unite her heart with her God. For her, this was another transformation, one made possible by what had been. Yes, it all slips away, but always into something else, for Life always is.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.