Natural next step: beat myself up. I’m really not getting the hang of this Buddhism thing. Discipline: Fail. Kindness: Fail. Patience: Fail. But maybe that’s the point. Start where I am. Love where I am. Let go of my expectations of “success.” I’ve got to trust that there is a strength, a goodness, a presence greater than just me. There is a permanence. There is a truth, stable and sure. The sun continues to burn. The universe continues to expand. Mass continues to exist despite our inability to understand why. It’s reliable. I can rest in the return of Spring. I can hope in the grass growing. And I can just let go of being a rigid disciplinarian with my poor self.
Coincidentally the theme for March at the UU Church is Letting Go. Even more coincidentally, the chapter I’ve been reading in Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior is also titled Letting Go.
A new friend shared with me this poem:
The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
So many people in my life keep telling me to give myself a break, be less hard on myself, to just stop. My sister-in-law said, when I told her I had a whole day by myself in the house and was scrambling to get everything done, “Maybe you just don’t.”
I think because I spent so many years bobbing along on the sea of emotions, cast about by the wind of whim, I’m hellbent on being different, establishing order, being a good example of discipline and “right” action for my kids. But in all the rigidity, my poor wild self, the naked painter and hand-waving dancer is stuck in the corner of my soul like a misfit toy. And I want to represent grace and freedom and joy to them too.
But I get mad when they draw on the walls.
What the hell happened to the fun-loving aunt I used to be? What the hell happened to the woman who painted on her walls whatever the hell she wanted? What the hell happened to spontaneous nakedness? Where am I?
I’m afraid to let go.
I’m afraid everything will fall apart. I’m afraid of grace. I’m afraid of just letting the universe back me up and be there, steadfast, while I do some dancing to Bjork or Bluegrass or Bomba Estereo. Or maybe I just sit. That is the most difficult to do, just sit.
Another friend shared this Lao Tzu quote:
Sitting peacefully doing nothing
and the grass grows all by itself.
I was listening to the Dalai Lama give a talk about “Ethics for the New Millennium, and he said,
“Those people who have some kind of self-hatred, such person impossible to give love, compassion towards others.”
True compassion, true discipline, true love radiates from a deep-rooted love of the self, being seated in the self, resting in the presence of the universe that sits right there in me as I am.
His Holiness also said, “Self confidence is knowing that we have the capacity to do something good and firmly decide not to give up.”
Letting go isn’t self-destructive. Letting go isn’t being reckless. Letting go isn’t abandonment.
It’s choosing to stay, to sit, to rest. It’s getting myself off the hamster wheel. It’s getting myself gently off the hook.
Letting go is not giving up on goodness.