My teacher Jonathan Foust gave a talk on “Making It Happen vs. Letting It Happen” back in April. I always love that Jonathan is so artful in condensing spiritual teachings into simple and accessible phrases. We can explore this theme in two layers and both speak to me to the heart of spiritual practices. First is the balance between making efforts to achieve goals and making time and space in our life to reflect on those efforts, to see if they are aligned with our hearts and whether they lead us on the path we want to go down to. Our culture values goals and results and idealize efforts and productivity, and there are certainly great value in work ethics. Yet, if we don’t slow down in our life to make time and space to reflect, we can be running in full speed down on a path that we don’t want to go down to.
Secondly, “letting it happen” speaks to a quality that we all recognize in our life, that is that life is out of our control. We can hold the fruits of our efforts lightly, and letting go of the fruits of our efforts. It is not a passive surrender of just letting things happen to us, but a full engagement with life yet surrendering to what the outcome that engagement may lead to.
For example, we need to make efforts to go to a meditation class or a yoga practice, we appreciate the efforts that get us there through traffic and commute and clearing the schedule to be there. Yet once we get there, we can let go of our expectations of what the experience would be like in that class. Sometimes our mind is quiet, other times turbulent. Sometimes our body is flexible, other times tense and rigid. If we are seeking for a particular experience, we may feel tightness and disappointment when it doesn’t match our expectations. If we let the experience unfold without resistance to it, then it will flow through us and we will find ease in the unfolding.
You can begin this meditation by finding a comfortable sitting or lying down position. There is no wrong position – anything that make you feel comfortable and relaxing, that is the right position.
Feel your legs and body’s contact with the Earth. Notice that you’re effortlessly held by the Earth. Notice that this support is always there for you. This support does not need to be earned, and it cannot be taken away. You can release the tension and stress onto the Earth. The Earth can hold it. You can rest in the effortless support.
As the Earth goes into a cycle of rest and restoration every night and every winter, so it would help that you let your body and mind go through a night and a season of rest and restoration.
As the saying goes, “There is nowhere to go, and no one to be.”
If there is stress, tension or anxiety, let it be there in the background. Welcome it, befriend it. There is no need to push it away. Gently feel it in your body and say hello to it kindly, “I see you. I feel you. I am here for you.”
Instead of personalizing them and saying that I have stress, tension and anxiety, say, “There is stress. There is tension. There is anxiety. I can put a placeholder for them after the meditation. For this moment, let me melt into the Earth.”
See if you find a basic sense of okayness in our being – warmth, groundedness, or just appreciating our senses – sight, smell, seeing, taste, touch. The fact we can breathe in fresh air, feel the breeze brushing our face, smell the humidity in the air, touch our heart and body with our hands are miraculous. Is there a place in the body where I could find warmth and comfort?
We can appreciate a basic sense of security – clean water, warm food, and a warm bed. These are conditions that did not exist before for 98% of human history or even many parts of the world right now.
What could soften? What could relax? What could I let go?
After some time, drop all the techniques and efforts. Simply relax and let go. Drop all the trying and simply be.
To end this meditation, it might be helpful to remember this quote from T.S. Eliot,
“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”