I am in the Everyday Zen 60 day practice period, a time in which I will intensify my practice. For this practice period I am contemplating letting go, faith, and gratitude.
What does it mean “to let go” anyway? I use the phrase; everybody uses the phrase as if we actually know what it means. It cannot mean to let go, as if you were clinging to a tree branch and you just let go and dropped to the ground. In life it is not so clear or simple, or, perhaps, even do-able. How do you let go of life-long habits or ways of viewing yourself? How do you let go of adult children? Not possible – and may not even be desirable – in the case of your children.
Somehow we feel if we let go, we won’t suffer. The Buddha’s enlightenment came about when he realized that desire is the source of suffering. So what do I desire, fundamentally, at the heart of things? I desire for things to be not as they are. I desire to have perfect health. I desire to have my child do as I want him to do. I desire that Fox News stop broadcasting lies and perverting whatever national intelligence that we have left.
I desire to hold on to what I love and avoid that which causes me pain.
What if I could see life as a giant popcorn-maker? “What a beautiful sunset!” Pop – it’s gone. “What a hurtful comment.” Pop – it’s gone. “Wow! I just got a big tax return.” Pop – it’s gone. Maybe it comes down to accepting each beautiful moment of your life as a gift, and then letting go. Accepting the grief or loss in this moment, and then letting go.
Maybe the intention to live freely, spontaneously and joyfully is like the impossibility of the Bodhisattva vows that we chant:
Beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them.
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
Buddha’s way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.
We know this is not only impossible but absurd. But we vow to do it anyway.
Maybe the prescription to let go of every moment is impossible, but we are determined to do it anyway. Or, at least, we can practice it over and over again.