Loosening my Grip on Life
As I watch my sweet kids rapidly transform into wonderfully awkward and challenging teenagers, I find that I too, am in the process of some kind of metamorphosis.
A few months ago while on retreat in California, in a moment of midlife unraveling, I had the strong sense that it was time for me to take my hands of the wheel and my foot of the brakes in my life and let something else live through me. As compelling as that sounded at the time, what has happened since then has looked nothing like the enlightened yogini fairy tale I had hoped for. Instead of a nice peaceful happily ever after, these last few months have been painfully intense. I have faced some the darkest darkness I have ever known and there has been more than one moment when I didn't even want to try to find the light.
While some part of me has trusted this whole process implicitly, another part was frustrated by my stunning lack of ability to transcend this fantastic muck. I kept getting knocked down, pulled under and swallowed up by my own internal catastrophe. Somehow me letting go of control had turned into me giving in. Doubt and fear and confusion set up camp in my psyche and I didn't have the heart to make them leave. I found myself once again questioning almost every aspect of my life and I was stuck.
Then, I had a dream that changed everything. It was one of those wildly vivid ones where you remember every detail and know right when you wake up that it's something you are supposed to pay attention to. I was sitting in the cockpit of a small airplane. There was a big window but no instrument panel and no way to control anything. All of the sudden the plane dropped into a dramatic nose dive. I was oddly calm as the plane kept falling and I remember thinking if I just had faith, everything would be all right. As the ground loomed closer and closer, I began to consider the possibility that maybe, me just having faith might not be enough to get me out of this situation. Right at the point of no return, I woke up. The meaning of the dream etched clearly in my mind.
Letting go and surrendering is a wonderful, beautiful, admirable practice AND it needs to balanced with a certain amount of active participation. This sounds so obvious as I write it, but this is where I got stuck and maybe I am not alone in this. I think that sometimes we reject engaging fully in creating the kind of lives we want because it seems frivolous and unspiritual. As if focusing on external things like our bodies, careers and relationships mean that we are more identified with the superficial than the transcendent.
For me, the experiment to give up trying to make the outer world look a certain way so I could focus more on the inner landscape didn’t go very well. I think the problem was that I went too far in the other direction. I stopped using all of the tools and techniques and practices that have actually shaped who I am. I had inadvertently tossed out the instrument panel to my life. Ever since I had that dream, I have renewed sense of clarity and purpose. I am ready to own that a big part of what I have to offer in this life comes from my own journey with darkness and the ways I have found to thrive in spite of my natural tendencies towards slipping into scary nosedives.
Some of this is more yogic and holy and the rest is just plain earthy and practical. Either way, I am now clear that taking my hands completely off the wheel is not the best idea. Instead, I'm going to see what happens when I stay rooted in devotion and merely loosen my grip.