Released on August 18, 2019, this Reflection is about the power of surrender. But what does letting go really mean?
This whole book, Magus of Paradidomi, is about the power of surrender. But how can you let go? I mean really let go? It seems there is always a reason not to, some fear-based reasoning pops up to blow the surrender train off its tracks. But what is beneath all of that fear? What is the thing that we are so afraid of?
In my experience, it is insecurity. We are terrified about the insecurity that comes with letting go. If we do not have out finger on the button, one hand on the wheel, a thought for the future to colour everything, we will wreck the whole thing.
It’s easy to believe that. Our entire experience of life in the early days is about setting up the scene for our liberation. By that, I mean that we set up our fears. They get ground in deep to our psyche, in the shadowy parts. The parts that none of us like to look at, due to the sheer pain of it all. But it is exactly in the looking that we become free of it.
If we let go, what is the worst that could happen? By let go, I don’t mean escape per se. I don’t mean to willfully say ‘fuck it all! I am going to Thailand to live on the beach and do nothing.’ Perhaps that is your path, but I doubt it. I mean, I used to have dreams of escape, perhaps something like Kerouac’s On the Road or becoming part of a hippie commune.
That in itself is fearful, because you think that the only way to escape is to change geography and obligations. As in, to axe those obligations entirely. But if you look at that desire, you can see the seed of what you are looking for, staring you back in the face. It is the greatest realization to see that the only way out is through.
All of us worry. We might worry about leaving the dryer on when we leave the house, terrified that the dog might burn to death in a house fire. We might worry about making our bill payments next month. We might worry about our wayward sons and daughters and whether or not they will eventually pull themselves out of the nightmare they seem to be caught within. We might worry about what the neighbours think if we do start to go our own way a little.
‘What the neighbours will think?’ That is one of the worst fears in the world, because in my experience it is predicated on a notion that simply does not hold any water. ‘What the neighbours will think?’ assumes that you and your neighbour are two separated creatures, living on distinct islands of your own. The whole question is self-defeating in its ignorance. And besides the point, what is the worst that is going to happen if you are deemed to be a ‘strange bird?’
I have been living the ‘strange bird’ reality for most of my life. When I was a kid, I despaired over it. I wanted so much to be ‘normal.’ But I’ve never liked watching sports, I’ve never been a fan of reality television, I’ve never been a guy who can just have a conversation about surface topics without taking a deep dive into some philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Unless it’s about video games and fantasy.
Can you control that? What you’re interested in? I mean, really, you can try to be a ‘poser’ or a fake or try to put on like you don’t find certain things intriguing. All in the name of this reality: ‘what will the neighbours think?’ You should love your neighbour, but you should not let this fear tear you down. Alan Watts talked about this, how by trying to put road blocks in front of what you will love will kill you. If you try to be what you think other people want you to be - if you try to prevent love from expressing itself - you will self-destruct.
Because that is the truth of letting go – it’s not about losing control, it’s about gaining it. You can’t change the weather, so getting bent out of shape about it is a fool’s game. You can’t change who you are, so frustration with that is exactly as useful as shaking your fist at the heavens when they won’t stop pissing on your with rainclouds.
Your ego, the one who likes to think it is in control, the personality with likes and desires and fears about what might happen, does not control anything. That is the truth, as far as I have experienced it. I mean, think about it – where do your dreams come from? What is the root? If you dig down past all the rationalizing, past the ‘I like to play sports because my so and so was a hockey guy and he passed it on down to me,’ where are our desires generated? Biology? That is just a description of a process, not the process itself. Personality? What is that but the sum of a series of experiences. When did it start? You have got to keep digging and digging and digging until…
Well, that is just it. You see the whole picture. You realize that all your dreams of control were just a game you were playing with yourself. A hide and go seek thing. If you look at it this way – what is the sense of ‘I am?’ It is completely universal. Not a person can read this without thinking ‘I am.’ ‘I am’ is that which is beneath all of it. Beingness.
Without this beingness, nothing else could exist. Everything is piled atop the whole thing. Your thoughts of yourself as a boy, or a girl, or coming from a certain part of the world, or of being a sports person, or a bookworm, or the victim of sexual assault, or a criminal, or a drug dealer, or a lawyer, or a doctor, or a judge, or a president – none of it means anything without being. Being itself is the foundation upon which all of our identity is built.
Letting go is about understanding that beingness, of identifying with it fully. You begin to see that that beingness isn’t just part of reality, it’s the fabric of reality. Being is what we all are, and it is indivisible. And it is intelligent and playful and wants to have fun. It knows you – it is you. And me, and him, and her, and everyone and everything else. But the game is this: it does not want to force control on you. You have to come to it, to give yourself up to it, of your own free will.
All we have to do is let it. At its root, this is what letting go is about. It is about understanding and accepting that the thing that thought it was in control - the ego - was only ever a figment of our imagination. That’s not to say that the ego is bad, it’s just ignorant. And as long as it is in command of your life, shit is going to be not very good. Or, at least, not as good as our hearts dream is possible. Better to put the wise one in control.
The reality is you cannot force this. The moment that you think about letting go, you’ve already lost the train. Your foot is one step past the goal. You have to try not to run and just allow. Meditation is great for training your mind to do this – this is all meditation ever was about. To disconnect from the idea that who you are is your mind. To reconnect with your heart: the simple beingness beneath it all.
Letting go of control will seem like handing the keys to the manor over to chaos. That is part of the trip. You have to get down on your knees, press your face into the ground, and pass the launch codes to the vagaries of whatever the fuck is going to happen. This is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is one of the hardest things you will ever do, if you even pursue this way of being. Alan Watts put it this way:
“The way to wisdom is, however, a great deal less “safe” than the way to making a fortune; it is perhaps the riskiest and most worthwhile thing in the world, but you should not start out on it unless you are prepared to break your neck.”
Become What You Are, Alan Watts
The great secret is this: if you jump off the cliff, if you simply decide to drop all of your pretenses of control, if you plunge headlong into chaos, things won’t go bad for you. Instead, they will open up. You will realize that you knew how to fly the whole time, it’s just that you had forgotten about your wings. You will spread them, and up you will go.
At the beginning, all of this will seem internal. As time passes, the reality that you are living will start to spill out to the world around you. From that chaos, order will flow. You will be doing exactly what you should be doing and doing it expertly. Your letting go will perplex and intrigue your neighbour. Some will think ‘weirdo!’ and point their fingers, but there’s no accounting for taste. A great many of them will say to themselves, ‘I’ll have what he’s having.’
Because the worry is gone. The neurotic mess we had assumed to be our constant passenger in some way or another until the end of days in has simply disappeared. The game of hide and go seek is over and the game of flying off into the horizon is on.
To quote Kabir, sell your cleverness and buy your bewilderment. Let go of your ideas of how it is, how you can ‘make sure’ of things. Your desire for security has delivered you part and parcel into the lap of insecurity. But that is part of the process of accepting that insecurity. Alan Watts talked about the wisdom of insecurity, about how by becoming insecurity we can transcend it. So do it – let insecurity win. Let it be you.
Besides, chaos is a much kinder master than any supposed ‘order’ you’ve got cooked up in that old noggin of yours.