Our beliefs, our paradigms, our hopes and fears are hard earned. We have all worked super hard to get to where we are, each of us. Our visions for how we want things to be, how we want ourselves to be, are the product of both our suffering and our joy. Consequently, there seems like there can be nothing more important than to grab on hard and to struggle to make things happen. It feels so important to honor and preserve our traditions and identities (cultural and individual). It also feels vital to push hard for sweeping changes in our lives, our communities and the world. We can build our whole identity around our hopes and fears. And you know what? Kudos to all us for the effort. Good job folk.
Hmm, but something is not quite right about this strategy.
In the four noble truths the Buddha points us to the concept that the suffering or unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) that is inherent to the human condition is directly tied to our clinging onto things we want and rejecting the things we don't. Everything in life is impermanent, so if we hold on too hard we will be sorely disappointed over and over again. The river of life is flowing and if we cling to the banks we will get torn apart. So the advice we hear again and again is to let go. It sounds so nice, elegant, almost simple.
Hmm, but something is not quite right about this strategy either.
Tara Brach tells this joke in one of her dharma teachings: A man is walking through the jungle when he comes upon a ferocious and hungry tiger. The man runs and he is chased to the edge of precipice. He climbs over the edge to relative safety, just out of reach of the snarling teeth and slashing claws of the tiger. He looks below to see that there are not only sharp rocks below, but that another tiger approaches waiting for a feast to fall into its grasp. The man then realizes that the plant he is tenuously hanging onto is coming unrooted. At this point the man cries out to God pleading for salvation, "Help!"
To his surprise God actually responds, a booming voice from the clouds, "I am God and I am here."
"Help me!" cries the man. "What can I do?"
"Let go," replies God.
"Is there anyone else?" asks the man.
I just feels so unsatisfactory and impossible to let go. How are we going to save ourselves, our families, our planet if we just let go. It almost sounds nihilistic. It gets even more surreal when we start clinging to letting go and then start beating ourselves up about how we can't let go of all the things we love and love to hate.
If we cling we will suffer. If we let go it seems like we might lose our sense of meaning. So what do we do?
The practice that I am finding useful is to hold things lightly. I am allowing myself to have direction and purpose, to let myself enjoy all the earthly wonders of life and to love the people around me so hard, while at the same time just holding them lightly. If I lose them I'll be ready to let go, but in the meantime I'm leaning in.
It is this attitude that created the space for me begin this project of making a blog and a podcast. I'm accepting that I can't control the outcome, that it won't be perfect, that I haven't figured it all out yet. The truth is that I have no idea what will happen here. Nonetheless, I'm letting myself grab onto this dream and ride it into the future, and I'm going to hold it lightly just in case it proves to be ill advised.
I offer this strategy to everyone who joins me in this journey. I'm planning to record conversation with all sorts of amazing people with interesting ways of seeing the world. Some of them you will love, and some of them will piss you off.
Let's just try to hold them lightly.
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