Letting Go

This week I came across a book called The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, a spiritual writer and philosopher. One of the short stories resonated very strongly with me and I want to share it with you.

“It was a snowy night, and Robert was recalling the time two springs ago when he was determined to paint the family room. Up early, he was out the door, to the hardware store gathering the gallons of red, the wooden mixing sticks, the drop cloths, and the one-time time brushes that always harden, no matter what you soak them in.

He mixed the paint outside and waddled to the door with a gallon in each hand, the drop cloth under his arm, and a wide brush in his mouth. He began to chuckle in telling what happened, “I teetered there for a minute trying to open the door, not wanting to put anything down. I was so stubborn, I had the door almost open when I lost my grip, tumbled backward, and wound up on the ground, red gallons all over me.”

awakeningAt this point, he laughed at himself, as he has done many times, and we watched the snow fall in silence. I thought of this little story the whole way home.

Amazingly, we all do this, whether with groceries or paint or with the stories we feel determined to share. We do this with our love, with our sense of truth, even with our pain. Its such a simple thing, but in a moment of ego we refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the door. Time and time again we are offered the chance to truly learn this: we cannot hold on to things and enter. We must put down what we carry, open the door, and then take up only what we need to bring inside.

It is a basic human sequence: gather, prepare, put down, enter. But failing as we do, we always have that second chance to learn how to fall, get up, and laugh.”

At the end of each of these daily anecdotes Nepo gives practices to help us awaken the mind and heart.

In this case they are:

  • Meditate on some threshold you are having trouble crossing in your life. It might be at work, at home, in a relationship or the doorway to a greater place.
  • Breathe steadily and look to yourself to see if you are carrying too much to open the door.
  • Breathe slowly and with each out-breath put the things you are carrying down.
  • Breathe freely now and open the door.

These words have provided clarity to the process of change that is happening in my life; there are many doors to pass through and at the threshold of each one there are decisions to be made about what is to be taken along.

Some things are left behind, new things are collected along the way, and this is the nature of my ever evolving journey.


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