Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.
One of our greatest challenges as human beings, and I tend to say that regarding many of our challenges, regards non-attachment. More precisely, our tendency to cling to things: thoughts, objects, memories, past circumstances, and the list goes on.
A big one is our expectations of results. We do not control the results of actions, and the lesson to be learned is that the results we see in life are neither good nor bad outside of our judgement of them. As Hamlet said, “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Rudyard Kipling said this in his poem If: “If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”
I want to look at non-attachment at a more personal level. This is the entire purpose of our Letter to God and the Burning Bowl service from the beginning of January. Non-attachment requires that we release what we already have an attachment towards. Sometimes we have attachments to things that are beyond our awareness.
For instance, we have an attachment toward who we are; what sort of person we are; what our limitations are and what our strengths are, to the way we react, to how we approach problems, where we look for solutions. We have attachments to the kind of people we draw into our lives, to how capable we think we are, how worthy, how valuable, to our emotions, our pains, and our history.
We are attached to all these things and most of this is below the level of our consciousness. We have to make a supreme effort to recognize these things and acknowledge them.
If we are not attentive, we can allow these attachments to dictate our thought patterns, attitudes and behaviors in a negative way. Sometimes we go to counselors and therapists because these attachments drive our lives in directions that are destructive or at least counter-productive.
We are encouraged in Proverbs 3:5 to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not to depend upon our own understanding. This is sound advice: let go of our understanding and replace it with God’s. Sometimes, it is not enough to say let go; we have to replace what we release with something new.
It’s like the city council that decided to get rid on crime and filth in a downtown district; they demolished all the old buildings and cleared everything out. It looked better; the area was safer. But after a few months the shacks began creeping back; those blocks once again attracted some rather seedy people and activities.
They would ask themselves: What went wrong? What went wrong was that they had only finished half the plan. They needed to replace the negative that they had removed with something positive in its place. So once again they cleaned out those blocks but this time they replaced the shacks with upscale apartments, shopping malls, and a theater. The slums did not return.
It is an excellent metaphor for our internal process. When we decide to make changes in our lives, whether it is releasing old habits, old thought patterns, or old attitudes, we must replace them with positive God-filled thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We must “let it go”, and then we must “bring it on”; we remove the old and invite the new to us.
This is life; this is renewal. Like all other forms of life, our bodies have a marvelous elimination system for removing toxins. Through our intestines, skin, kidneys, and lungs we are able to eliminate life-depleting poisons from our bodies. We then refill with life-sustaining substances which keep us whole and healthy.
The same is true at the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels, but our elimination requires more attention and our will. We can release any thought or belief not consistent with what we are. And what are we? – a Child of God. If a thought, feeling, word, or action does not validate our Divinity, then we can refuse to accept it, whether it is our thought or someone else’s. We cannot deny that a thought exists, or that someone said something, but we can deny its power over us; we can deny its validity and truth.
We may crave sweets, or alcohol, or drugs, or shopping – but we do not need them. By saying something that simple we open our minds to the fact that sweets are not an inevitable part of our life. We can’t deny that we have a disease or an illness, but we can deny that it belongs in our body. The extra 10 to 15 pounds I am carrying does not belong on my body. This thinking opens us to new possibilities and releases their control over us.
I like chocolate, but chocolate is not in charge; I don’t need chocolate. I fear groups of people, but my fears are not in charge. I may fear spiders, but spiders are not in charge of my feelings – until one crawls on me than I stomp and flail my limbs, and scream like a little girl.
Yep, I have a ways to go before I’ve let go of everything.
One area that I am still working on is letting go of the image I have of myself. There is a part of me that thinks that I have to be perfect in every way, and I put a lot of pressure on myself for living up to some standard that I cannot attain.
Not everyone has this particular struggle, but we all struggle with something. Some of us have a challenge of forgiveness – letting go of past hurts and disappointments. Some of us have a challenge of allowing people to be who they are without our judgment or desire to ‘fix’ them. We all have something to let go of.
And it will seem like chaos during this process. When we clean out a closet we have to get everything out of that closet. So we put it on our bed. We don’t invite people over during this time because we are what we call “in process” – we are in the process of bringing clarity to the closet. We examine everything on the bed and decide if it goes in the closet or the waste basket.
This is difficult for hoarders because the thought is always there, “I may need this some point down the line.” That can be a dangerous thought, and one that many people are attached to. Generally, if I haven’t needed it this past three years, then I can release it and let someone else enjoy it. I can always get another.
Clean out the closet and put back the necessary and valuable items. Always know that things can be replaced. Let it go and know that something more precious is on the way.
That goes for how we think about ourselves. Let go of the idea that we are flawed or incapable or must be perfect. Instead, know that as a Child of God we are exceedingly capable. Allow Spirit to express through us and let us get out of our own way.
I have identified two difficulties in myself when it comes to letting go completely. Part of my challenge in letting go is one of focus. I so meticulously center my mind on something that I cannot see anything else. [Hold hand up to eyes, etc.]
If you are like me in this way, then we need to step back at some point, angle our gaze away from our attachment so that we can see just a bit more of what Spirit offers. The further we get from our mental errors, fears, habits, or whatever the obstacles are the smaller they seem in perspective to everything else. When they aren’t the center of our attention we can handle them more gently and easily.
Another area where I have a challenge with letting I’ve already mentioned: I have a hard time trusting what I want to replace the negative with. For instance, I want to stop judging the things that happen to me as “bad” or “harmful” … I want to say “Maybe ‘yes’, maybe ‘no’,” but I don’t always allow myself to see things clearly; I don’t always trust that I can fill the void of releasing an old thought pattern with something more productive. It seems I would rather cling to an old, comfortable, detrimental rut than embrace the newness of an unknown God-thought.
Letting go is often about trust. When the trapeze artist lets go of the bar and flies towards their partner’s outstretched arms, they trust that they will be caught. There is a moment during that flight where they totally release their fears, or at least move through them, and know that they will arrive safely. If all we can think about is falling, the chances increase that our fear will immobilize us and attract to us that situation and we will fall.
When we enter a relationship we do so with the idea that this is going to be a beautiful, mutually fulfilling bond based upon love and respect, sharing and understanding. If we have been hurt in the past, and we still carry resentments, judgments, and fear, the chances of that negativity influencing our relationships is great.
Our expectations are attractants. If they are fear-based we attract what we fear. If trust and love-based, we attract an entirely different scenario, which often will allow us to release the old, letting it go entirely, and completely embrace the thoughts and plans of God in our lives. Through trust-based expectation we can release the idea that we are unlovable or unworthy and accept the notion that a loving God created us and fills us with love at every moment. God is Love; we are love.
Through trust and expectation we can discard the idea that “This always happens to me.” First of all, no it doesn’t. That phrase has just become a habitual way to respond to a challenge; so, we can stop affirming that lie of the ego and stop playing the victim. We all have challenges, and our challenges are just practice for overcoming impatience, the lack of forgiveness, and intolerance. It is through our trust and our positive expectation – our faith – that we pay attention, learn the lesson, grow stronger, and move on.
We don’t allow the seeming disorder, the chaos of letting go, to influence our thinking. We see it for what it is: a part of the cleansing process. Be grateful. Be happy that we are becoming all that God wants us to be as we move away from all that we want us to be. And these are two entirely different destinations, aren’t they – where we want us to be, where God wants us to be?
There’s a storm coming, and if you haven’t experienced it yet, just hold on. As we evolve and transform, as we release the old and embrace the new, the winds of chaotic change will blow. Our challenge is to remain non-attached to the chaos.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 offers this powerful teaching: For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
We don’t have to let the blowing winds and the blizzards bother us, because through trust and expectation we know that all worldly conditions are temporary: ‘this too shall pass’. And from our perspective of non-attachment, we can truthfully say the cold never bothered us anyway.
So my prayer is that we can lovingly let it go – let the old go, the destructive and counter-productive thoughts, habits, attitudes, pre-conceived ideas, and limited perspectives. And I pray that in their place we accept the good and perfect plans of God. I pray that we open our hearts, minds, and lives to all of God’s abundance in all areas of our lives.
Some of you have been waiting for this phrase, so now I offer it to you… I pray that we can “let go, and let God”. As our opening Bible verse teaches, let us let go of all the bitterness, wrath, anger, slander, and malice, and embrace the love, joy, health, and abundance of God. Let release and feel the peace, and let us cling to God, not to the world.