Question: what does it feel like when you let go of outcome?
A listener responds to Centering
I’m going to start with the question of what it feels like when I think I can’t.
When I’m hanging onto an outcome, it’s usually because I feel like I should have relieved someone’s suffering, or made a situation better, and it looks to me like I haven’t done that.
When I try to let go with my rational mind, because somebody told me I should, it feels like prying my fingers off something that I’m grabbing onto with all my strength. My mind tells me I’m selfishly deserting the suffering person or situation, just to get myself some peace. My habit of magical thinking keeps telling me that, by agonizing over the situation in my own thoughts, I’m somehow contributing to making it better in the “real world “ outside of my mind. What will happen to that person if I let go? They’ll fall into a black hole, because I’m not holding them up anymore.
Actually what I’m calling rational mind might not be completely rational, and maybe my magical thinking isn’t really magical enough?
Logically speaking, by agonizing I’m just adding more agony to the soup. The next person I come into contact with, whether it’s the same one who triggered the original situation or somebody else, will get a dose of that suffering from me, so I’m just passing it on down the line. And by letting my mind get stuck on the painful situation instead of letting go of it, I’m inhibiting my ability to be there for what’s happening in this new moment.
If I truly believed in “magic”, it would mean knowing that what I call my own personal intimate experience can’t be separated from the whole ongoing process of life, the universe, and everything. I’d recognize that it’s not just wishful thinking to have confidence that we all affect one another at a deep unseen level. But in order to grow that confidence I have to water its seeds, and I can only do that by being awake and observing what’s going on around me and inside of me.
I can start just by seeing that when I’m deeply happy, I can make other people happy too. Or at least I can give them a reason to ask themselves whether happiness might be possible for them as well. I don’t really have to say anything, but if I’m able to be open enough, they will see what’s inside me.
So I know all the ways of talking myself out of hanging onto the outcome: Accept that the past is no longer happening in the now. Understand that the situation can’t remain the same unless I influence it in that direction by replaying it over and over in my mind. Know that I can do more good by being peaceful than by making myself miserable. Blah, blah, blah.
But what does it feel like when I let go?
It feels like suddenly seeing something and saying “oh, okay.” Often, those are the exact words that come into my mind when I remember my place in the scheme of things. They have nothing to do with pretending that the situation is okay if it’s not. They are all about shifting the attention from how the little constricted “I” feels about this situation, to the bigger perspective that takes in me, the situation, and everything else that’s going on.
What I’m really letting go of, I think, is more like how I feel about not being able to”fix” things. I’m letting go of all that stuff about me, not because it’s bad, but because it’s just a part of the whole process. All of a sudden I can literally feel my eyes open wider and I take in the whole panorama. Parts of it are still not beautiful, but it’s all part of a constantly changing whole, and I’m no longer focusing on my own little corner. I can still wish that the painful parts could become less painful, and if there’s anything I’m able to do (or not do) to help that happen, my mind will be clear enough so that I might see it. But I’m not wedded to one particular way that things should turn out.
Example from my life in rural AK: you’re out berry-picking and instead of just walking along looking at the next patch of ground in front of you, you lift up your eyes and see the whole hill, and way over there on the horizon is a big patch of tundra where it’s “just blue”. with berries. Oh, okay, that’s where I should be heading towards!
“Okay” means, “Oh, right, now I remember what it’s like to breathe.” And when I hear those words in my mind, I smile.