To begin, a little Buddha paraphrasing:
Life is full of suffering. The cause of suffering is holding on or pushing away. Freedom from suffering comes when we let go. Or, the cause of all suffering is wanting things to be different than they are. To let go of that resistance is to let go of suffering.
Imagine you stop to buy some apples at a roadside stand. You’re in a hurry, but you love Staymans and you figure you can be on your way in 5 minutes. After scooping up the apples, a man steps to the cashier just before you. He pats his pockets to find his wallet. He’s forgotten tomatoes and goes to find them. He chats with the cashier about the weather. He counts out nickels and pennies. You think your hair will melt with impatience.
The Sensation of Suffering
We’ve all been there. Things are not going the way we want them to go and we suffer mightily. When you are in that state of suffering, what do you sense in your body? What is the physical sensation of suffering?
In my experience, when I am suffering, when I want things to be different than they are, somewhere in my body I am holding tension. Tension is the physical manifestation of suffering. And when I am tense, my mind is unclear and my heart is closed.
When it comes right down to it, what I want to learn in my life and practice is to let go. I don’t mean to “let my body go” – I do my best to keep my body as healthy and fit as I can. And I don’t mean to be a passive doormat – letting go does not mean that we can’t ask for and work for change. I mean to let go of chronic tension and holding so I can be open to life and all the people (and beings) in it.
Miracle & Wonder Intent
Last week, my post was about the focus of the Miracle & Wonder routine. The Focus (what we do and where we place our attention) is on ankles and wrists. The intent (what we want to happen as a result of the focus) of the Miracle & Wonder routine is to relax the body and open the heart.
This may seem like a leap: from ankles and wrists to an open heart. But, the four joints of ankles and wrists are common places to hold chronic, oft-unnoticed tension. By mindfully moving the joints in varied ways, I can release tension and free up energy, not just in my extremities but in my whole body. As I let go of physical tension, my mind is clearer and my heart can open.
Letting Go Through the Body
In her lovely dharma talk, “Letting Go Through the Body,” Debra Chamberlin-Taylor tells about a turbulent landing on a flight into Albuquerque. She’d made the trip many times and knew that turbulence was normal. Nonetheless, she noticed that her belly clenched — as if the tension in her gut would hold the plane in the air! As she consciously released her belly grip, her awareness expanded to the terrified women in the next row. As she let go, she was able to open her heart to those around her.
Think of a time when you were irritated or angry and things were not going the way you wanted. In that moment, how open were you to others? Were you able to be kind to yourself and to those around you? I know that when I feel anxious or threatened even in a small way, my perception narrows and my body, mind and heart tighten up.
Let. It. Go.
The mindful movement of Nia offers a possibility: in moments of tension and suffering, we can let go and make a different choice. Using awareness, we have the opportunity to notice layers of tension that we unknowingly carry around. As we release tension, we naturally allow our minds and hearts to let go, too.
Our physical, mental and emotional selves are deeply intertwined. By letting go of physical holding, we can let go of our minds and hearts. Whether you are dancing with me or not this week, see if you can become aware of even small holdings of tension and mindfully make a choice to let them go.
If suffering is tension, and letting go of tension is freedom from suffering, maybe it’s not such a leap after all: move your ankles and wrists to open your heart!