When I experience a sticky inner storm that seems like it may be around longer than a few minutes, I often go to a river (or some other body of moving water). The motion, sound and temperature calm, soothe and exemplify what is real and speaking heartsense.
I had just such a conversation the other day, sitting on a rock in the middle of flowing compassion. I was busy "letting go", I thought. I went there consciously, with that purpose in mind--to let go of a painful situation, let it all flow downstream. I am well-versed in the value of this letting-go intention. It brings a much greater awareness of my part in the creation of suffering. But on this day, though I spent quite some time in the middle of the river, and put my hands and feet in the cold water, and cried, and recalled deliberately anything I had been avoiding, the letting-go was insufficient. I only felt marginally better. There was still some kind of residue in my heart and on my hands that the flowing water would not take away.
I thought about leaving, about calling it good and going home to my distracting responsibilities. But I couldn't. I was tired. The rock was a magnet that pulled my spine into its contours and my blood into eddies. There was some point where I truly gave over to the ministrations of the river, a distinct moment in which sound and feeling took on a different quality--very intimate, very thorough. The dampness, the buzz of passing insects, the clouds I could see floating down the parallel course between the treetops above me--everyone at once informed me in the true nature of ease. I was reminded about my place in the world, should I choose to imagine one, and the arrogance involved in the pushing away of pain. I had imagined that I was loosening a grip and opening my fists, but until that moment, I was not receiving. And receiving is the balance of letting go.
I was reminded--literally re-minded--and I will pass this shape of things to you, in case you need it. Please read slowly (like the deliberate drifting of a leaf).
There is the story (whatever it may be), and when the story is perceived to be no longer concurrent with reality, there is an attempted abandonment or release of the story. But the release is the continuation, in a way, of something that was never more than an idea in the first place. There is nothing to let go of, since my fists closed on emptiness. Yet...
The events to which I attach a personal storyline have a fullness, a shine both foreign to and reminiscent of myself, like a mirror beacon in the wilderness of being. They guide me to exactly what I need to know. It is only in the dropping of the arbitrary "end of the story" that I can actually see what this knowing is...it is only in the letting go of the letting go that the river settles into a suddenly willing space, to do its swirling and cleansing and reshaping.
Next thing you know, the water is the story of my body and senses. The hollowness that was painful is recognized as room for something so close to me, I could never choose an ending; a story that I can't tell alone, to myself, but that the world can speak to Itself, blissfully, through this.
Did I lose you?
We write very simple plots of gain and loss, honor, betrayal and romance. But all of our stories stick, because the fascinating main character is "I"--what I get, what I lose. The elusive state of "happiness" is the point--happiness for this "I". But our ideas of happiness are incredibly flat and one-dimensional, painfully thin and non-nourishing. Smoke where there could be fire, or an old, flickering bulb pretending to be a sun. Vision is obscured or incomplete. And it is this lack of vision, due to our reflexively familiar limiting of the Story down to something we imagine we can understand, feel without a threat, or cope with, that produces such dissatisfaction and disgust.
When sight is restored, all points of view are seen as necessary to Happiness. Not the pale, imagined happiness that an "I" can manage to sneak off with without too much guilt...no, more like the harmonic bliss of an orchestra of perfectly-complimenting sounds...the rock star goes to a cabin in the wilderness alone, with enough battery-power to listen to Vivaldi, backed up by crickets and wolves. The next time he picks up a guitar, his soul flows out, unimpeded, having been stretched in ways one could never, ever plan, by a story so much greater and so much more intimate than we could ever imagine. Happiness sings out in longing, anger and triumph across the strings of an instrument, singing of itself, to Itself. That is the point. That is always the point.
So in an honest letting-go, there is nothing left to replace the feeble plot line. But I am the author of something that begins and ends in places far outside (and inside) my interpretation of experience. It's a story so vast in its complexity that I will never be able to finish it, and so simple that I can write it without using one word.
The river shows me how.