Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Letting go: Part II
Today I have some happy news and some more reflections. The first news is that I've broken the 17 minute mark! I have had this problem with meditating for more than 15 minute. I'd get to 15, 16 or 17 minutes and suddenly started to fidget and find an excuse to stop. Well, not any more. I have sat quietly and practiced letting go for two mornings in a row as part of establishing a new practice of surrender. I'm doing this for 21 days to give the practice a chance to take root. I'm taking this one step at a time and for now I'm just practicing the art of letting go physically. This morning I set my alarm for 20 minutes after I started, not expecting to go that long but knowing that I needed to be done by then in order to get on with my day. Next thing I knew my alarm was sounding. I've done it! The barrier has been overcome. Who knows how long I will sit tomorrow, but now I feel that anything may be possible. My second piece of happy news is that the wonderful woman who gave me the Mary Oliver poetry compilation that I talked about in my last post has started her own blog. This is really exciting for me and I am looking forward to getting to know her better through her posts and to having the chance to cheer her on from a distance in her incredible work and life (I also hope to learn the secrets of her equanimity). My third piece of happy news is that Laini's book has had it's first review, and it is a very, very good review. If you are a fan of Laini Taylor (I personally am a huge fan, in fact she is my girl-crush of the year, along with the marvelous Alexandra) then read this wonderful review of her book and then see if you can resist going directly to Amazon to pre-order your very own copy. I know I can't. I've also been thinking about my holiday and extracting a few lessons. Some are very simple, like the old and oft-repeated lesson about the pitfalls of trying to fit too much into too little time. I'll probably never be that person who plans to do nothing on their holiday, and then does exactly that. But I will keep trying to remind myself that I actually cannot be in more than one place at a time. Also I'll try to remember that when I want to do three things at once it is unfortunately unlikely that simply throwing them all together to make one event will result in a happy mix. But the deeper lesson is about letting go. When I look back over those two weeks I see so many moments in which I was unable to let go of things that were getting in the way of my own relaxation. Even when the people around me were telling me not to worry about them, even when they were looking me in the eye and saying "you are not responsible for our enjoyment of this holiday", I was unable or unwilling to release myself from that sense of responsibility. I had invited some very special people to join the Commander and I on this holiday - the Commander's best friend C and his partner M. It was such a long way for them to come from Portland, Oregon to New Zealand. It was also going to be their only real holiday for a very long time. They got stuck in LA on the way, and were delayed for two days. It was a horrible start to their holiday and cut their time in New Zealand even shorter. So by the time they arrived I had decided to ditch my plans to combine their tour of New Zealand with visits to see my beloved tribe in Wellington and instead focused completely on the beach holiday that they so deserved. There were other options, I could have let them find their own way around for a few days while I went to visit my lovely ladies in Wellington and then met them again on the way back. I could have taken them to Wellington with me and found some decent surf beaches in that part of the country. But I had an idea of what would be the best holiday for them and I wouldn't let go of that. Nor would I let go of my sense of responsibility to make them happy. I had a wonderful time, we visited some of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand. I had a go at surfing, and we hand-fed stingrays (reviving my long-held dream to be a marine biologist). We ate fish and chips and drank Gisbourne chardonnay in Gisbourne. We swam in lakes and in the ocean. M and I went for several runs along the coast, and for walks through native bush and up to a hilltop lookout with amazing views along the coast. When our muscles were complaining about this sudden burst of activity we went for a delicious massage. We played cards late at night with red wine and chocolate and I introduced them all to my favorite ice cream, the New Zealand classic Hokey Pokey. Yes, I had a wonderful time, and enjoyed their company immensely. But I also had moments of regret that I was in my home country and not hanging out with my own tribe. As wonderful as these guys are I was longing for the company of people who have known me for so long that I don't have to wonder whether they are understanding or misunderstanding me. I also had moments in which I felt resentful that they were not helping me plan, that I seemed to be the one constantly left to make decisions and plans. In retrospect, and to some extent I could see this even as it was happening, I know that the reason they were not planning is because they didn't need to plan. They were very content with simply being on holiday and did not have high expectations of doing or seeing very much. It was me who had the expectations, and so it was me who was making the plans to meet those expectations. Sigh. I keep coming back to this lesson about letting go. I find it so hard, and yet (tempting as it may seem) I don't think that the answer is to let this lesson go. So instead I'll take it one baby step at a time, starting with my 21 days of taking 15 minutes to sit in quietness and practice releasing the tension I hold in my body. By the way, one lovely upside to being off-line for two weeks is the treat of having so many wonderful posts to read on my favorite blogs all at once. I'm glad that my big meeting in Kabul was postponed because it has given me space to ease back into my work gently and time to catch up on the other things that make my life here work (like reading your blogs and doing yoga). In fact I'm off to do a session of yoga with my new-found yoga buddy and teacher now.