One of the first steps in doing over is letting go of the old, no longer useful things. Or places. Or people.
I was writing to my friend Rita on Facebook regarding a post she had made about getting older, freaking out a little about her children growing up, wondering “How did I get here?”, “here” being a place where a new decade looms, babies become mini-adults, and life seems to have gone by so fast.
I commented to her only half-joking that perhaps this was a good time to practice Buddhist non-attachment (Rita is a Buddhist).
The exchange remained lighthearted, but serious all the same:
Rita: I’m seriously attached to the idea that my kids and I are never going to grow old and they’ll always be my babies. As some dharma teachers would say, I’m signing up for suffering.
Karin: Oh maaaaaaan, so THAT is what it is called! “Signing up for suffering.” Crap. I think I did that in big, bold letters with a Sharpie and now I’m having to cut ballast like a mean mofo just to get back to the center, eh? WHEW. *sigh* It is really tough, though. I know. I get it. Also, it is good to acknowledge the attachment, feel it for a bit, and then let it go. I find that if I bypass any part of the grief process, it backs up, just like a clogged toilet.
Rita: Clogged toilet! I love that — that’s what it does exactly if you try and avoid it.
Karin: Right?! And OMG I hate plunging, lol. UGH. I find myself deep breathing a lot lately, just trying to make sure my inner toilet is not too full of crap.
Rita: I was making myself miserable holding on to some crap. Finally I told myself- its time to let go of those attachments and just grow the fuck up Rita. It worked and the last week I’ve felt much better about some stuff that’d been bothering me for years.
There you go. To avoid suffering, sometimes (all times?) you have to detach, cut ballast, let go of outcomes, let go of that which weasels its way into our heart and engages the ego and makes it hard for us to move forward.
I’m having to do that in a really difficult way right now, and there is a lot of anger, frustration, grief, and pain all due to attachment to be cut out and flushed away.
Another way I have looked at it is being served plateful after plateful of overcooked spinach and having to eat it all if I want to exit the dining room (it’s a really mean boarding school type of place, this Grief School. Quite dark and Gothic.). I have to eat the spinach, digest it, poop it out, and then flush it away so (in the imaginary world in which I am making this story up) it can be processed into nitrogen-rich mulch in the sewage treatment plant. It will go back and feed the earth if I can take in all the spinach and transform it within. It will help things to grow, if only I can take it in and transform it.
Cutting ballast is never easy because I think that often we humans so look for ballast to comfort and keep us grounded.
A funny-weird/interesting note.
I went to search for an old blog post where I had written about ballast. Turns out I wrote a post on a now-defunct blog platform on March 28, 2007, nearly exactly six years ago, on this same topic. What I wrote then actually still applies to the present, so I am just going to copy in what I wrote there:
The first [book quotation important to me ] is from page 193 in my edition [of J.D. Salinger’s book, Franny and Zooey]. It’s [where the] character in the novel, Zooey, is calling his sister Franny, pretending to be their other brother, Buddy:
“The cigars are ballast, sweetheart. Sheer ballast. If he didn’t have a cigar to hold on to, his feet would leave the ground. We’d never see our Zooey again.”
Then there is the very ending to the book [the images above — click to see a larger size to be able to read what it says]. This part of the story teaches me to try to remember to “Shine my shoes for the Fat Lady,” which is another way of saying to recognize the divine in everyone and to try to do our best by each one. To look for the divine in even the humblest of things.
I am trying to cut ballast in order to have my feet leave the grounds of Grief. I want to get to the place where I am able to see the Fat Lady and shine my shoes for her. That is, I want to be able to see the divine in everything and everyone, even in those who have hurt me, in situations that have hurt me – I want to let go and soar into the land of Acceptance.
I know if I detach, I can more fully fly freely into a place of less suffering.
Now, how to get my hand to unclench from the cigar, so to speak. That’s a bit more of a trick.
How do you go about letting go of things that are not grounding you in a positive way (as in providing stability and balance), but of the weight that is holding you back from moving into the future or moving into a place of less suffering? Of cutting ballast so that you can soar?
Do you have any suggestions on positive ways to do that? If so, please consider sharing below so we can all learn from your wisdom.
Thank you for reading!
Over and out.