At the heart of most spiritual traditions is the practice of letting go of our egoic, conditioned selves in order that we can merge with the sacred, conscious, compassionate self that resides in all of us.
The $64,000 question is: How do we do that? I like Michael Singer’s teaching of relaxing and releasing whenever these egoic energies arise inside us. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and others all have their way of achieving this.
But this piece isn’t so much about how we let go as much as how we approach letting go of ourselves. I’ve thought of a pragmatic, i.e., effective/doable, exercise that anybody can practice.
Why letting go is so difficult
Before getting to the exercise, a few words about why letting go of ourselves is so difficult. When Mickey Singer teaches us to relax and release, that’s great. The problem is it’s too open-ended for most of us mere mortals. We wake up, start going about our days and the bombs start falling on our heads.
“Mom, where’s my blue sweatshirt?” Your girlfriend says she’s slammed and asks if you can take her car in this morning to get the oil changed. And on and on and on it goes throughout the day.
In other words, most of us have our egoic buttons pushed on a near-constant basis. As such, practicing relaxing and releasing every time this happens is nearly impossible. It’s akin to someone wanting to run a marathon, but who has never run before, starting off by running fifteen miles a day. It’s too much.
And that leads to the exercise. What if we all started by biting off a small piece that is actually chewable? Here’s how that would work.
Set your phone timer for one hour. Do this at a time when you most expect your buttons to be pushed. For instance, I wouldn’t do this when I’m writing because I’m alone and my ego isn’t challenging me.
But from six to seven p.m., aka the witching hour, when I’m making dinner, kids are strolling in and out of the kitchen and my wife and I are struggling to control the chaos? That is prime button pushing, smoke streaming out of my ears time.
For you, that might be a particular hour at work, or commuting or doing errands. Whatever. Choose the best time for you.
One hour is doable
The whole point here is to summon your spiritual will for this one hour to be aware when someone or something triggers you. An hour is doable. Every day, all the time isn’t. At least not in the beginning.
What kinds of things are you practicing on? If you’re at work, maybe it’s some passive aggressive comment from your boss or a coworker. If you’re at home it could be a comment your spouse makes. Or something your spouse does that annoys you, like eating loudly.
It’s about not succumbing to the pull of the egoic energy
You get the idea. It’s anything that creates a field of energy in your lower self (ego) that desperately wants to drag you, your conscious self, down into the field of battle.
So what do you do? Upon becoming aware that this has happened, you immediately relax. Everywhere, but especially in your head, shoulder and chest area. Then you just watch that lower energy. Most important is not succumbing to the energy that wants to pull you down and into the fray. That’s the hard part. But if we just relax and watch, it can work.
Here’s an example from my experience doing this last night. The first 45 minutes or so weren’t too challenging. And then, as mommy and daddy were eating dinner in the kitchen…in strode Godzilla, otherwise known as my four year old daughter. She wanted to play. She was climbing all over us, trying to grab our food, etc.
For about thirty seconds I forgot that I was on this one hour exercise. I picked her up, gently, and carried her into the living room where she had a show on. Sensing that I desperately wanted her to stay there, she high-tailed it back to the kitchen.
It was on my way back to the kitchen that I remembered the exercise. I stopped midway, took a breath and decided to go back in, sit down and start eating again. I was going to breathe, chill out and let whatever was going to happen, happen. No resistance whatsoever. What I wasn’t going to do was dive down and swim with the egoic energy that desperately wanted my company.
Nonresistance rules the day
And it worked. I think my girl sensed the nonresistance and it took the fun out of it for her. So she went back to playing on her own and mom and I finished dinner. No blow ups. No tears. No increased blood pressure for daddy.
Here’s a different vantage point that may help crystallize this for you. It is to embody this quote by Eckhart Tolle:
“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease and lightness.”
That’s what we’re doing here. We’re simply not resisting anything that life throws at us. A snide comment by the boss, someone asking you to do the dishes after a massive dinner party, someone cutting you off in traffic. Anything that comes our way, we just handle it like water rolling off a duck’s back. We’re like a solitary leaf floating on top of a river, allowing the current to take us where it will.
But here’s the key thing: You’re only doing this for one hour. And then you see how it goes. I suspect that for most of you that will be a decidedly peaceful hour.
And what then? Try it again the next day for an hour. If an hour seems too long, try a half hour. If it seems too short, try two hours. An hour seemed like the sweet spot for me.
If all goes well, after some amount of time we remove the time limits and work on this 24/7.
It’s so simple, but so unbelievably important. All we have to do is pick an hour where we think we’ll be challenged, set a timer on our phones and then be on the lookout for when our egos get stirred.
I hope you’ll try this. At least once. Give yourself a chance to experience what life is like when you get yourself (ego) out of the way.
Because if I’ve written it once I’ve written it ten times: The work of letting go of ourselves is the most important work that any of us can do.
Give it a shot. Try it once and see what happens.