I wrote an article earlier this year about why Eckhart Tolle was my favorite spiritual being, but Mickey Singer was my favorite spiritual teacher. The reason Mickey is my fave teacher, in a nutshell, is because he emphasizes the necessity of letting go of our stuff.
We can meditate for thousands of hours, but if we don’t let go, that baggage we all hold inside just sits there…and screws up our lives. Bottom line: Letting go is essential to achieving spiritual awakening.
That being the case, I’m always on the lookout for eloquent, impactful descriptions of this letting go process. My favorite might be one I recently heard Mickey talk about.
Ripples in a pond
It’s about ripples in the water. Imagine you’re sitting next to a completely still pond. Then you throw a rock in it. That disturbance causes ripples.
What is the best way to get those ripples to stop? By jumping in and trying to make them stop? By throwing another rock in the pond?
No. The best way to get the ripples to subside is to do absolutely nothing. Just let the ripples run their course. And they’ll stop.
Ripples in our inner pond
The same holds true for when we experience a disturbance in our inner “pond.” Instead of a rock causing the ripples, it’s a snide comment from your boss. Or you’re at the supermarket and you look at Jennifer Aniston’s perfect body on the cover of People right after you’ve loaded a gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream onto the checkout counter. Or even little things like getting stuck at red lights.
These inner disturbances are all caused by learned experiences from our past. For example, the Jen Aniston disturbance comes from what happened in middle school (an idiotic boy called you fat), high school, college and beyond.
So what is the ‘don’t do anything to the pond’ corollary for us? Let’s stick with the Aniston example.
Don’t throw more rocks in the pond
You look at her on the magazine cover, you look at the ice cream and an awful feeling arises. What you don’t do is throw more rocks in the pond by going to, ‘Screw her. Real women don’t look like that.’ Or ‘Could I be any more of a loser?’
No. What you do is, once you’ve become aware that a feeling of disturbance has arisen, you relax.And then you lean away from the ripples. You sit by the pond and watch the ripples. And you let them pass.
And pass they will. Everything passes. But not if we throw more rocks in the pond or jump in and get involved.
Here’s the thing: Sometimes our hearts don’t feel good. We have stuff inside, it gets stirred and our heart experiences pain. That’s life. And it’s okay. The key?
Let it pass.
It’s not about denying or avoiding these feelings of hurt or disturbance. Quite the contrary; you’re training your attention on them.
You’re just not throwing more rocks in the pond. You’re letting go.
We have to be able to handle it
But in order to watch and not get involved with the ripples, one thing is essential: We have to be able to handle the ripples. What does that mean?
If you absolutely cannot handle seeing Jen Aniston’s perfect body while you buy ice cream, you won’t be able to lean away and watch the ripples. You’ll either try to defend yourself or crumble or defend yourself and then crumble. And that’s the same as throwing more rocks in the pond.
How do we ‘handle it’? It takes using spiritual will and strength.
It’s not easy to watch the ripples
If you’ve had body image issues for decades, that grocery store scenario won’t be easy. But it absolutely can be done. Summon the will to relax behind the disturbance. Breathe with it. Don’t allow yourself to throw rocks in the pond. And let it pass.
When we keep watching the ripples in the pond instead of throwing in more rocks, what eventually happens is these disturbances go away. That trapped energy in our lower being is released.
And we feel better. And better. And better.
If this pond/ripple metaphor resonates with you, I hope you’ll use it the next time one of your inner baggage buttons is pushed.
Just close your eyes, see yourself next to a pond and watch the ripples expand out. Then relax, breathe and watch as the ripples slowly peter out. Let them pass. Let them go.
Finally, a heartfelt thank you to Mickey Singer for yet another beautiful teaching that I want to spread as far and wide as possible.