Young Souls Service – August 7, 2016
“Letting Go” Sermon
By Laura Chen
When there are so many ways and so many things of which we can let go, how do we choose when and to what we hold on? A quick run-through of things worthy of our release conjures up jobs, relationships, old ideas, stalemate resentments, and expired ambitions. From long remembered homelands in places and people to where and to whom we can no longer to return, to our carnal cravings for chocolate, meat, and the illusion of certainty, how do we let go of these tangible things, but also of the intangible ones?
Every day, we bury ourselves in the routine and cyclical thinking of our carefully crafted egos, narratives, judgements, and things – so many material things! There is so much we hold close, so little of which we need, and yet still we can’t bear to part — perhaps because it is familiar, or safe, or habitual – even when it is no longer useful, or relevant, or kind.
Letting go, at least to me, means letting go of everything “else”, whatever the “else” constitutes. It means critically and intentionally carving a path and cautiously and carefully picking the people we choose to walk alongside. It means bravely and perhaps too hopefully, staying true to our convictions, even and especially in the unknown, uncharted, and unexplored areas of ourselves, our communities, our histories, and our embarrassingly imperfect track records – as pairs, schools, countries, and beloved communities.
And it takes work, a lot of it – the conscious and deliberate kind, the daily kind that is boring and mundane and yet unheedingly necessary – the slow and steady kind that turns corners only when you’re not looking, only when you’re just about to heave a sigh and turn back. And perhaps that really is just the beautiful process of letting go – that along the way we may find the sweet surprise in our unexpected ability to peel off what keeps us heavy, of the ways we’ve been wronged or disappointed, by our peers, by our politicians, by our parents, by our own personal proclamations of the ideal in its ongoing war with the real. There is such a fine line upon which we balance in this fragile and fierce experience of life, between everything we know and everything we don’t- and all the tiny and still seconds of small moments like this one.
Letting go means shedding the else – judgements, irrational fears, a narcissistic concern with self, the luxury of the privileged. It means balancing with less in order to go further, in order to go deeper. It means taking one step at a time, maybe letting go a little more, maybe picking up a few new things, maybe being okay to fall along the way. But most importantly, at least to me, at least on this day, at least in this hour – it means cultivating a joy in loving without attachment in a world where everything is temporary at best – our dear ones, our ideals, our tiny, humble, miraculous, and finite human lives. After all, are we not just together in a long process of letting go?
Perhaps it takes a lifetime to learn all the ways that we belong not to ourselves. Perhaps letting go is yet another illusion that assumes we had a grasp of permanence on anything, if ever, if at all.
Letting go, at least to me, is the very definition of what we already know to do too well our breath – each time an inhalation of the generous air we’ve been availed (and had we deserved it?), and each time an exhalation of relief, because we simply cannot hold it in (and hadn’t we tried yet, nonetheless?). What a thing it is – just to breathe. We have to take, we have to give.
I don’t know the answers, nor do I have faith in the folks who say they do. But I do know the relief in lightened weight when what is unnecessary is shed, with a quiet and brave sense of peace, perhaps as difficult as a lifetime of memories or as barren as a lifetime of vacancies.
Perhaps it really is as simple and as enough as the culmination of all the single breaths we take:
each one its own, each one different, each one complete, each one not yet our last.