letting go of holding on

From the Bodhidharma Anthology by Jeffrey Broughton: Entering the path through practice – seeking nothing.

The sutra says: “Seeking is all suffering; seeking nothing is joy.”

I love the twists and turns of this third practice.  Seek nothing.  This is joy.  Yet joy is one of the worldly winds that blow up the dust storms!  Gotcha!

And yet.  And yet…

Much of our path has likely been laid down by seeking and joy in the finding.  Now here’s the part we forget: it’s also tamped down by the letting go and the losing.

Broughton footnotes a story about Merit and Darkness who are sisters.  They travel together and it is not possible to invite one in without the other.  Nor is it possible to drive one away without the other leaving too.  While I like this fable, it only addresses the extremes of our clinging and aversion.  To stretch the metaphor, we can’t shine the light on one segment of our path without casting others into darkness.  Practice requires attention not only to our clinging to the lit path and aversion to the dark beyond but also to the edge where light meets dark.  This is liminal ground where transformation occurs; its presence in awareness is constantly negotiated by our open-heartedness.

In my own practice, I try (oh, I try and try) to stay with the transitions between light and dark, earth and air, heaven and hell.  The extreme manifestations are no-brainers to meet and resolve.  It’s the sliding away and into from one to the other and back again that calls for a deeper commitment.  This is where a rigid holding on to what is, what it must become, what it cannot emerge as results in suffering.

This practice of not seeking, wishing for nothing, is a practice of unhooking from a specific outcome, untying the knot that keeps us chained to the shifting winds of fortune.  It is in the merging and emerging of lightness and darkness.

4 thoughts on “letting go of holding on

  1. This post really resonate this morning. As I read, I think “there is a difference between the joy that we seek and the joy that just arises (as in the joy of not seeking). From a young age I had some sense of the craziness of this: ” the knot that keeps us chained to the shifting winds of fortune” and that is why Buddhism makes so much sense to me. But still I am always falling into the hole of “seeking”.

    Listened to a great talk on “letting go” by Sara Thresher last night. I’d not heard of her before.

    • I’ll have to check that out!

      I wonder if it would help to stop thinking of these things as holes and think of walking across a landscape of hills and valleys… of course, that wouldn’t explain the scraped knees and twisted ankles… 😉

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