The Gathering Room: The Season of Letting Go
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That took a while. Hi everybody. How yous doing? I'm sorry that took me a while to get on. Oh, people are showing up.
Hi Dan. Hi Donna. Hi Anne. Hi everybody. Every now and ago, again, the Facebook seems iffy and I have a minor heart attack, but it's okay.
Did you know, just to fill in the time while we're waiting for folks to come, that when mothers are giving birth, sometimes they have a kind of heart failure that's quite common considering the demographic. And if the mother has this type of heart attack, the fetus's cells that have passed into her bloodstream through the placenta will migrate to the heart and create new heart tissue. So from then on the baby, the mother's heart is partly made out of her baby's DNA.
Isn't that amazing? It has nothing to do with what we're talking about today. I just thought it was amazing. So while everybody's showing up and oh my goodness, so many wonderful people, Christie and Julianne and Wendy and Ellen and everybody. Cleo and Jennifer and Jessica and Dawn. It's so good to see everybody.
So I think we now have enough people to jump in to our topic of the day, which is the season of letting go. And the reason I wanted to talk about this is I've been seeing, well Adam and I, my son and I watch TV for like half an hour every night. And I've been seeing the commercials for things on the TV. And it's the whole, you know, mercantile thing with everybody getting hundreds of thousands of little objects that they will actually never know what to do with, and they'll become landfill or giving each other huge gifts like cars. And it's, there's a lot of pressure on individuals on the system and the economy really, really needs Christmas to go the way it's expected to go. But as I'm thinking about it this year, it's really a different sort of Christmas, right? It's going to be the first COVID Christmas ever.
COVID is worse than it's ever been before in terms of the number of people that it's infecting and killing and it's probably not advisable to gather, and we're not shopping the way we used to. And just all the whole, the whole chestnuts roasting on an open fire thing is definitely damped down. And for some people, I think this is going to be hard.
I was reading an article on adjusting to change, which of course is what my whole life coaching system is all about. But it said that even if somebody goes to a Thanksgiving dinner and they don't get Turkey, they get some other kind of meat. They have to go through a really intense process of readjustment because they're used to getting Turkey for Thanksgiving and it's, it's a sacred thing. And it gets really, really ironed into the brain that this is the way it's supposed to go.
Well, this year Thanksgiving wasn't like most Thanksgivings and December's not going to be like most Decembers. Not, it doesn't matter if you're Christian or Jewish or atheist or whatever, but there's a way to look at it that goes to a deeper sort of interpretation and experience of the month of December and I'm not talking about the hallmark greeting card thing where the bad businessman comes from bad business city and he meets bakery shop owner about to go out of business because a big, bad business and he is snowed in and they are married. And Santa comes and all is well. That's cool, whatever, whatever turns you on. But what I'm interested in is that December is the dark cold month where the sun almost disappears. And for a lot, in the Northern hemisphere, sorry, (laughs).
I am being, I'm being hemisphere-ist against the Southern hemisphere to say that, but in the Northern hemisphere, it was the, it was the difficult dark month where the sun disappears. Once my children asked me, this was right after I left Mormonism and my kids said, what do we celebrate in our family? Like, what's our deal? And we what's our ethnicity? And I said, "Well, we're descended from like Scandinavians and Celts. So really it's all about the solstice for us." So we looked up solstice and we used to have this odd tradition of painting our faces blue, which is kind of a Celtic thing.
And chasing the white deer, which is something you do on the solstice day. You have to find a white deer. I bought this little stuffed white deer that I would hide in the house, and the kids would have to paint their faces blue and go find the deer and then we would have venison, no, make that beef steak, but we would say it was venison for dinner. Now so that was our whole solstice thing.
But the whole idea of solstice is not, you're getting a bunch of stuff, as in modern mercantile Christmas. It is the year past is dying and the whole time of moving toward the solstice is of letting go of the year just passed and watching the days get shorter and shorter. And it's, it's very, very much the death part of the death and rebirth cycle and Christmas is so wonderful 'cause coming a few days after the solstice, it's not the shortest day of the year. It's when the days of starting to get a little bit longer so that you can notice it and that's when we had the big bash celebration. But I want to think more about the solstice today and how people use to handle that because all of us are going to this year is dying and that's not a bad thing considering the kind of year it was.
But a lot of us, a lot of you have suffered things this year that truly requires some grieving and as we go into the holiday, when everything in our culture says to be happy, it actually is useful to learn something from the cultures that saw this as the season of letting go. So well, maybe you've lost your traditions, maybe you've lost a loved one to COVID, it just became the leading cause of death in the US last week, it'd beat out heart disease. Maybe you've lost a job or income. Maybe you've lost touch with people you love because you can't travel to visit them anymore.
Maybe you've lost all companionship because you're locked down alone, again. Maybe you've lost your feeling of liberty because you have to be careful and wear a mask and whatever, whatever you've got going this year, it's been a year of loss. And in the old way of seeing that, it was not a negative experience, it was a cleansing and a releasing. So the whole idea of letting this year die and grieving it's passing sets us up to have a joyful Christmas, even when things won't be like we're used to having them. Yeah? So what are the steps of letting go? People used to always say to me when I get obsessed with something, "Why don't you just let it go? Just let it go. It's all in your head. Let it go."
And I'd be like, I would love to let it go. Depression, they'd say, "Oh, let it go. It's all in your head." "All right, yes." Chronic anxiety, let it go. Tell me how.
Nobody told me how and I became a life coach to try to figure out how. So the way I like to approach letting go is think of something right now as the year shortens for those of us in the Northern hemisphere and it shortened, at least the calendar doesn't last much longer, for people in either hemisphere. So think about something that you've lost this year, that you would, that you really love, that you truly loved. So I truly loved having my loved ones all in one place.
Maybe that wouldn't happen anyway. I've got a daughter who lives in England, who probably she and her partner probably wouldn't come back just for Christmas, but this'll be the first year that nobody's, well, my daughter and her husband, my other daughter, and her husband is great. But most of the people I love are not gathering in one place. So it's going to be wonderful and I have to grieve the sense of that closeness.
I grew up in a big family and having a big family around a table and everybody like joking and reading books together and laughing and stuff is a big part of what's built into me as December. And it's not going to happen. So select something for yourself that you haven't maybe been avoiding thinking about it because there's a pain in your heart when you think about, oh that's not going to happen.
So take it and imagine that you can take this thing you love and make a little just for the season, make a little snow globe out of it. Something that you would see in a magical story about Christmas in the main bakery factory, the Hallmark Christmas, a little magical snow globe and inside it is the thing that you loved about December that is not going to happen this year. Okay, so I've got mine there and you put it out in front of you, take it out of your body and your imagination and put it in front of you. And look at it and the first thing to do is don't be afraid to love it. They say in psychology that you actually can't let go of something until you have truly loved it, which is why so many of us can't let go of trauma and it's hard to love traumatic experiences, but love is the first step that makes things real and puts things right. So the first thing you do
is love the thing that you've lost. Now that will immediately bring up feelings of wanting to attach. So our culture's definition of Christmas and the Christmas season is a lot about attachment and possession. It's about wanting things and getting them. Instead of that, this is about wanting things and letting go of them. Now, as that happens, you get this surge of sadness.
If you get something to grasp, you get a surge of kind of happiness, but it's actually a kind of manic possessiveness and immediately it makes you vulnerable to losing the object and then losing the happiness that comes with it. So allow the sadness to come out. Look at the happiness that you used to get from grasping that thing, feel the sadness that comes from letting it go and realize that these two things are always connected. If you, if you, as Nisargadatta says, what you call pleasure is actually the space between two pains.
You get something. You're happy for awhile. You lose it, inevitably. You're sad for awhile. Get something happy, lose something sad.
As you watch that continuing and this is very much a part of ancient traditions, ways of looking at the short dark months. As you look at the sadness and the happiness, you realize that they're two poles of the same sort of incarnate experience and that the part of you watching both loss and gain is at a little distance away. And I talk about this almost every week, finding the compassionate witness to your own experience. So you look at the snow globe and you feel the sadness.
Now take the sadness that was, that goes along with losing this thing, give it a shape and a form. Find where it is in your body, give it a shape and a form. Mine became the white deer. (laughs) It just did, because I remember doing that with my kids. So I'm going to take the white deer out, the stuffed white deer, I'm going to put it there. Now that represents my sadness.
So if you got your sadness, you got it out there along with the thing you're losing. Now, this is a, this is a counterintuitive step. It wants to come back and live in your heart. Can you allow that? The sadness, whatever represents the sadness wants to come back and live in your heart. If you can't handle it, then you take the part of you that can't handle it and you take that out and put it next to the I've got the, I've got the snow globe, the white deer and I actually can let the white deer back into my heart.
I'm quite happy with it, even though there's so much sadness with it. If you keep doing this, if you keep finding the feeling that is resisting the experience and taking it out and putting it in front of you and looking at it from a compassionate witness, this strange things happens in your brain. This is taken from acceptance and commitment therapy, by the way, where two things happen. The first thing is the moment you can start accepting things back into your heart, they change. So I take this the white deer that has a lot of sadness about it, and I take it back into my heart and I feel love. I feel warmth and the warmth and love of the experiences I have had begin to permeate the sadness and fill it so that it's everything.
It's all the colors of the rainbow brought together. There's a sweetness and a sorrow that are so complimentary that they each make each other kind of an exquisite emotional experience. Then I look at the thing that is still out in front of me, in my case, the snow globe and what I see is really interesting 'cause I've been doing this in real time as I'm talking to you and as I put it out there, I was thinking about a time when I was living in California and we had this big group at Christmas. But now as I look at the snow globe is just the little family that I have living with me in my house in Pennsylvania.
But I also saw you guys. So in the snow globe, isn't a little zoom light that is bringing all of these lovely hearts and I hadn't even thought about that. Sorry, I didn't, but it's like the whole thing is lit up because of the connection between our hearts and now that wants to come back and live inside me and I can put it back. And as I love the thing that I've lost, my heart reclaims it in a way that never lets go. It becomes a part of the compassionate witnessing, a part of the presence, a part of the spirit, having an experienced in human form, in physical form and the entirety of it, both the love and the loss becomes really, really powerful, emotional. It becomes sweet.
Now, if you're still having trouble with loss, you can play this game over and over. Just keep taking out your objection to whatever the thing is. And wait until you get something that you want to take back and then start taking everything back.
And it's so strange as you put out the things that are represent loss, and then you bring them in, the loss becomes the gift and it gives you the depth of compassion and sweetness that comes from negotiating the whole range of happy and sad. And I truly think that's what the, the dark cold month holidays were all about for people who live much closer to nature than we do and have a lot more to lose. So I had a question here. Now I want to take questions. Mary Ann says, "Giving is an art form in itself and so much that it's truly given is invisible. How does the way we give and who we are when we're giving also allow us to receive?" Ah, here's an idea.
And this is the great joy of Christmas and I think it's been, there are ceremonies like this all over the world and at the time when the light is lowest, they're always light ceremonies, holidays that have to do with light and part of it is giving to people who don't know who's been, who was giving to them. So it takes different forms and different cultures. Sometimes it's a trade off or a pot latch or something.
But one of the things you can do is take something simple, like a $5 bill. It has to mean something to you. It can't be like a penny, probably wouldn't do it for you.
And you put it in a place where someone can find it. And then you back off, which is good because of social distancing and you say that $5 belongs to whomever the universe decides needs it right now. And then you wait and watch until someone, you have to do this in a busy place, obviously. So you wait until somebody comes and then as you watch somebody find it and be pleased by it, you completely open your heart to them as a person and it may be somebody that you don't like.
It may be a homeless person that you wouldn't talk to. It may be somebody who's the wrong political persuasion. The point of this whole exercise is to learn to give with joy to anyone for the simple charge of what it feels like to be open and generous.
We talked about money, I think it was last week. This also opens that valve so that money will find you more easily. So don't give away the rent money, but do play this game somewhere sometime this Christmas to feel giving with no strings attached and see if you can translate that to the holiday giving that we do. Okay Anu says, "How do you stay in the space of being when interacting with the world?" Ah, good question. I found that as much harder when I'm happier than when I'm sadder.
It's weird because my favorite ally has always been suffering. If I feel this lightest sadness, it immediately reminds me to stop walking through the world as if it's just a material box of particles and realize, oh, it's okay to have this sorrow in the world because we are all spiritual beings having a human experience and boom, I'm back in presence. When I'm happy, it's harder. But then I tell myself, that's okay.
I came here, my spirit came here to get lost in humanness as well and the times when we get lost in it are joyful as well and of course when those end, then there's loss and sorrow, and it reminds you to be again, if you practice really being present, as you lose things, which is what drives most people to contemplation, then all the time, whether you're happy or sad, it's more accessible because I mean, I'd like to say it's a big mystical thing, but really I think it's brain technology as much as anything else. They've really shown that more, the more time you spend connecting with the sense of being without any kind of the compassionate witness, without an attachment to things in the world, the more your brain is able to go to that place of pure joy of being, so practice, practice, practice, practice. If you forget to practice, be grateful and joyful that nothing goaded you into practicing.
And when you suffer or you lose something, or you have to let go of something, show up, love it fully, allow yourself to feel the sense of loss and the pain of that, the slight pain of that will kick you out of the pain pleasure, sort of fulcrum and into the other space where the compassionate witness, where pure being exists. Practice, practice, practice, it's like playing the piano. Laura says, "What does enlightenment look like for you? How do you learn to receive light?" Oh, what a fabulous question for this time of year, the festival of lights and here's an interesting thing. There's nothing that says that light should be a spiritual phenomenon. There's nothing like biologically, but every culture on earth identifies light and spirit together.
So how do you learn to receive light? I think the most important part of it is to drop, again, drop your attachments to the things that make your world go around as a human. And that's why it's, it's not great, but it's acceptable and actually really useful that this horrible COVID year is making us let go of so much, because it's not, it's not gaining the light, receiving the light is not something we have to develop. We are born made of light. We come trailing clouds of glory and we are drawn toward light from the time where very, very small, it's just, it's part of our, it seems to be part of our spiritual inheritance and what gets in the way is the obsession of the physical and the attachment to physical things. And I think a lot of us experienced loss in our lives as a sort of race, because something is trying to take away from us the attachments that keep us from receiving the pure light that is always coming toward us and I also believe emanating from us.
So there's a beautiful Hindu metaphor called I'm blanking on the name, the Indra's jewels, that's it, Indra's web and it's like a three-dimensional spider's web that is infinite in size. It fills the whole universe and in every place where the web crosses, there's a jewel with a thousand facets and each of us is one of those jewels and every facet of the jewel reflects the entirety of the rest of reality. And also it allows every facet allows our particular perspective to beam out into the universe and become part of spiritual reality and physical experience and attachment to things that we think are going to make us happy. Very often cloud our ability to let go of, of things that are not meant to be ours and of thoughts that are getting in our way. So receiving light is about clearing your mind of the thoughts that are not true for your deepest being and it's then about once you've dropped the things that aren't true for you, it's about bringing all your actions into alignment with what you most deeply feel to be true.
As you do that, it's like everything lines up and the jewel which had mud on it, the jewel that is you becomes, it starts to come clean. And each facet starts to radiate into the world and reflect the entirety of the universe as well. So it's a dropping attachment to the things that are not making us happy and that includes thoughts.
That's how we receive light. Okay, Juliet says, "How can I do this with the loss of a pet?" Oh my goodness, there's something so deep about death. Whether it's someone we love or an animal, even when somebody's had a full life and you know they can't live forever and the dog's not going to live as long as you are or a cat, the intensity, not of grieving necessarily. If you let go of the need to keep that animal alive, or even that person, if you let go of need to keep them alive, you can enter with them almost into this passageway between the physical and the spiritual and as they go through it, you feel this incredible depth. I'm thinking of when my dog, my beloved beagle, Cookie, and he just, he went through a surgery that was so God awful, and he wasn't going to get better and I just said he had an ivy in and I said, just put the extra ingredient in his, in the hypodermic.
And I got down in, they said, "Should we lift him up on a table? So you can say goodbye." And I said, no, "I'm not going to put him through that much pain." So I got into this little dog kennel with him and I held him and I said, okay, put in the medicine and I, I felt him there. And then I felt him gone. And a part of me went with him.
Part of us goes with everything we lose, but it goes into spirit, which is all around us and always with us. So it went with him and then it took me a little bit into the spiritual and it brought him a little bit back into my particular physical life. So presence of the death, the same thing, put it out there, this anguish of loss and then take out the resistance to the anguish and see what that looks like. Take out the resistance to that, see what that looks like until you can put something back in and when you can take the death of the pet you love and put it back in your heart without any resistance, you'll probably cry for a day or three and your life is going to just open up and become a softer and kinder and more inclusive of that beautiful soul, which I think is still going on somewhere. So Jen says, "Coming from the Southern hemisphere, the end of the year feels more energetic, but still thick with a feeling of nostalgia and a sense of time passing. Any tips for making a new end of the year tradition or ritual feel significant in the first year of doing it."
Jen, I almost made this the topic of the gathering room today because tradition has two meanings in one meaning, it's as you pass things down and they're exactly the same. Another thing that it can mean it comes from the same root as the word to trade. It can mean giving up some one thing and taking on another.
So a lot of the traditions that have always been the same, this year in particular, are going to need to trade for other traditions. And to do this, you need to do, there's something in the human psyche and even animal psyches that's just very responsive to doing this with ritual. And I've talked about how the importance of having ritual before. In this case, what you do is you say we're going to have a new thanks or a new say, it's a new year's tradition. We're going to have a new new year's tradition in our family.
So we're going to give up the old thing where we'd all gather and get drunk or whatever it was. And you do the little exercise where you lose that and then you choose something that has a feeling of love about it and it could be something totally different that gets your mind off the old way. Or it could be something approximate, like having a Skype call with all your same people in the same room, but you're all in computer screens instead of the flesh. So whatever you choose as the new tradition, it's very important that you don't just say, okay, let's do this instead.
You have to say, all right, things are different this year. We acknowledge it. And the the way you get a ritual is you have a beginning, an invocation, a calling together.
Then you have a ceremony of some kind, like we're all going to turn on our Skype and we're all going to like make new year's resolutions and promises to each other, whatever, but it's set up and it's done in a really ritualized way. On Thanksgiving, my family and I have a tradition that everybody, while they're eating, goes around and says things they're grateful for. And so you, you get that. You have the in vocation, you have the ceremony itself, and then you have the benediction or the final word at the end. It's kind of like putting a frame around a picture.
So you say, we're going to begin a tradition. We're going to do it like a ceremony and then we're going to have an official and we're all going to toast each other and go to bed or whatever it is. But make sure that he put that frame around it and make it a ceremony and it'll feel like you've traded the old for something equally wonderful. Couple more questions we're almost done. Donna says, "Does letting go work the same for anticipatory grief? I'm finding joy in this new way of living. Isolation suits me well.
I anticipate losing that, and that is a sadness that is hard to let go off." We'll wait till it comes into to pass, and then take that sadness out, put it in front of you. See what form it takes, find the resistance to it and put the resistance out. I know this is an odd little technique, but it's super effective if you use it.
And you'd wait until you can find a piece of that sadness that you want to take back in, because it's also sweet. And then it will have changed the other aspects of your psyche. So try this same little technique, Donna, on that type of loss and see if it works. Nate says, "How do you step away from being numb after trying to just keep moving beyond all the negativity and suppressing feelings? How do you allow all that in so you can put it out and see it?" Very, very gently. If all you can do is say, "Oh, I kind of had, I can't really access my feelings.
I'm still really numb, but I had a real pang of sadness about being numb." Like once when I was deeply depressed, I remember playing with a kitten and not feeling anything. This is when I was young and I thought, okay, that's bad when you can't see how cute a kitten is, you are really numb. And I allowed myself to feel sad that I couldn't feel joy being with a kitten and it was just a tiny bit, but I, I was able to talk to people about it who understood, and that sort of allowed this tiny thread of connection with the sadness. This year is so hard, you guys, that some of you are going to have massive sadness. It's going to be really hard to let go, but I'm promising you.
If you can just take a little thread of it or if you can take the whole thing and it's overwhelming, but you can still work with it. If you can use that method, if you can put it outside yourself, find where the resistance is and keep examining that from the compassionate witness position, until you can bring it back in, you're going to find yourself melting and falling and there's going to be, it's something that I love in this line from, from not long July from the, the great Albert Camus. He said something that came came in very, very handy for me when I was busy letting go of Christmases past and taking on new things. He said in the midst of winter, I finally learned that there is in me an invincible summer. So you guys, you are all made of an invincible summer and you are all shining out to the universe and the universe is constantly shining into you. So let this be the season of letting go.
And then you find your arms are open to receive things you never even imagined that are going to come instead. So love you talk to you next week on the gathering room. Have a wonderful mwah, mwah, mwah week, whether it's shortening days or lengthening for you, it's always going to be the year we had the weird Christmas, the weird new year.
Mwah! Talk to you later, bye-bye.