Let Go and Have Faith

Practice of the Week
Let Go and Have Faith

Category: Occasional. These are practices suggested for "every once in a while." Some of them are responses to a particular need that may arise; others are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. All of them are worth a try at least once. And any of them might become a regular and central part of your spiritual practice.

For this exercise, we will consider faith in its aspect of trust.

For the Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), faith involves trust in God. The core idea is that we don’t have to take responsibility for everything. How things turn out is, of course, an interactive mixture of what we do and what is beyond our control. Yet sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we control what we do not.

One of our “secret” strategies for control involves “shoulding.” I try to ensure that other people – or even inanimate objects – will behave in the way I want by clinging tightly to a belief that they should behave that way. Thus, when somebody (maybe me) fails to be and do as they should, and the result is that things don’t turn out as I want, I get upset. Trust (whether in God, or in society, or in the universe) involves letting go of trying to control everything – including letting go of shoulding. There are two levels.

Level A: Trusting that things will work out the way I want them to
Level B: Trusting that things will work out in a way that is really and deeply OK even if it’s very different from what I would have wanted.

“Level B,” of course, gets more to the essence of faith – which reminds us that acceptance as well as trust are central aspects of faith.

Your exercise, then, is:

For one week try letting go of something that you normally spend energy “shoulding” about or otherwise trying to control. Just let go of worrying and meddling with it. In other words: pick one thing that you habitually expend energy to control -- and then step back and let go of as much control as you can over that thing. Have faith that it will turn out OK (even if it isn’t what you would have thought you’d want).

Examples might be:
-If you always follow a recipe when you cook, try making something elaborate and original with no recipe.
-If there is some assignment that your assistant or co-worker carries out with your careful oversight, trying letting them "fly solo" this time.
-Trust your kid in a way you haven't before.
-Try giving your next presentation with fewer notes than you usually rely upon.
-Set aside time for being outdoors (beach, woods, etc.) -- but do not check the weather forecast -- avoid any source that might mention what the weather will be. If it rains, or is too cold (or hot), adapt on the fly.
-Or, if this is the sort of thing that would be novel for you, go into the city without a plan. Just see what catches your fancy.
-If you carefully pair your socks before putting them in the drawer, next time you do laundry, throw all the sock in the drawer loose.
-Go on a "news fast." For one week, read (watch, or listen to) no news media. Let the world take care of itself for a week.
-Pick something that you're a fastidious perfectionist about, and do a half-assed job one time. (Who knows? By aiming at "half-assed," it may turn out even better!)

NOTE: Do exercise reasonable prudence in selecting something to let go of. Stepping back and trusting your toddler to make it across a busy street by himself would probably not be a good choice.

For Journaling

Write about the experience. What was hard about it? What was surprisingly easy?

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