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2018-11-29

Letting Go, Moving Forward

Practice of the Week
Letting Go, Moving Forward

Category: Ecospiritual. These practices are oriented toward developing our spirituality through our connection with our planet home and our responsibility to care for it.


There is a comfort in familiarity, even if it is dysfunctional or unpleasant. It is challenging work to deconstruct comfortable ways of being in the world, rethink identity, and let go of beliefs that no longer function for us. Challenging, yet necessary. And it is work our entire culture must do.

The large-scale transformation of the relationship of humans to the Earth is what Catholic Ecotheologian Thomas Berry called "the Great Work of our time." We must reclaim the Holy Ground; re-sacralize, re-sanctify, rebuild, and re-imagine everything. We have, perhaps, begun to shed the old, but scarcely imagined what to create in its place. We are at the turning of the tide, the pause between breaths. There are no certainties. We don’t know if the larger culture will ever be transformed – short of destroying itself. Yet here we are. Many of us have become aware of the necessity for “the Great Work,” and personal transformations of individual ways of being is under way. Regardless of what the culture does, we embrace our life's task, our own personal Great Work. And we let go.

We let go. Of the idea of an endless, unlimited Earth. Of faith in silver-bullet solutions. Of our addiction to stuff, to consumerism, to symbols of success and status. Of quiet desperation. Of "more is better." Of thinking of ourselves and our actions as disconnected from the larger whole. Of outdated ideas and images. Of spiritual concepts primarily born from justifications of our own desires. We let go, and then let go some more.

Having let go of so much, you may feel unsure of what happens next. It’s unsettling to be disconnected from the dominant cultural paradigm but to have no well-formed alternative in which to be grounded. This in-between place is a temporary but necessary stopover in the process of change. A new paradigm is emerging, replacing hostility and competitiveness with Earth community, balance, and cooperation. We take a deep breath, clasp hands, and turn.

Practices

1. Ritual of Release. On small slips of paper, write down old attitudes, ways of thinking, and beliefs that no longer resonate with your spirit. You may do this with an exclusively ecological theme, or also include other thoughts. These slips of paper symbolize what you are letting go. Place the papers in a fireproof bowl, take them outdoors and burn them. Reflect on the process of letting go, and its impact on you personally.

2. Rocks and Apples. For this visualization, make a recording of yourself read the following paragraph, with appropriate long pauses. Then sit comfortably in a place where you will be undisturbed for fifteen minutes. Relax, and slow your breathing. Close your eyes, continue breathing for a few moments, then press “Play”:
Imagine yourself walking a long, dusty road that continues off into the distance. In each arm is a heavy bags full of rocks, and on your back is a pack filled with more rocks. You have rocks in your pockets too. You can't seem to recall where the rocks came from or how you got them, but you have come to believe that they are important, and carrying rocks is what everyone does. As you trudge along, you realize how heavy the rocks are. You begin to think there is no good reason to keep carrying them. Still, you are nervous about setting them down, You take one rock out of your pocket and leave it on the side of the road. Nothing happens, except that your pocket is not as heavy. You go a little further, and then drop another rock. Again, nothing happens. You go a few more steps, and then dump the entire load from your pockets. It feels nice. You ditch the bags of rocks as well. Ahhh! It feels lovely to be unburdened. Walking now more quickly and comfortably, you pass an apple tree on the side of the road. You think about putting some apples in the pockets that are now empty. You remember the pack on your back and dump out all those rocks. You keep walking, encountering all sorts of wonderful people as you go. You journey on, light of heart and light of load. You feel happy.
After you complete the visualization, bring your awareness back to the present, and open your eyes slowly. Now, try the visualization again, without the recording, making your own variations to the scenario. Who might you encounter on the way? What else might you carry? Allow your own creativity the freedom to make it especially meaningful to you.

Group Activities

Letting Go. By this point, the twelfth segment of Ecospiritual practice, some sort of internal change has occurred in your group. Maybe it's a new attitude, or a rethinking of old ideas. Maybe some members have consciously changed their lifestyle in some way. Begin this group time by going around the circle and completing the phrases, “I've faced up to ..," and "I've let go of ..." Sing together an appropriate hymn or folk song. Then discuss the questions. Conclude with another song.

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • What does the process of unlearning mean to you? How do you choose which ideas to let go of and which to keep?
  • Have you ever let go of something and felt unburdened and empowered by doing so? When? How did the process of letting go change you?
  • As you consider the whole idea of unlearning and letting go, are there some ideas or concepts that are worth holding on to? What is it about them that makes them special and worth keeping even as you let go of others?
  • What cultural ideas or attitudes have been the most difficult for you to unlearn? Is there anything in particular that causes a real struggle for you? What is it, and why do you think it is so?

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