I recently experienced a maturation of understanding of what it really means to “let be.” A sudden, mind-opening epiphany exposed the true nature of letting be and the weightlessness of a free soul. In an instant, my relationship with the emotional side of experience changed forever. I discovered a new truth anchored deep within my soul. One small step for man, one giant leap towards spiritual freedom.
To understand the literal meaning of a phrase is of no use in the real world. Reading words or receiving advice won’t help anyone. Truths need to come from within. So consider this post a call-to-action. Take this message and sit with it. Digest it for as long as it takes for you to find your truth. The thinking mind is persistent and will defeat any advice taken at face value. Information on its own is fragile. But truths that reside in your soul’s center will always prevail. Chew this sucker up, question it over and over again, pick it apart, etc. Don’t believe anything in good faith or dismiss anything without reason. Find your truths.
This is how it went down for me.
I was sitting on a park bench by the San Francisco Bay in Oakland. The sun was shining and birds were chirping. The water calmly swished against the rocks as I closed my eyes to begin an afternoon meditation session. I typically start by focusing on the sensations of the breath to generate present time awareness. Once I sense some distance forming between my consciousness and my wandering mind, I free myself from concentrating on my breath and hope for the best. It’s usually only a matter of seconds before my mind chimes in with a compelling reason to tune back in. “Yo, dude. I know you’re meditating right now but check this shit out.” I try to shut the mind out but inevitably fail. At some point I realize I stopped meditating and began reminiscing, making plans or winning hypothetical arguments. So it’s back to the breath to start over.
However, this session was different from the start. There was no settling in to the present moment. There was no warm-up routine or hoping for the best. I sat down and BOOM! I was in the present. Life was as real as it’s ever been. I felt my body enter the flow of all that was happening. Thoughts were still happening, but I was the observer, not the actor.
I was sitting, watching, witnessing all that was happening internally as well as externally. And then, without any warning whatsoever, a thought came barreling through my mind at warp-speed. “HEEEEEEYYYYY! How about some fucking anxiety? yeah?! YEAH?!?!?” I watched this thought rise, followed by a swell of warmth and uncomfortable tightness in my chest. Just as I was about to brace myself for the emotional denial that usually arises at the initial onset of anxiety, nothing happened.
In that very moment, my life changed forever. Everything I knew about experiencing life was flipped on its head. 1+1 did not equal 2. An anxiety-inducing thought was present, the gates of anxiety opened and flooded my chest. Yet there I was, not the least bit bothered. None of this added up. I was supposed to enter the next phase of resisting the emotion. I was supposed to flex my ego and wish the anxiety would go away. I was supposed to hate the anxiety. But I didn’t do any of those things. Nor did I try not to do any of those things. I simply did nothing. As powerful as the rush of anxiety was, to my surprise, it did not break my meditative state. I was still the observer, not the actor, watching it all take place.
Without any fuel to grant it power, the anxiety dissipated in seconds. I was enthralled by what I had just witnessed. A moment later I came out of my meditative state and chose not to return to the breath. This session was over. There was no reason to go any further. I got more than I was looking for.
In a matter of minutes, my life had changed forever. This moment was the culmination of thoughts and concepts I had been sitting with for a while. I had been picking them apart, meditating on them, examining them daily, weighing them against my past experiences, present experiences—I was challenging the validity of various ideas that seemed to hold potential for promoting spiritual growth. This session solidified one of the most important truths I’ve discovered in my life. One that is applicable to every single situation in life. Hands down, the most effective truth I hold to manage or eliminate depression and anxiety from my life.
There are at least 3 variables in the equation of emotional experience: Your thoughts, the physical sensations, and your judgment.
Your initial thought, like the anxiety-inducing thought I had, is not your choice. It happens. You have to deal with it.
The physical sensation that the thought triggers, such as the tightness of the chest that I experienced during my meditation, is also not your choice. You will have to deal with that as well.
Your judgment—your assessment of the thoughts and physical sensations—are entirely up to you. I cannot emphasize this enough. You have been conditioned to label experiences as positive, negative or neutral. The truth is, all experiences are just experiences. They are not positive, negative or neutral. They just are. These terms are subjective. They hold no meaning without a comparator. You can actually choose not to judge your emotions at all. And you shouldn’t.
Emotions are part of life. None of them are good or bad. They are experiential knowledge for you to absorb. I have learned, after creating unfathomable suffering for myself over the years, that not only do I not have to label my emotions, but I can actually embrace them exactly how they are. When I do this, they are all equally beautiful. They are all equally important. And I recognize that every single emotion is love. It’s unbelievable that we feel. It’s unbelievable that we exist.
I challenge you to take with you the wonder of the 3rd variable in emotional experience: judgment. Don’t simply agree or disagree with me in this moment. Put it to the test. Try it again and again. Challenge it. The next time you feel any “negative” emotion—sadness, anger, jealousy, anxiety—stop and try to put your finger on the part that makes it negative. Is it the tightness in the chest? No. Is it the tears coming from the eyes? No. Is it the thoughts? No. Thoughts are gone the moment they arise. New thoughts come in to play. It can’t be the thoughts. It’s your judgment. It’s your fear of the feelings, not the feelings themselves.
Do not fear emotional experience. Do not turn away from any emotions. Do not combat any emotions. Instead, turn towards them, understand them and develop a better relationship with them. We’re human. Our emotions are sticking with us for our entire lives. Embrace them by letting them be.
LET. IT. ALL. JUST. BE.
I’ll leave you with the quote that sparked my curiosity that eventually became a life-changing realization that I use to love all emotional experiences equally.
“Suffering or happiness is created through one’s relationship to experience, not by experience itself”
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