The other day when I picked up my granddaughter from kindergarten, she told me that her teacher had taught them about ‘a powerful force that holds us to the earth.’ Her eyes were wide with Newtonian excitement. ‘You mean gravity?’ I asked. ‘Yes!’ she answered, delighted to share this wondrous secret.
That night I had a dream of living without gravity, everyone floating around, dancing in space. But then there was the ‘stuff’. In this dream world, to have stuff you had to wear a harness with strings attached so your stuff wouldn’t float away. The more stuff you had, the more strings were attached and the longer they had to be. So, although they didn’t weigh you down per se, they made it more difficult to get around because you’d get all tangled up in the string and spend your time struggling to untangle it. And if you were surrounded by all your stuff floating tethered to your harness, it was difficult if not impossible to get close to anyone else. All the joy of weightlessness was lost. Forget about doing fancy flips and loop de loops!
Back on Earth I deeply appreciate how our bodies adapt so well to the level of gravity our beloved planet offers in support. Yet when we are tethered to a lot of stuff, it can easily get in the way of authentic joy. And it’s not just physical posessions that entangle us and create baffles and buffers against connection and interaction. It is also our accumulated and often unexamined judgments, assumptions, beliefs, addictions, distractions, desires and fears. We each wear the harness of an identity. All the precious-seeming ideas we have about who we are as unique individuals keep us from being as free and authentic as we might otherwise be.
Our exploration of letting go and our dedicated practice of meditation show us how to cultivate spaciousness. We might think of this as a gravity-free zone where sensations, thoughts and emotions float through, each one arising and passing away of its own accord. In this spacious field of awareness we greet whatever arises with friendliness and compassion but without the need to succomb to whatever lure it might hold. (Remember the story of Buddha under the Bodhi tree greeting Mara, the temptor taking many forms to lure the Buddha away from his wise intention to awaken to the present moment. He would simply say, ‘Ah Mara, I know you.’ And Mara’s guise would evaporate.) Our greatest fear can be met in this way. Without pushing it away, hiding it or denying it, we can simply allow whatever arises to drift away of its own accord. If it is persistent, we can ask ‘What do you have to tell me?’ Our willingness to pay kind attention (without getting caught up in its story) will often be enough to gain a valuable insight. — Aha! and thank you. — Then what was hanging out is often able to soften, release, dissolve or just float away. But even if it doesn’t depart, our more open and skillful way of being in relationship with it means that we can live our lives more lightly.