Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Liturgy of the Hours

This week's question is about letting go. And I had to give it some thought.

My basic belief is that letting go is an organic process. Given that one statement, you probably won't even need to bother reading the rest of the post.


Western culture, the culture I grew up in, attaches a lot of "shoulds" and time frames on letting go of things in our lives. Time becomes an enemy that chews us up and spits us out. It is about productivity over process.

The eastern perspective is a bit different. It views time as a gift and seeks to put it to good use rather than our being used up by it. There is time for everything. Time for the things that matter to us. Time for growth, prayer, reflection. I read in a book one time, and this stuck with me, that "You never finish anything in life and while that's humbling and frustrating, it's alright."

When the world is viewed as impermanent, all circumstances as impermanent, it becomes both easier and harder to let go of things. When we know something truly isn't coming back, there is no revisiting, it's a temptation to hold on.

And that's okay, too.

When we are ready, when we've gleaned all we can from an experience, we let it go. When it no longer serves us, truly no longer serves us, it drops off like a leaf from a tree.

Think about it. I'll bet you'll see exactly what I mean.

The concept of impermanence came easily to me. I don't always like it. Sometimes I fight against it. But I do understand it.

I come from a background filled with abandonment. I was unable to depend on anything today that would still be here tomorrow. I learned to never trust anything I didn't control.

And I created abandonment over and over again because we do that. We humans do that. Until we resolve a situation, one way or another, we will unconsciously re-create it.

So.. how did abandonment serve me?

It served me by allowing me to live a carefree life with no responsibilities to anyone or anything. Things came in and things went out. I was like the stoic observer, watching the river flow. It allowed me to be unhealthily detached from everyone and everything.

No expectations, no disappointments.

After a while, that became my motto in life. No expectations, no disappointments.

And it worked. It really worked.

Then the hollowness crept in. The sense of disconnectedness crept in when I looked around and realized my life was completely empty. I had to start doing things differently.

It meant a willingness to not let go. Whew! That was a hard one.

There was no timetable on it. There was no ritualized process. It was nothing someone else could do for me. It required little external guidance. It required internal willingness.

I'd come to a point where that way of life no longer served me.

It seemed to take care of itself as I took the risks necessary to allow a little bit of attachment into my life. Balanced. Balanced with the understanding that everything is impermanent.

So we become a kind of portal for life experience. In all of nature, everything recycles, including people. Loss, grief, the cycle of life itself.

As we begin to flow with that, we let go. We let go of the belief that we can control how the river flows. Because, after all, we can't.

We can be thankful for our life experiences or we can be resentful. That's a choice, both of them equally valid for different reasons. We can cling and make ourselves miserable. Sometimes that is what we need to do.

And when it no longer serves us, we let it go.



Julie Pippert said...

Oh this is it. This is exactly it.

Chani, this is awesome for me and let me tell you why.

I think you hit so many key points and insights.

Time, yes, we have these prescribed time limits on things.

Consider Victorian grieving, which we still have in our consciousness: one year. Six months heavy, six months half, now move on.

This was installed because Victoria was a control freak, no really, because people were often together for reasons other than voluntary and love. It imposed respect and emotion, but it also allowed for emotion in a time when even that was constrained.

Yes, we need to let that go.

Your journey makes your idea of this make sense.

And I like this way of thinking of it.

Anonymous said...

Letting go was never hard for me.

The part about the willingness to not let go caught my attention.

I'm not sure where I am these days. Thanks for the food for thought.

Snoskred said...

What you say is true - we can choose to be thankful or resentful. I'm thankful because those experiences made me who I am now. Going through them at the time, I was probably resentful. And angry. And hurt, and a million other things.

Snoskred - has a new home at -

kaliroz said...

I am so thankful I found your blog.

Impermaneance doesn't bother me in the abstract but in practice, I've had issues with it. :) Surprise.

There's always a peace to your writing that shines through, that I hope I have one day.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have had difficulty with the concept of impermanence in the past because of abandonment issues. When something good came to me, I really wanted to hold onto it forever.

That changed when I began to realize the beauty in change, and also that not everything is meant to be forever.

Watching my children become their adult selves has been awe-inspiring, and even being there when a houseplant unfurls a new leaf thrills me.

So I think that we do retain all our experiences as building materials of ourselves, and in that way, the impermanent is with us forever. It just changes form, as do we.

flutter said...

I love that it is like this for you. I wish it was more like this for me.
On the whole, do you think that your experience with letting go, or not, has given you a more peaceful existence?

Hel said...

"When we are ready, when we've gleaned all we can from an experience, we let it go."

For me it is always a lesson in trust.

Trust that life has always given me what I needed when I needed it.

But there is always the little voice that says. "Try harder hold on to the log of the known. Without it you might drown."

I will spend tonight letting it go.

slouching mom said...

We can be thankful for our life experiences or we can be resentful.

This really speaks to me. I spent a long time and expended a lot of effort trying to help some members of my family understand this.

It hasn't worked. I think you either get it, or you don't.

blooming desertpea said...

What a timely post for me. I'm absolutely in tune with what you say, some aspects are new to me, most are not.

I used to live that motto - no expectations, no disappointments - and still am most of the time as I have been hurt too many times in life.

Still, there are things that I WANT to let go but I just don't manage and that bothers me! I've got one issue that has been haunting me for a year now, I'm tired of it! Are you saying that it is still serving me for some reason?

thailandchani said...

Julie, I never understood being able to dictate a process like grief. It's different for everyone, actually for the very reasons you mention. Some relationships are voluntary and some are not.

Some western folks would probably judge me harshly because I didn't grieve my father's passing in April. There are many reasons for that.. and I can't manufacture what doesn't exist, not any more than I can manufacture a letting go process.


De, I had the feeling you would "get it" with that. Some of us have to learn to attach.. and then there's a matter of doing it in a healthy way. The examples that surround most of us are all about unhealthy attachment.


Snos, I suspect that's true for most of us. For all those years when I felt like a total alien in my own environment, I resented the hell out of it. When things came so easily to those who were properly acculturated, I resented it.

Then... I found what works for me.. and the resentment disappeared.


Roz, yeah.. surprise! :) I've had the same problem in reverse.. learning healthy attachment when everyone around me seems to be attached in such an unhealthy way... with ego at the base. Finding others who think like me has been.. um.. a challenge. And, speaking of letting go, I've had to learn how to let go of the expectation that it will magically appear all around me.


Susan, that's really interesting.. because I always just assumed that people abandon each other. I've not been modeled anything differently.. so I adopted a non-attachment policy. At the same time, I had to learn how to do it in a way that wouldn't increase resentment or suspicion. I had to learn a way that would allow it all to flow the way it's meant to flow.

I knew that trying to create permanence where there is none was serving no one, least of all me.


Flutter, absolutely. It's basically a healthier version of "no expectations, no disappointments". I have no right to put expectations on others, especially unspoken ones. This way, anything I get from anyone and anything I am able to give is a gift.

Definitely more peaceful.


Hel, I don't know why or how.. but even when I was at my worst, I was always provided with what I needed somehow. I'll bet it's been the same for most. Our efforts to control were usually so much window-dressing.


SM, I think that's true. You either get it or you don't. And another thing I discovered is that it's not my place to take another person's journey. We hang on because on some level, we have to hang on. It serves us. Resentment is just ego.

When it no longer serves, we let it go.


Desertpea, answered you privately. :)




jen said...

Chani, this rocked it.

I had someone once tell me that (while in the middle of a difficult time) that i am holding on for a reason, and when i am ready, i will let it go. and it might not be in this lifetime, but there will come a time when X doesn't serve me anymore.

and i took it as a small kindness, to not beat myself up for holding on and also as freedom to finally say enough. your post reminded me of that today.

painted maypole said...

Wow. So now I have to think about how this thing I seem to not be able to let go of is serving me. Because it really feels instead like it is hurting me. But I will think on this. I loved this: "You never finish anything in life and while that's humbling and frustrating, it's alright."

Tabba said...

I loved this, Chani.

It just fit inside a spot today that was empty before I read your words.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I liked this post.

mitzh said...

As always, I love this post..
Your thoughts engulfed my soul. And I agree with what Jen said, maybe I too am holding on for a reason and when the right time come I will learn to let go..

Thanks for inspiring all of us.

Christine said...

sm took the quote I loved so much! but it s a good one: "We can be thankful for our life experiences or we can be resentful.." I know both are ok, but i too often lead to the resentful.

nomotherearth said...

Until we resolve a situation, one way or another, we will unconsciously re-create it.

That really spoke to me. I know I have done, and continue to do, that.

Mary said...

You know yourself well and I think we all need to understand ourselves better instead of going through life feeling and reacting without knowing why. I have had some experiences of abandonment in my younger years but I'm neither resentful or thankful. It happened, that's all. I let go. I should think about it more often.

Emily said...

THe kind of acceptance of impermanence that you write of is so difficult for me. I can handle most things being ephemeral, but the thought of dying fills me with horror. I wish I had your balanced approach to letting go. I think it would make me a calmer person.

I fear, were we ever to meet, you would think I definitely need to get more in touch with the universe.

Bob said...

no control? we are taught from the cradle to control - ourselves, our environment. we are taught that if we do certain things (work hard, good works, etc) that we can expect certain things in return (rewarding career, respect, etc). Technology is ALL about control.

How to you give that up? Christianity demands that we give "ourselves" to Christ, turn over our lives to him in return for his love and eternal salvation. Most religions have the same concept - subjugate yourself to a deity, that your wants and needs come second to what the religion demands.

I can't do that. That's why I don't have firm religious convictions. I can't accept that some all-knowing, all-powerful, all-benevolent deity requires my subservience before it will bestow it's gifts upon me.

I don't know how to give up control.

thailandchani said...

Jen, that's a really good point. I do think it's important to say those things to each other, to acknowledge that we give things up when we're ready to give them up. Not a minute before.And we need to give others the freedom to process and let go in their own way.


Maypole, they're not mutually exclusive. Just because it hurts us doesn't mean it doesn't serve us. Sometimes in the process of life itself, we grow by hurting. Eliminating pain isn't always the highest objective. :)


Tabba, glad it fit in well. :)


Thomas, thanks. :) Did you see the preview on Larry King last night? Tammy Faye looks awful!


Mitzh, exactly. Just be open to it. :)


Christine, :) I think that quote was from Kathleen Norris who wrote "The Cloister Walk".


NoMotherEarth, we all do it. There's no way to escape that! :) I've done it so many times, there should be a Guiness Book of World Records for "I don't get it".



Mary, it sounds to me like you have a gift. Some people really don't struggle with that.. and it's awesome, imo.


Emily, I've never been afraid of death.. but for a long time, I feared abandonment.. which is why I didn't attach. It was easier to remain detached than to take the risk. In all honesty, eastern thought saved my butt. In many ways....

I wouldn't think you "should". I would hope you will.. in your own time.


Bob, I understand completely. I wasn't always who I am today.. and I remember what that's like. It's quite a burden.




QT said...

It is hard for me to give up control, Chani. But I have gotten better - slowly but surely.

Thank you for sharing your insights~

Cecilieaux said...

The title you chose made your post sound forbidding to a former (unmolested) altar-boy in a way that curiously connects with the rest of your post.

You probably know that the Liturgy of the Hours (Liturgia Horarium) is the name of a four-volume prayerbook used in the Latin Rite by people consecrated to a life of prayer following the "canonical hours." The early medieval notion behind the hours stems from the period between the legal tolerance of Christianity (313) and the fall of Rome (476). It was the first period in which the Christian Church was not persecuted, but also the first in which the expectation of a second coming of Christ, with the attendant end of the world as people knew it, began to wane. The wait was expected to be long.

It was then that the Church hit upon the notion of "sanctification of time," using the ebb and flows of seasons, of each day and week, to mark time in prayer.

One need not believe in God (I no longer do) to see a certain wisdom in the idea marking one's epochs large and small by taking out time to recollect oneself.

gingajoy said...

considering how my life is revolving around letting go right now, and how difficult I am finding it all, this post was well timed for me. even in the chaos, i need to see the calm in it all, i need to be able to stand back.

very insightful and much appreciated, Chani.

thailandchani said...

QT, and no doubt you will continue to get better. :) You know, it's just hard for me to even imagine going back to that world...but remember all too well what it's like.


Cecileaux, yes.. the title was vague.. but deliberate. :) Most of the time when I have to title these posts, it's difficult to choose something but some obscure connection will take place in my head and .... weird title comes forth. :)

Actually, I disagree on time being a factor at all (which is partly why I titled the post that way). Ebb and flow has very little to do with the linear construct. Seasons.. I can buy that one. :)


Joy, I'm glad it spoke to you. I'm convinced, rightly or wrongly, that so much illness and discontentment would disappear with the simple act of letting go.




Tere said...

Chani, I loved this; I really did. I already know I'll be back to read it again.

River said...

And once again you have me thinking.