“The day is ending. It’s time for something that was beautiful to turn into something else that is beautiful. Now let go.” – Eat, Pray, Love
Letting go has been such a difficult thing for me in recent years. As a result, I clung to a career that was no longer inspiring, a relationship that both parties had outgrown, and a lifestyle that had sunk into comfortable boredom. I clung as if my life depended on it, and in a sense it did. I knew that if I let go of everything familiar, I faced the unknowable. What exactly would letting go mean? Would it mean danger? Death? Loss of identity? At the very least, I would no longer be my old self. Everything I had identified with would be gone. I could no longer point to my job, car, townhouse, girlfriend and say “yes that’s me, I’m a reasonably accomplished adult.” If I let all that go, who would I be? Would I be relevant? I had no fucking idea.
I finally reached a point where the stresses, boredom, and anxiety of my old life threatened my very sanity. I knew if I stayed, I would crack. At this point the choice became much clearer. I’d rather take my chances with the unknown than face certain death – perhaps not physical death, but the death of my soul and my sanity.
When I got to Bali I met a friend who had lived in a buddhist monastery for 3 months. She had to give up all her worldly possessions. While there her sustenance consisted of one bowl of rice per day and water. The very thought of it makes me “hangry”. Initially she absolutely hated it, and in her words, she felt like “killing someone”. Eventually though, she got used to it and became content. She was astonished to realize how little she needed to survive. When she eventually left the monastery, she felt that everything she received in life was like a bonus. If she could get by on a bowl of rice, everything else was luxury, like the world was constantly giving her gifts of abundance. In giving up everything, she received everything back with renewed appreciation.
Reflecting upon her experience made me further appreciate the gifts that I have as well. Although I had given up so much, I had also received a remarkable new life. I don’t have as much as before, but a motorbike and a surfboard can take you a long way. These few material things, the people I’ve met, and the beauty I’ve seen and continue to see during this journey are gifts I deeply appreciate. However, I would never have received these gifts had I clung on to the following things:
1) The need to compare myself to others and judge my worth based on how I stacked up. I realize now that we are all a very unique expression of this universe’s creative forces. Each one of us a constantly evolving and changing work of art. One does not compare two masterpieces to judge which one is better. Rather we appreciate each for its unique beauty.
2) The need to adhere to someone else’s definition of “success”.
3) The need micro manage life. I’ve come to realize that having rigid expectations of what life should bring to me is a recipe for disappointment. I think it’s great to have goals. But the attainment of goals is a much more fulfilling process when the universe’s creative forces are allowed to manage some of the details. I’ve often felt disappointed because things weren’t going particularly my way. In fact it has happened on several occasions during this trip. However, when I finally let go of the internal negativity, often times a situation or experience far better than I could ever have conceived or anticipated presents itself. All it required on my part was a gentle intention of what I wanted, and steady action towards the goal, free of counter productive thoughts.
The need to cling on to things, people, or expectations has caused me a great deal of unnecessary heartache. Of course it’s natural to get sad when something you love is gone, but prolonged brooding and negative self talk has often closed me off to new wonderful things or experiences. One important lesson that travelling is teaching me is how to deal with constant change. Things change much quicker when travelling than they do when living somewhere long term and settling into a routine. Back home, people come into my life and stay for years, some may stay a lifetime. By contrast, friends you meet when travelling stay for days, or weeks at best. Several times during this trip I’ve met people I’ve gotten to know really well – this too happens at a rapid pace when travelling because time is limited and people cut through the bullshit immediately. As soon as I got to really like them however, their trip came to a close. Lately, I’m beginning to see the other side of the story as the end to my trip in Bali draws near. There is the subtle hope of course that I will see these folks again, and upon their departure profuse promises are made in that regard. Considering that most of them live thousands of miles away from California however, there’s hardly a guarantee. The simple knowing though, that there are folks in different parts of the world that I connect with deeply, is comforting. Moreover, as soon as one group of friends leave, another arrives and the cycle begins all over. It’s a reminder that the only constant is change. I’m learning to gracefully accept that things, experiences, people, never stay for that long. But with an open heart and open mind I can allow for the next beautiful thing to arrive.