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Last Thursday my sister called to tell me that my father had just gotten out of the hospital.
He has a life threatening blood clot.
I haven’t talked to my father in six years.
Despite that I knew I would call him as soon as I heard my sister’s message.
Thinking of my father used to bring up a well of conflicting emotions that only family can inflict upon a person. But last Thursday was different. Last Thursday I realized something that was both liberating and assuring to me.
I am no longer controlled by my emotions
I have not been slave to my emotions for some time now, and this realization dovetails nicely into this weeks exploration into emotion. We are emotional beings, and it is said that all our actions arise from two core emotions.
Hope and Fear
Letting go is the theme under which we’ve been exploring Awareness and Self. Recently we’ve looked at letting go of our perceptions of the world, the totemic self, our ideas of privacy, and the need to save the world.
Now we have to learn to let go of our emotions.
Hope and Fear present the Yin and Yang of our emotions, born of the one thing that drives us.
Hope is our expectation of the future. It is our understanding that things will change and it is our desire that they change in a way that benefits us. Hope is the understanding that the now is always changing and that this change is inevetiable.
Fear is our expectation of harm; whether it be physical, mental, social or other harm. Fear is certainty built on our knowlege of the past and the understanding that the now is changing in ways that we cannot predict or control. Ways that may bring us harm.
What we often forget is that the future and the past don’t exist. The only certainty in life is this moment, right now. We can conceptualize the future and we can remember the past, but we cannot control the future and we cannot change the past. We can only exist in this moment right here and right now.
What does this have to do with emotion?
Imagine yourself as the earth. This is your body, your corporeal self moving through space, ever in the present moment. The body knows the now, it has no concept other than the existence that it is in.
Now picture the sky above you. Picture the sky full of clouds, a deep overcast that blots the sun, moon and stars beyond. This deep overcast is a blanket that we wrap around us and call the self. This blanket of clouds in our sky is our ego.
The sky, and all that exists beyond the clouds in our sky is our genuine self. This is the portal we explored last week, the gateway through which we connect to the world in awareness, respect and balance.
In your imagination, as you are looking up at the sky what do you see?
The clouds, the ego.
It is the ego that is keeping us from our genuine selves. It is the ego that clouds our sky and keeps us from seeing the portal, and in blocking the portal we lose our awareness and sense of genuine self.
And it is in our ego that all of our emotions are born. It is in the ego that our desires, fears, hopes and dreams live.
Our emotions are getting in the way of us. Awareness and Self are built around letting go of everything we try to hold on to. It is only when we let go that we are free to be alive and in this eternal moment of life.
We have to let go.
We have to let go of our emotions, and the expectations born of them.We have to learn to set free our hopes and fears and release ourselves from the power that our emotions hold over us.
I’m not suggesting that you walk around the world emotionless like Data or Spock from Star Trek. Rather I am saying that when we release oursleves from the control that expectation and emotions have over us, we free ourselves to feel emotion without a hook to catch us and lead us around.
Imagine again the clouded sky, imagine the way you begin to feel when the sky is overcast and dreary for days at a time, the gloom and discontent that sets in when the weather does not change and we are stuck in what feels like eternal dreariness.
When we clutch to our emotions, hold them and react to them, we hold that cloudy sky above us and put ourselves into this perpetual state of gloom. The difference between the real sky and the sky of the self is that we can let go of the cloud of ego and let it pass by us.
In letting go of the cloud of ego we acknowledge the emotions we feel, we feel them and exist with them, but we do not clutch them to us in the desperation born of expectation. This allows us to experience the purity of our emotions without the conditioned responses we have built our entire lives.
Like this article you are reading. I have written this article, and it is in our nature to attach expectations to what we produce.
I hope you like this, I fear you won’t.
I do not let these expectations affect me. Instead I write and I share. Those who like it will like it and those who do not will not.
No matter how this affects you I am content. I will feel joy when what I write is well received by readers. I wrote this to help you after all, but I am not a slave to the desire that hope creates. I am not a slave to the need for hundreds of likes or tweets or comments and the dissapointment that comes if this is not well received.
It is in this freedom from those expectations that I can be open to myself and the world and write these articles. It is in this freedom that I can be open to the ideas and emotions that make life amazing.
It is in this freedom that you can unleash that which you have been holding back.
I know it is in there. It is in every single one of us and it is the thing that burns. It is the desire that sometimes crushes you with its intensity and it is the thing that will burn you to ashes if you do not learn to let it go.
Letting go of expectation
Letting go does not come easy.
Letting go bucks the behaviours that we have built our entire lives around. From the actions we took as children to please our parents, peers and teachers to the bending and shaping we force upon ourselves to please our spouses, peers, bosses and co-workers.
All of these actions are built upon expectation.
To free ourselves from expectation we have to start small, take baby steps and build until letting go is as natural as breathing.
1. Take Pause
The simple act of pausing has the power to change your reactions born of haste and expectation, into actions born of awareness and self.
To take pause all you must do is give yourself a moment before you act, and ask yourself the question, “Why am I about to do this?”
Whatever “this” is, taking the time to pause allows you to reflect on the expectations that are driving your reactions. Examine that expectation, and ask yourself why you are feeling and holding onto this expectation. Then look furher, examine beyond the expectation and try to discover the motivation behind it.
It is an exploration of layers and what you will find beneath them all is Hope and Fear.
So when you take pause and discover the motivator, whether it be Hope or Fear or some shade in between, consider what would happen if you didn’t take the action you were about to take. Then consider a different action you might take.
Consider these actions, then ask yourself, “What if…?” What ifs are generally forward looking and are as laden with expectation as the endlessly cloudy sky is with gloom, but we are asking a different question.
Ask yourself, “What if I let go of this expectation right now? What if I set this free?”
Then open yourself to that possibility, and see what action to take. It may be the very action you were going to take, or it may be something completely different. Whatever it is you will know that it is an action born of mindfulness, of letting go and opening to awareness and self.
Taking the time to meditate is to engage in the regular practice of letting go. Meditation is a practice that has a multitude of benefits that can not be overstated.
And taking pause is the act of meditation. It is a momentary meditation that you can build upon.
To meditate is incredibly simple, as in taking pause you stop. You exist in the very moment you are in. You breathe.
Your meditation can be five minutes or five hours, whatever you choose it to be.
When you sit to meditate, the first thing you will find is that when you breathe, you will feel wonderful, calm, present, peaceful.
Then the thoughts will come. This is where we learn to let go.
Do not fight the thoughts, fighting them is a reaction, a reaction born of expectation.
Let the thoughts come, let the future and the past come, let your emotions and expectations come, like clouds in your sky.
See them, and let them float on by you. As you breathe and see your clouds you will find from time to time that without even realizing it you will be riding on a cloud, holding it to you and anchoring it to your sky.
This is of no worry. Simply let it go by coming back to your breathing.
This is meditation. It is both deceptively simple and eternally challenging. As I said before letting go is no easy task, but each pause you take, each time you let go and each time you meditate and let the clouds pass through your sky you will find it a little bit easier.
You may have been expecting more, more steps, more things you have to do to let go. It really is deceptively simple. These two actions, which are really one action, will help you to let go and open to your awareness and self.
Before last Thursday I hadn’t talked to my father in six years, and I will not lie, I was scared to call him. Six years of silence creates a void that is dark and filled with a great unknown.
But I called. I called because I understand that change is only out of our control if we let hope and fear control us. I love my father, but I no longer have any expectations around him.
This sounds curious, clinical, detached and emotionless. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I felt fear of his death when I heard my sisters message, and the fear of calling him. I felt hope that the call would bridge the divide of six years, and hope that he would want to talk to me, and hope that he had changed as I have changed in six years time.
I felt all of these emotions, I felt them, acknowledged and opened myself to them, but I did not react to them. I was not a slave to them. I let each of those emotions go.
We talked for less than five minutes, and it was barely a conversation, but I called, I tried to express my concern for his health, and create an openness that would allow us to close the rift.
That moment changed and the moment is now. I have let that moment go, as well as the emotions associated with it, and I am here, now.
As I ask you to share this via the tweet and like buttons below take pause and consider the reaction you have, ask yourself why, and then try to find the motivation, then try to set it free. Release the expectations you have around my request to share this and act upon that openness. Then share, or don’t share, and feel the peace of a mindful action.