Letting Go of Troubles
--- Namandabu - namandabu - Namandabu ---
["Let it Go" plays] - That song is so freeing. It makes me want to let go all pretence and shoulds and just be!
Welcome again and good morning. It’s good to be together with the Buddha’s teaching - the Dharma - this morning. We have some folks absent at the Playa. The Burn is over and the cleanup begins. The past two weeks have been full. Pet blessings, a funeral, and the continued plumbing disaster. But now we are together. I’m always happy to see you here. You’ve met Tomo Sensei. [bow] Welcome to all visitors. It is always wonderful to gather with our dear Dharma Friends.
Letting go.. hmmm. There is a Mark Twain quote about aging …
”Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter”
Anything we attach to is troubling. We long for permanence in a changing world. But letting go of attachments is difficult. Usually attachments and aversions are strangely prized possessions. Our anger or our pride or a bad experience become the objects that we think we can’t live without. Truly our small self can’t live without them. The ego is made out of these possessions. But really these bind us in a way that we cannot live a joyful life.
The Buddha's teaching is intended to teach habits of letting go. The Eightfold path is a way of living that promotes a letting go habit of mind.
We ask people to submit post-its with what you’d like to let go of?
Letting go of guilt. Past Actions. Or adverse experiences.
Letting go of fear. Imagined outcomes.
Letting go of who you wish you were. Expectations.
These are all really great aspirations. How do we use the Buddha’s Dharma to make letting go possible? As Mark Twain said, the Dharma works by changing our mind. Following the Buddha’s way changes our habit of mind. The ways we frame our experiences through the lense of views. The Buddha taught that a joyful life is one lived in this precious moment. The middle between past and future. Get in the habit of letting go of Living in the past or of living in the future, this leaves us squarely in the present. Dharma practice is habit forming. Habit making - Monthly habit - a daily habit. A Habit of mind, where releasing attachments with each outward breath becomes second nature.
We do talk about all the ways of letting go pretty often.
One way is by…casting things off
In your journey of life, it is better to travel with our hands free…do you ever find yourself with too much stuff in your hands? On projects at the temple, I often an trying to use a tool or something and in my hands are bits and pieces even trash or wrappers from something. Put it down. Toss it out. Really the contents of these post-its - it’s the future, the past, complaints, fears - that burden us like this. Let them go. Casting out.
Another way is … Giving
Our Buddhist word Dana means - giving, without expecting anything in return. Giving helps us grow the habit of letting go.
The best way is … Taking refuge
When we humbly recognize that we are barging our way through life. We lead with the “I-Me-My”s and that is the root cause of difficulties. We can let go trying to control everything and take refuge in the Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe.
That is what we are going to talk about this morning. These ideas come from the Buddha. They are Dharma teachings… If you are a Buddhist, or just came to see what our service is like today; each one of us has to learn how to let go.
We usually don’t say should or have to? This must be pretty important if I do. It is. Because not being able to let go creates our suffering.
Has anyone see the meme on the RBC sign out front…? Anyone?... Anyone?... Anyone?...
“Change is never painful. When we Resist it, we suffer”
The burdens we carry with us - bad memories of the past, and fears of the future are the impediments to a joyful life. Clinging is resistance to change. They cause suffering.
It may be hard to do. We all know it’s a reasonable thing to do. It makes a lot of sense but we can’t do it…. The Buddha realized this is exactly why we don’t live joyful lives. And so the Buddha taught many ways of letting go.
The first way of letting go - Is casting off.
Let’s do a very simple mindfulness exercise:
Please stand-up [as you are able], and Close your eyes. [bell]
In your mind, see yourself in a forest. Walk a little bit in the forest and find the biggest stick you can lift. In your mind pick up the big stick, feel it. Say “this is heavy” Really feel it. Is it heavy? You bet it is. Feel it compressing your spine with its weight. Feel your arms strain to hold it. Your shoes sink into the soft forest floor. Now draw in a deep breath - and with the our breath let go. Just let it fall away. It doesn’t feel heavy now?
It’s only heavy when you hold it, but if you let it go, it has no weight at all. Relieved and refreshed, walk a little more.
This time reach down and pick up a heavy rock - for some it will be a boulder - it has written on it what you wrote on the post-it.
Say “this is heavy” Really feel it. Is it heavy? You bet it is. Feel your problem compressing your spine with its weight. Feel your arms straining to hold it. Your shoes sink into the soft forest floor. Now draw in a deep breath - and with the out breath just let go of the problem. Visualize it fall away.
Every out breath unburdens you more and more and more. [bell]
OK - open your eyes, you can sit back down.
There are lots of heavy things in life? Jobs, illness, relationship problems, money problems. Feel how heavy it is. Remember - It’s only heavy from your holding on to it. This way of letting go is to breath things out. We live very complicated lives. We carry too much of this stuff. Let them go and travel light on the journey of life. When you feel the heavy weight returning, breath deeply and focus on now and the weight is gone.
We formalize this process - Buddhists have confession too. We call it the Dharma Gate of Contrition - the Sange-mon.
We are encouraged to confess to someone who is able to receive the confession of something troubling we have done or thought. We unburden ourselves to a wise person experienced in life and the Dharma. It can be a priest, but it doesn't have to be. [We are usually easiest to find.] The point of confession is to experience remorse or regret for our actions. It recognizes the trouble we have created for ourselves or others. It is an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of our actions. We carry the hope that it helps us to make a better choice in the future. In practice, confessing results in a sense of relief. Of Letting go what has been held back.
There is the famous story of the time I short-sheeted Rev. Shelley’s crutches. I was 17 and she had injured her knee and when she leaned on the mal-adjusted crutch she fell and cracked the cast. I felt so bad that the little teasing had gone too far. I confess this to all of you in hopes of letting go that burden. [breath]
Confession does not, and cannot absolve us of responsibility for our actions. The law of Karma ensures that the consequences of unskillful actions will manifest. When we take Buddhist practice seriously, we try to behave well - skillfully is the best translation from the sutra. An important part of this is to acknowledge our failures and to learn from them. Confession is indispensable in this process. We enter understanding through the Dharma gate of contrition.
The Sci-Fi writer Ray Bradbury once said ….
“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get.
Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.”
We can do this the simple act of giving - expecting nothing in return. Another way of letting go.
This is called Dana. Not ordinary giving, but giving and expecting nothing back in return. When you sign up for a monthly gift [by paypal or other service] it sustains the temple, not for you, but for others who may come here. When you put a five or a ten in the Dana boxes conveniently located by the exits, this is a way of practicing “letting go”. The “I-me-me-my” wants to keep the precious dollars of money, the compassionate heart lets it go. The Buddha recommended giving enough that you notice it, but not so much that it troubles your life. A middle way method there too.
Dana is not just a matter of giving. It is ridding us of our overwhelming attachment to ourselves and whatever we have. Generosity is being spacious and open hearted.
If you noticed the recent plumbing disaster on Taylor Street. The water line broke. This is costing the temple a lot to fix. Making a donation so that there is clean water for visitors of the temple is not for you, you get little in return. And is is very good.
And the best way of letting go is taking refuge in something bigger than you. We call it having a Nembutsu mind.
Realizing this is all happening whether you are here or not. A mind where nothing sticks to it. You don’t own this. You are just taking refuge in this life. If you are having a beautiful experience this morning, don’t worry about taking it with you and trying and remember what’s being said - you don’t need to try to remember. These things will just stick in your mind anyway. So don’t try and collect things. That openness allows things to stick to you. We just listen to the Dharma talk and say the Nembutsu in gratitude. A Nembutsu mind. Just experience the joy of that moment in that moment. Feel the wisdom and compassion imbued in life.
The Buddha taught that when you have a beautiful moment, enjoy it right now! And move on. You can be free for the next wonderful moment to come and let that go too. This way all the happiness and the unhappiness of life doesn't stick to you, which means you can always be free for the next moment to experience the infinite compassion and infinite wisdom of the universe.
You just flow through life collecting no mementoes, expecting nothing from the future. Someone says something rotten to you; it just goes right through you. The beautiful sunset takes your breath away - goes right through you.
Open to wonder and wisdom in every moment - Namu Amida Butsu!
From beginning to end, the path of Dharma is about letting go. As we let go of one thing along the way, we find ourselves clinging to the next. As we let go of the big stuff, we find our more subtle attachments to be let go. It is hard to let go of things, harder to let go of ideas, and even harder to let go of a carefully constructed spiritual identity. That process of letting go is a tender one. We should notice the poignant humor of this very human life. Not a struggle, more a path of acceptance and openness to the natural arising and dissolving of experience.
Tomo sensei and I performed a funeral on Friday. And it brings this into focus. Although letting go is something that happens all along the Buddhist path, it really comes to the surface in relation to death. When dealing with death we are bluntly confronted with the futility of not letting go. We like to hold the idea of our own mortality, safely distance. Its abstract, but suddenly gets very personal in the face of death, exposing powerful emotional undercurrents and deep attachments. At this point, telling a son who just lost his mother to simply "let go" is not very skillful or effective. We usually say “she’s going to be ok”. This takes the focus of the individual's experience and opens the way to moving onward without the dear one.
Death has a way of bringing us back to what is most essential. In
the presence of death, the extraneous concerns and preoccupations fall away quite simply and naturally. It comes down to the basic issue. The self is changeful, the body is changeful. Embrace and accept or suffer.
When we ourselves come to death, we can be present with experience, whatever it is, as it rises and falls. People go away, accept that. Being present is the best way of letting go, and as we let go we become more present. It may even be possible, to die with pleasant curiosity and to breathe our last breath without expectation or regret.
I think you understand what letting go is and if you can do it from time to time in your life, you will find that you can overcome most of the problems in life. There are times when you work hard, when you carry a heavy load. We all have duties and jobs. There also has to be the time when you just put things down - let go. The problem is our culture is best at doing things. We’re very good at that. But what we don’t know is how to put things down, let go and rest. So that’s how to let go. That’s how to let the wisdom and compassion of life flow into you. As Woody Allen said “Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering --- and it's all over much too soon.”
One last letting go together. We will share a gift with all sentient beings. [Repeat after me…]
May all beings be happy;
May all beings be free from harm:
May all beings receive boundless compassion;
And may peace and harmony fill their hearts
--- Namandabs - namandabs - Namandabs ---