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Episode 6 The Life-Changing Power of Letting Go – Part One

Letting go of our attachments can free us to do the right things for the right reasons. But it doesn’t stop there — there's a bigger reason to let go! Ultimately, we let go to become available to a source beyond our personal wants. As Craig says, we open to the “exhilarating energy and creativity of the evolutionary impulse.”

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In This Episode…

“Spirituality is no longer about leaving the world. It’s about letting go of the world inwardly so we can become a spiritual revolutionary in the world. So we can bring forth a revolution of the human spirit and become an evolutionary actor.” –Craig Hamilton

In this week’s episode, Craig shines a light on what it really means to “let go” in meditation. He illuminates the often subtle ways in which our preferences and desires can distort our perception, and how the meditative practice of letting go of wanting opens the door to an extraordinary life aligned with our highest values and empowered by the impulse of evolution itself. As we release the need to control reality, we discover ourselves to be naturally, inherently and passionately committed to uplifting the world around us.

If you’d like to try a guided meditation with Craig on letting go, check out this short meditation on his blog, Guided Meditation: The Art of Letting Go. Also, if you’re interested in exploring more of Craig’s meditation experiments, you’re invited to tune in to a 90-minute online workshop Craig will be hosting called Meditation 2.0 – The Miracle of Direct Awakening. Register for free at FreeMeditationWorkshop.com.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Episode 6 The Life-Changing Power of Letting Go – Part One

The essence of this inquiry has to do with the real on-the-ground living relationship between the depth that we experience when we let go of all investment in an attachment to anything in this world and then how to live an enlightened evolutionary life in this world. How to be fully in the world, fully committed to the world, fully engaged, active, passionately invested in the elevation and upliftment of the world, while at the same time really being not of the world, letting go of the world, on the deepest level being at peace with the world.

I know that inherent in the way the theme is framed, there’s this recognition that for our spirituality to really mean something, it has to be lived in the world, and that discovering mystical depth is not enough. It has to be expressed through our words and actions. It has to come out in our engagement and our interactions with each other. I know that this is a big part of what draws a lot of us into this work, this integral enlightenment work.  

 

Living Our Lives As A Spiritual Practice

We sense that our spiritual life shouldn’t be and doesn’t need to be separate from the rest of our life. It’s not something we go and do on our meditation cushion and then we just carry about our business, but that somehow all of life should be a spiritual practice. That all of life should be a spiritual experience, all of life should be a place where we’re expressing, manifesting, bringing into action, our deepest, truest self and the deeper dimensions of the sacred that are wanting to be born into this world through us. 

Many of us on the path who come to this work have this sense of wanting a wholly spiritual life, without an inner and outer split. But the first place most of us tend to go to is to is a spiritual life that would be framed like this: I meditate and I do inner work on myself to become more centered in a deeper part of myself. And then, when I’m engaged in action, I just try really hard to be a good person, and that’s what it means to live my spirituality in day-to-day life.

We take up some kind of interior practice, meditation, prayer, chanting or contemplative practice, because we know there’s some inner work to be done and it has to do with achieving some form of inner peace, contentment, and fulfillment. We know there’s outer work to be done, because we know it’s supposed to show up in the world and we think that means being a good person. I’m going to work harder to be a good person, I’m going to be more conscientious, I’m going to strive more to do the right thing as much as I can. 

For the vast majority of people who are trying to live their spirituality, even if they wouldn’t quite use those words, that ends up being, more or less, what they’re doing. 

It’s not a bad place to start. Lord knows that having more and more people trying to be more deeply centered and trying to be a better person is a really good thing for the world. If only all of us would do that we would be in a lot better shape, right? So it’s clearly a step in the right direction.

 

Being A Good Person Is Not Enough

But as we go further along the path, as we practice for some period of time, we start to sense that our approach to all of this needs to go deeper, maybe a lot deeper, if we’re going to really find a way to live our life as a truly liberated expression of spiritual depth, of enlightenment, of that which we’ve tasted in our deeper moments. When we’re out of our practice and in our lives, just doing our practice and trying to be a good person is not necessarily leading us to becoming a profound expression of wisdom, compassion, cosmic love, enlightened perspective, evolutionary commitment—that’s not really the result of just trying to be a good person. Trying to be a good person means we’re a bit better person. 

But we start to sense as our own interior deepens, and our own sense of the human predicament deepens, that there’s something much more that we need to do, tap into, discover, to really become a living expression of enlightened wisdom in our actions. And we realize that we need to find a way to deeply align ourselves, deeply align our being, with the very source of wisdom itself, with the very source of creativity and love. We need to find a way to align with that on a deep level, to align our motivations with that, if that depth is going to truly come into the world. We also pretty quickly realize that it’s not enough to just wish that it were so or to just intend for it to be so. 

In other words, a lot of us have spent a lot of time with high spiritual ideals and aspirations and there’s a part of us that deeply wants to express those highest spiritual ideals and aspirations, that really wants to express our truly enlightened nature in the world. 

But we see that in spite of the fact that we would like and want that, and if you ask us what we’re most committed to, we would say that, in reality we see that our actions in life tend to be a mixed bag. 

Sometimes we’re wise and compassionate, maybe even enlightened in our actions. Other times, we make bad decisions and choices and react unconsciously. Or, we show up in a way that’s selfish and not really concerned about the greater good of the whole, or small mindedly, or in fear.

 

How Fear, Aversion, and Desire Distort Our Perspective

As we begin to analyze the problem a bit more carefully, one of the things that seems to be getting in the way of expressing this more enlightened intention, or bringing depth out into the world, is a problem of perception, or a problem of seeing. Meaning, we realize that we don’t often see things very clearly and that makes it hard to know what is the right thing to do and all the harder, of course, to do the right thing. 

So we start to realize that our perceptions are often distorted, that we have convinced ourselves to do something that really was not at all a good thing to do, but we convinced ourselves to do it because, why? We wanted something. As we start to look more deeply at the real source of this distorted perception, we see that what tends to distort our seeing of the truth is wanting. It’s craving, wanting, and desire. And it’s flipside, fear and aversion and not wanting. 

As we go along in this, and I’m sure all of us have started to realize this, at the bottom of it all it’s a problem of wanting. Because if I want something, I’ll distort my perception in order to convince myself it’s the right thing to have, and then I’ll act on it. 

 

1. Desire Can Lead To Poor Relationship Choices

This happens in relationships all the time. People get in relationships for all the wrong reasons because they want that feeling of connection, and warmth, and affirmation that they feel when they’re in a romantic union with that person. They want that feeling and they want it so bad that they’ll avoid and ignore any information that might suggest it’s a bad idea because this person is not a good fit for any number of reasons or even they’re not very well motivated. Their reasons for wanting to even be with us are suspect. We won’t face any of it because we want that feeling we get when we’re with them. We want that. It might be a kind of wholesome loving feeling or it might even be the way they’re manipulating us. 

 

2. Wanting Makes Us Vulnerable To Manipulation

This is what makes people capable of being manipulated, by the way, very simply what I just described. They want something, somebody wants something, if you figure out what it is, you can manipulate them. Look at what Madison Avenue does every day, right? Nothing against Madison Avenue, it’s making a living, but look at how easy it is to get people to do what you want, if you know what they want. So that’s one way in which wanting is a huge problem.

 

3. Self-Image Limits Our View

There is also a self-image component of this. If I want to see myself in a particular way, I will avoid any information that contradicts the self image that I’m invested in. If I am invested in seeing myself as a smart person, then that’s how I get my source and sense of power and identity in the world. I’m going to avoid any information that reveals my ignorance, that might reveal places where I’m not so smart, where I don’t really know what to do. 

We all know what happens when there’s no room for not knowing. We’re in peril, because we’re not going to be able to see things clearly. If I want to see myself as a caring loving person, I will avoid looking at ways in which I might not always be so caring, I won’t be able to see that about myself. So now I’m not going to see myself clearly, I’m not going to see where I need to grow clearly, I’m not going to be able to even see the ways in which my behaviors are really inappropriate. I won’t, because I’m invested in seeing that I’m somebody who does the right thing.

 

4. We Always Want To Feel Good And Not Bad

And to take it to the most basic level, because it really is all operating on a very primitive basic level, if I want to feel good, I will tend to avoid seeing anything that might make me feel bad. I’m going to distort perception left, right and center in order to make sure I always feel okay about myself, okay about life, comfortable, unthreatened, secure, and safe.

These are just a few examples of how we distort truth. So we see that in all kinds of ways, wanting obstructs our ability to see and know the truth about ourselves, about others, about situations and circumstances. 

 

Desire And Aversion Impede Right Action And Right Motivation

When we really start to look more deeply into this, we also see that wanting impedes our ability to do the right thing. It doesn’t only distort our perception, it actually impedes us from acting from right motivation. 

For instance, let’s say I’m part of an organization that is engaging in a practice that I believe to be dangerous, maybe even detrimental to the people who the organization is supposedly trying to serve. I think, wow, we’re really doing something dangerous and wrong and I’ve identified it and I’ve spotted it. What’s going to prevent me from speaking this important truth, taking this important risk, to make it known that we’re doing something potentially dangerous and bad? What will prevent me from doing it? Many people in that situation won’t speak up. 

Why? Because they want something. 

They want to be liked, approved, popular, or even more in that case, possibly, they’re afraid of losing their job. Maybe this will not be liked so much that I’ll get the boot. So I’m too invested. I’m not going to take the risk even in doing that, it’s going to put many other people at risk. Let’s say it was in some way a public health issue, such as working  for a company that was polluting, and it was a public health issue. I wouldn’t do it because I don’t want to lose my job, I don’t want to be unpopular in my community. 

So because of that wanting, that needing something, they wouldn’t do the right thing. They might see what it is. So it’s not only a perception issue, they might see, wow, this really needs to happen. But they won’t do it because they want something else. So if I want other people to like me, I won’t say important or challenging things that might make me unpopular. If I want to get my way all the time, I won’t be interested in taking in other people’s perspectives, hearing their needs in situations. So I often won’t make good decisions, because I’ll be closed to all kinds of important information. We can all make our own list of how this shows up in our lives. 

 

Aligning With A Deeper Motivation

When we look deeply at the human condition, what we see is that wanting is a fundamental impediment to our higher flourishing on many different levels. But we also see that without wanting anything, we wouldn’t do anything and we wouldn’t get anything done in life. We would just be like a vegetable, or neutral, just sitting there. Simply trying to not want anything when we’re in the midst of our daily lives doesn’t really seem like a viable option. 

We have to find a way to come to a place where we don’t want anything from this world, where we don’t need things to be any particular way, and where we’re not personally attached to outcomes. It’s the only way we’re going to have a chance of seeing clearly. It’s the only way, we’re going to have a chance of aligning with a deeper motivation than just getting what I want. 

 

Meditation Is Where We Practice Freedom From Wanting

So we have to find a way to do this and this is where meditation becomes such a critical part of the path because meditation is a place where we can practice letting go. We can practice letting go of wanting, letting go of preference, being neutral, allowing things to be as they are and not needing things to be any particular way.

That’s what we’re doing when we meditate. We are learning how to come to a place of not wanting or needing anything from this world. So it is a practice of non attachment, of no investment, of going all the way down, as my teacher likes to say, to zero. Going to zero to the freedom from wanting anything from this world at all. So if we want to be free, if we want our lives to become an expression of profound liberation, of deep enlightenment, we have to learn how to do this. We have to learn how to not want, how to really be beyond wanting.

 

This Is Not Freedom For Its Own Sake

I want to be clear that even though the diagnosis that I’m giving sounds very Buddhist, because what did the Buddha say? The essence of all suffering is wanting, or thirst. I think the proper translation here of thirst is craving. But we’re not talking about the Buddha’s version of enlightenment here. Because the old spirituality essentially taught that we need to let go of wanting because wanting is the source of all suffering. So to be liberated from suffering, we let go of all attachment and then we stay there. And in this place of not wanting, of not needing, and having no attachment we find perfect inner peace, utter contentment with the way things are. We’ve let go of the world. It’s an extraordinary freedom. It’s a profound sense of cessation of grasping.

It’s been called the peace that passes all understanding because it’s such a deep place of letting go and relinquishment—beyond all need, all contraction, all desire. It’s everything as it is, in total acceptance of that. This is the old liberation. It’s the old enlightenment, and when we discover it, it feels utterly full. Like there’s nothing missing from it. Just boundless freedom in all directions. It’s a freedom for its own sake. It’s not for anything else. It’s not because of what it will enable us to do or how it will enable us to be, it’s just pure freedom. Knowing our divine nature.

Even though I’m calling it the old enlightenment, many people still argue hard that this is the only true enlightenment and the only real context for our spiritual practice is to discover that freedom. I have people write to me, other spiritual teachers and authors, telling me that I’m missing the boat here because I’m saying this matters for a different reason. They’re purists, kind of Orthodox, non-dualist or something, saying, no, you can’t. You can’t try to operationalize enlightenment. You can’t say it’s for something else. It’s for its own sake. The experience itself is what it is and all it will ever need and there is no other “anything” that needs our attention.

 

Letting Go For A Different Reason

But to me, as beautiful as the old enlightenment is, here we’re talking about something else. We’re talking about letting go of wanting for a very different reason. Not just so that we will no longer suffer. 

Here, we’re learning how to relinquish attachment, how to be free from wanting so that we can begin to see situations in life more clearly, we can begin to see the world in front of us without distortion and that brings us in touch with what’s needed in the moment,  and enables us to begin to live in alignment with a higher set of values than our moment by moment preferences might dictate. 

So we’re letting go of attachment and wanting and needing so we can be in a place where we’re uninvested in seeing things in any particular way. We’re uninvested in things going in a particular way so then we’re just simply present and available for what is and we’re also able to choose to be aligned with something higher, with whatever is most important in this situation. 

I might personally have wanted to do this or that, but I’ve let that go so now I’m only interested in what’s most important here. I want to know what’s the best thing to do for the greatest good, even if it means not so much for my personal good. I don’t care because I don’t need anything from this world because I’ve let go of wanting. So that means I can really show up and be fully present. 

Awakening To A Larger Reason For Being

So to put it really simply, letting go of attachment to outcomes, letting go of investment in particular things, enables us to see the right thing to do and to do the right thing for all the right reasons. But it doesn’t stop there. Because there’s actually an even bigger reason that we need to do this. We need to learn how to come to a place of not wanting or needing so that ultimately we can become available for something larger to move through us, to move within us, to begin to occupy us and live through us as a source of wisdom, intelligence, creativity, care or love that is not personal in any way. 

It’s transcendent of the personal, which is transpersonal. We want to become available for a larger, infinitely powerful transpersonal motivation, transpersonal care, to begin driving us. We’re learning how to give up personal wanting. We’re learning how to let go of needing and wanting so that ultimately, we can awaken to and make room for a larger context for our lives.

 

Serving The Evolutionary Impulse

We can then begin to serve a greater wanting, or wanting with a capital W. A deeper cosmic desire, which is this impulse of evolution that wants to and wants a lot. It’s not a non-wanting force. When we begin to awaken to it, this spiritual force wants to manifest the good, the true, the beautiful. It wants to create heaven on earth. It wants to uplift the human condition. It wants everything to work. Beautifully and harmoniously.

It has a divine agenda to uplift this whole process toward its highest potential and we’re only going to be able to get out of the way and let that greater wanting start to take us over, start to burn in our hearts, if we can learn not to want anything.

So ultimately, we’re not just going from our little self wanting to the relinquishment of wanting, just peace, contentment and not wanting. We’re going from that little self wanting to the liberation of wanting, needing nothing and then on to becoming a servant or vessel for this greater wanting, this greater need, this greater agenda. We’re letting go of the personal agenda, not to just be somebody with no agenda, but to make room for the divine agenda, to start to be our pulse, to be the driver, to get in the driver’s seat of our life. 

Waking Up The Cosmos

This is the point of all of our spiritual work. It’s the point of our attaining spiritual freedom, or enlightenment, not so that we can be inwardly peaceful, not so we can be content and happy, although that’s a nice byproduct that does come along with all this for sure. But it’s so that we can be available to participate in this immense journey, in this great work of conscious evolution of waking up the cosmos, to who and what it is, to evolving human relationship into an expression of love with a capital L.

So spirituality is no longer about leaving the world. It’s about letting go of the world inwardly so we can become a spiritual revolutionary in the world, an evolutionary actor bringing forth a revolution of the human spirit.. I know that this whole topic of inviting us, challenging us to go to a place of not wanting or needing anything, is a very big deal for all of us human beings, who have lived our entire lives pursuing various wants, needs, and desires. 

Even if we’ve been a very generous person or a very caring person, we have often been doing so because of some deeper want that we had. We wanted to be loved back. We wanted to be seen as valuable. We wanted to be liked. We wanted to be seen as caring. We had a self image need that even the most generous among us have generally been being generous from a place of wanting. The most caring among us have generally been caring from a place of wanting something from it. 

So to come to a place where we’re willing to seriously consider giving up wanting is no small thing. So just take a moment right now to just feel where you’re at with this specific part of the work. Because I do not want to skip over this too quickly. I do not want to bounce past it.

 

An Invitation From Your Evolutionary Self

I want to invite you to engage with me around this a little bit. When you consider letting go of wanting in all the ways I’m describing, what can you sense about the freedom that comes with that? And what have you tasted of that freedom already?

What can you sense about the freedom that comes with letting go of wanting? Where have you tasted that in your own experience?

Why is it such a beautiful, extraordinary and liberating thing? I want to invite you now, even as you continue to stand in the purity of not wanting, of not needing anything, I want to invite you to activate and step into the part of yourself that really cares about what happens here between us human beings. It really cares about love in the world, it really cares about the truth being expressed. It cares about the right things being done for the right reasons. It wants to stop injustice in the world and create harmony and higher orders of unity wants to open the floodgates of human creativity and divine creativity to transform and evolve the world into something else, into an unimaginable expression of its higher potential. It’s the part of you that is creative, playful, engaged in the world process, not from a small egoic place of wanting but from a larger place of participation and contribution.

Allow yourself to fully be the evolutionary impulse in yourself and know that this impulse in you is the same impulse that gave birth to the whole cosmos that’s been unfolding itself in this miraculous display of creativity and beauty for billions of years and is now alive in you right now, listening to my voice.

There’s a sense of brightness to it. An engaged quality of interest, care, curiosity, playfulness, experimentation, risk taking, playing the edge. So allow yourself to fully embody this aspect of your own nature. Notice how it feels in your body. There’s a quality of care that you feel in your heart, a quality of spaciousness and emerging wisdom. Whatever is there right now, just to get you related to your experience of being the evolutionary impulse.

So, this evolutionary self, this evolutionary impulse has a lot of wanting in it. There are things it cares about, there are things it wants to do. There are things it wants to see happen. And when you are that, there are things you want.

Wonder if when standing in this evolutionary self, you can see why it’s so important to let go of wanting, to go beyond needing anything from this world personally. What can you see about the value of that kind of cessation, that kind of letting go, from this place? As the evolutionary impulse, how are you served by each individual being willing to go to zero, to have no preference?

Allow these two different movements to come together in your own experience right now. See if you can let go of any personal wanting or needing things to be any particular way for yourself. And at the same time, standing fully and passionately in this deeper care for the whole in this desire to co-create and participate, to be fully here engaged in every moment, not missing a minute of it. Letting go of wanting, of needing, of preference, resting in divine neutrality in all of its spaciousness and freedom and at the same time vibrating with the energy of the cosmos, being filled with interest, love, passion, and great concern for the greater good.

 

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