I try not to, but still do. In Mexico, this fall (no pun intended), I missed a step down walking into a courtyard. I did my best to catch myself, hopping on one foot, while forward momentum propelled me into the legs of an unsuspecting Mexican man. He did his best to catch me while saving himself from being knocked over. I did my best to right myself to save what little pride I still had. “Perdon,” I gasped leaning against his legs.
This past December, for my 54th birthday, I was given The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo by 2 different friends. (I pay attention when the same gift comes from multiple people. I assume I must need it.) It is a daily meditation book. I highly recommend it.
Yesterday, adhering to my new spiritual practice/new years resolution, I read the entry for the day. It was about letting go so we don’t fall down. The line I was drawn to was, “…in a moment of ego we refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the door.” The author was referring to a friend of his who refused to put down two opened gallons of paint, drop cloths, mixing sticks, and paint brush to open a door. As a result he lost his balance and fell. You can imagine the mess. It was red paint.
What captured my attention was the authors contention it is our ego that stops us from letting go to open a door. It know it was my ego who worked so hard to not fall in Mexico.
In my family there is a story that is told. Mom says I learned to stand by pulling myself up the wooden slats of my playpen. I then held on to the top rail to secure my uprightness. When my brother, 4 years older, saw me standing, he would pry my fingers off the rail and I would fall on my butt. This apparently was a common occurance. The story doesn’t include my reaction, or any parental intervention to this bullying behavior…but that is another story.
One day, the story goes, as I stood holding myself upright, I saw Rob coming down the hall toward me. Apparently, in that moment I made a personal choice, I let go of the rail. I put my hands in the air and hit the playpen floor, again, but this time I didn’t give Rob the pleasure.
Many, many years later, attending a high ropes course training, this family tale came back to me. I was on a high wire inching my way from one end to the other. About every 7 feet there were overhead ropes, dangling like carrots in the air, to grab hold of. (These were more illusions of stability than any real help, but that far off the ground one takes what one is given.) While balancing myself in the middle of the wire-to go back to the safe wooden platform from whence I came was now equally as far as the platform to which I was headed-I held firmly to that flimsy life line with every fiber of my being. I believed my life was at risk. In that moment of terror I remembered the playpen story, my body remembered it too. I was holding on in the same way I held on to the playpen rail. I was working very hard not to fall.
I knew what I needed to do. I needed to let go, again, and fall. This meant I needed to let go of my erroneous sense of control-an ego thing-and release my death grip on the thread of a rope I held in my clenched, little hands. I also had to trust Carmen, my belayer, to catch me. This time, unlike in my playpen, I needed to fall and be caught. I needed to learn to trust another to catch me instead of expecting my fingers to be pried off or letting go to avoid a forced fall.
I let go and I fell.
Letting go requires trust in someone or something to be there for us. Trust in ourselves or others supports letting go. Egos need both.
Carmen caught me.
I will always have a soft spot for him. (Unlike my brother)