On his walk home from work, William had begun stopping to exchange pleasant conversation with his neighbors as he passed. One afternoon he stopped to chat with his friend George and his wife Irene.
“Hey, I just wanted to thank both of you for a great party last weekend!”
“Hi, William,” George called from the driveway where he was washing his car.
Irene was trimming a rose bush. “Glad you came!”, she said. “You sure made a hit with the baby. Jacob doesn’t let just anybody hold him...”
“He’s such a great kid,” William said, recalling Jacob’s sweet smile. He had felt better just being around the little guy. “He’s such a smile magnet! Everybody just lights up around him.”
“That’s my boy, all right,” George said affectionately.
“Anyway, I sure had a good time. I didn’t know anybody could have that many friends and family! And all so friendly!”
“Yeah, we’re pretty blessed, William,” agreed George. “But don’t wait for a party to visit us – you’re always welcome.”
“Thanks! I haven’t reached out to others over the last few years, but I’ve started to lately, and it feels good. ”
“Hey, my cousin Howard said you were the star of the softball game - said he’d never seen anybody hit the ball as far as you did, a grand-slam home run at that.”
William smiled modestly, pleased with the compliment.
“Tell me, George, isn’t it hard to have all these people in your life, especially Jacob, without always worrying about their safety? I mean, it really is a jungle out there, and you can’t control all the bad things that could happen to your loved ones.”
“William, I believe we all have good instincts, and it’s wise to pay attention to them, to trust all our senses. But that’s not the same as worrying all the time. ere are things we simply have no control over. If I spent all my time being anxious about what could happen,” George said with a chuckle, “I’d probably miss what is happening.”
“True,” said William thoughtfully.
“We all love each other and I figure people are doing pretty much the best they can. Most things seem to work out fairly well most of the time, don’t you think?”
“I’d like to think that,” William said wistfully.
“Now I admit, sometimes awful things happen,” said George. “Last year, for example, a drunk driver killed my nephew on his way home from a soccer tournament. It was very traumatic for the whole family.”
“How terrible! Didn’t you just hate the guy that did that?”
“We were angry and very sad.”
“I can imagine,” William exclaimed sympathetically.
“We grieved... deeply. Then we talked about the accident, to see if there was anything we could learn from it. And finally we were able to begin letting go of the tragedy and go on with our lives.”
“But it’s so hard!”
“I can’t even tell you how hard,” George sighed. “But that’s just the way it is. We won’t allow life’s brutal side to rob us of our joy.”
“You’re starting to sound a lot like my friend Charmaine.” George laughed.
“Actually, Charmaine shared the Clues with my father years ago.
We’ve all passed down that ancient wisdom as best we can. She’s been a friend of our family as long as anyone can remember.”
“She never told me that. I wondered why so many people at the party already knew her. She’s a good friend to me, too – and a real help. at Charmaine is a mysterious and fascinating woman,” William said chuckling. “It’s hard to imagine she’s that old. Sometimes she seems like a young woman and at other times she has such an ancient presence.”
“That’s our Charmaine, all right,” Irene said, smiling.
William said good-bye to George and Irene and walked several more blocks past his place toward the zoo. As he walked, he thought about what George had said.
“If I let go of caring about outcomes,” he thought to himself, “I’m afraid I’d be a sitting duck for all the advantage-takers in my life.” William smiled wryly at the bizarre notion of a duck sitting on a stool, with his head attached.
Soon he spotted Charmaine waiting at the entrance gate of the zoo, where they’d agreed to meet.
“Good afternoon my power-hitting friend.”
“Hi, Charmaine.” William smiled a proud little boy kind of smile. “I just stopped by George’s place. Why didn’t you tell me you knew his family and had also coached them over the years? I know a guy isn’t supposed to ask a woman a question like this but exactly how old are you, Charmaine?”
“Age is relative, William,” she said with a ‘you’re right, don’t ask’ smile. “As for George’s family, it wasn’t my intention to mislead you. It just didn’t seem important at the time. Besides,” she grinned, “you were having so much fun introducing me to everyone. You were right, though, about the new baby. Little Jacob is truly a precious child. Just imagine what it would be like if we all could see that innocence not only in ourselves but in everyone we meet!”
“It’s probably hard to see because most people don’t seem that innocent.”
“It’s there in all of us even if we don’t see it,” Charmaine said softly.
“It would be a life-changing miracle if I could feel that way about everyone,” he said.
“Just remember, William, all that really exists in life are moments of now. Each one is a fresh possibility to open your heart and see that innocence. You can see the innocence of others without giving up the ability to ask for what you want, or the right to say no, and generally, to take exquisite care of yourself. You just need to be willing and able to set healthy boundaries.”
“I guess that does make sense,” he admitted. “It sure is easy to set yourself up for failure even when your intentions are good, isn’t it? I’ve been struggling with something lately. Maybe you can help me out.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“There’s been a lot of pressure at work around a big contract we’re trying to land. It’s really important to our company. All the mucky- mucks are sticking their noses into everything. Sometimes I have trouble getting to sleep. I wake up in the middle of the night worry- ing and can’t get back to sleep. It’s awful. When I come home from work lately I feel tired, anxious, frustrated and unsure about some of the decisions I’ve made.”
Charmaine had seen this problem with many people lately. With all the new technology, the pace of life seems to move faster than most folks can keep up with.
“William, you have a choice about how you feel at work - and after you come home from work.”
“I think it’s time for us to talk about the sixth Clue: practicing letting go of attachment to outcome. It’s a big one, but it can totally change how you experience your life. Let’s walk; there’s something I want to show you.
As they strolled past the camels and ostriches, William talked about how hard it was to do his best when he worried so much about how things would turn out, especially at work.
“I worry myself sick wondering if my work will please the boss and whether our company will get that big contract. How can I let go of my attachment to that outcome? My job might depend on it. Everybody is uptight about it, which is normal...”
“No, it is not normal,” said Charmaine. “It’s just very common. Do the best you can, because after that point the results are out of your hands, anyway. And like most people, if things go your way you’ll want to take credit. But if things don’t go well, you’ll probably feel guilty and depressed, and try to determine who’s fault it is. Neither of these options is healthy or necessary.”
They approached the primate section and Charmaine stopped. A beautiful old tree grew at the center. It was immense, towering over the other trees. Its lofty branches extended over a rugged terrain far below.
“William, what do you see?”
He looked at the magnificence of the setting. It seemed bigger than life and exquisitely beautiful. He saw this one gigantic tree mingling its branches and limbs with the other trees that formed the lush green covering. He noticed the canopy far above as the wind blew the tops of the trees. e branches swayed far over in one direction and then back to the other side as if riding a strong tide of air. They were always in motion.
William heard the sounds of birds, melodious and sweet as he noticed sunlight streaming through the treetops. Then he noticed the monkeys. Lots of them! They leapt and swung all over the place, apparently playing monkey-tag. Others just seemed to be swinging around because they could. They jumped from branch to branch, from tree to tree. Their playful antics looked effortless.
“This is pretty amazing,” he said to Charmaine. “I’ve never seen so many monkeys all at once. They seem to be having a great time.”
“Yes, they do. How far down do you think it is from where those monkeys are jumping around?”
“I don’t know ... a hundred feet. Maybe more. Why?”
“What do you suppose would happen if one failed to catch hold of the branch it was reaching for?”
“It’d fall and certainly be killed,” William said with a shudder. “Nonetheless, they don’t seem too worried about it, do they?”
“Okay, I see,” said William, nodding. “They’ve learned to let go of their attachment to the outcome of each and every leap, so they’re much more effective and successful at leaping.”
“You’ve got it! Letting go of attachment to outcome doesn’t mean you don’t care about it...”
“...attachment to the outcome,” William broke in enthusiastically, “is just a fear-based distraction to being fully present and available to do your best! Whew, what a revolutionary concept.”
“You see,” Charmaine added, “the soul has no attachments. Only our ego forms attachments.”
“And those attachments are the source of all our suffering,” William said, putting the pieces together.
“It’s very difficult for the ego to just let go,” she said. “Remember, the ego thinks ...”
“... its survival depends on being in control,” William said, finishing the sentence.
“Good. You remembered. e soul is naturally connected to everything around us. On the other hand, the ego tends to get enmeshed and entangled with its surroundings. Being connected and being attached are not the same.”
“So, being unattached to outcome,” William said, “means that my happiness, safety and security don’t depend on the outcome! And my happiness, safety and security are always present at that core level of my soul.”
“You’re right, William. Being fully present in the moment allows you to experience the soul’s natural connection with the world around you. In that space, you’re not worrying about what might or might not happen next.”
William spoke under his breath as if trying to internalize the concept by consciously repeating it.
“The soul’s natural connection with life is very different from the ego’s attachments in life.”
“Yes. Attachment is a form of addiction,” Charmaine added. “And like all addictions, attachments spring from our ego and are designed to serve two purposes. One is to help us avoid a feeling we are afraid to face, and the other is to artificially create a feeling, like with alcohol or drugs, that our ego can’t seem to create on its own.”
Charmaine gestured toward the monkeys darting about in the trees.
“These monkeys have no attachment to outcome. Their life depends on being successful. And like your life - and especially your job - the monkey’s goal is a moving target.”
“You can say that again! I get dizzy just watching them hurtling about.”
“How do you suppose they let go and just go for it all the time?” “Beats me!”
“It’s because they’re fully present,” she continued, “and have a natural sense of connection with their environment. It’s in this state of awareness, connection and being fully present that we are most effective in all the things that we do. is includes your job, William.”
“Being fully present is usually difficult when I’m at work,” he sighed.
“That’s a common experience but it doesn’t need to be true. ere’s a reason we’re most effective in all things when we come from our soulful place of non-attachment. It’s the only place where we have access to our timing, our balance, our discernment, our intuition, our creativity, our power, our passion - all the things that our soul provides. None of those qualities has its source in our ego.”
“These monkeys are a great illustration for being fully present in moments of now,” William said with a chuckle. “I’d have never guessed I could learn such a profound lesson from a bunch of monkeys!”
“That’s part of the beauty of living in this world, isn’t it,” Charmaine said with a touch of humor. “Certain creatures have an easier time with some of the Clues than others. It’s part of the Mystery of life. But we’re all here to help each other discover whatever we need to learn next.”
“Learning to let go of my attachments to outcome would definitely make my life easier, I agree, but unlike Mr. Monkey, I find it a pretty tough thing to do.”
“Yes it is. But, guess what? You naturally spend more time in that free state of being than you may realize.”
“That’s encouraging. How?”
“Do you recall the softball game last Saturday, when you hit the home run and knocked in the winning runs?”
“How could I forget? I was in sports-heaven!”
“Do you remember being attached to the outcome in the moment of now when you hit the ball?”
“No, of course not.” William puffed out his chest in a playful display of machismo. “I was just gettin’ it done! I mean I was like floatin’ - in the zone!”
Charmaine smiled at his silliness. She enjoyed seeing William loosening up.
“But you’re right,” he said. “I wasn’t worrying about anything. It was effortless, energizing and pure joy. I was just there, as you would say, fully present, not thinking about anything – certainly not the future or the past. I just knew intuitively exactly when to swing at the ball.” William grinned. “I smashed it in a major way. It was a beauty, wasn’t it?”
“You were magnificent,” she agreed. “That’s what it’s like when you let go of attachment to outcome. You naturally produce your best outcome.”
“That’s so simple, it’s profound. By the way, Charmaine, did you notice the woman sitting with George and Irene - the one cheering me on?”
“Yes, I did,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “That’s my new friend, Emily, but I suppose you already know that,” he said giving her arm an affectionate ‘buddy’ punch.
“I’m Emily’s godmother,” Charmaine admitted with a conspiratorial grin.
“Surprise, surprise,” William said. “Anyway, I have to admit I did notice her noticing me. But at those moments when I was rounding the bases, I wasn’t worried about what she might think. I might have,” he added thoughtfully,” if I’d slipped and fallen when I took that fast turn around second base...”
“But you didn’t. Perhaps the reason you didn’t fall, the reason you were in balance and your timing at the plate was perfect, is precisely because in those moments of now you weren’t attached to outcome and totally present.
“Like the monkeys.”
“Yes, like the monkeys. Try turning up your awareness and begin noticing those moments when you are naturally free of attachments.”
“Uh, how difficult is it to count to one!” William laughed good-naturedly at himself.
“There are more of those moments than you would guess,” Charmaine said. “And also notice those moments when you’re en- tangled in your thoughts and attachments. Without judgment, just start to lovingly notice. Be the loving witness within. You’ll gradually begin to see such an amazing difference that you will naturally start practicing letting go of attachments.”
“I like that idea, Charmaine. But tell me more about what you mean by attachments.”
“People form attachments all the time. We can get attached to anything, like objects, other people, activities, substances, to a bank balance, and even to a job. Our ego gets attached to anything it thinks will deliver the unconditional love for which it is constantly searching.”
“Sounds like fly paper!”
“Now there’s an image,” Charmaine exclaimed. “One of the world’s major sources of suffering is attachment to stubbornly ‘stuck’ and long-held beliefs. When I talk about forming attachment to out- come, I’m talking about our ego attaching its perceived happiness or well-being to some point in the future. at future may only be a few seconds ahead or years off.”
“But it’s enough to distract us from being fully present and free to be at our best here and now,” William said, nodding thoughtfully.
“Yes, your ego tends to have its own patterns for forming these attachments. If you always have to watch a particular TV show, or sit on a particular bench at the park, or need a guarantee that your relationship or job will be the same tomorrow as it is today, you will live to some degree in anxiety and fear.”
“And I’m not saying you should avoid a particularly nice bench at the park if you prefer it. I’m just suggesting that if you believe your happiness depends on it you won’t be totally at ease.”
“So pinning your happiness on it is the issue.”
“Precisely,” said Charmaine. “Having a preference for nice things is okay, but if you think your happiness depends on it - that’s a horse of a different color. It is especially true if you begin to behave in ways that don’t nurture your soul, in order to have those preferences.”
“So,” William repeated, “a preference that your ego thinks it must have in order to be happy is an attachment.”
“Now I understand the difference.”
“Greed is another form of attachment,” she continued. “We’ve seen personal and corporate greed ruin the happiness of many lives. Many people don’t see greed as a negative force in their life. Some have even suggested that it’s a good thing. But greed, like all attachments, is a soul-robbing activity in any form it takes. It’s part of ego’s very common notion that ‘more is better’.”
“Yet,” William thought, “ ere must be a difference between greed and a healthy ambition to do well...”
“That difference manifests itself when we identify with our ego rather than our soul,” Charmaine agreed.
“The phrase, ‘soul-robbing activity’ catches my attention every time you say it, Charmaine. I get the creepy feeling that the boogie man is about to reach out from under the bench and grab my ankle. What do you mean by ‘soul-robbing’? It sounds pretty ominous.”
“Good! Because it is,” she said. “A soul-robbing activity is any- thing that pulls you away from your soul. If I have to give up part of who I am in order to have a job, a relationship, espouse a cause or even to enjoy a substance - food, drink or otherwise - then I can’t afford that activity in my life. It becomes toxic to me. If I continue in that activity, it’ll create symptoms in my body, my relationships, my work and especially in my ability to open my heart to myself and connect with my soul.”
“I guess that about covers it,” he said. “I have some thinking to do on that!”
Charmaine stopped to gaze at the hippos lounging in their expertly engineered jungle habitat.
“Most of us in this corporate jungle have become very goal-oriented. We also get emotionally attached to things, even other people, which we think we need for our own personal happiness. We look outside ourselves because we feel something is missing inside. We keep looking for something to fill the hole. ‘Is this all there is?’ we wonder. We end up tense and stressed.”
“You’re reciting the story of my life!”
“Of most peoples’ lives,” said Charmaine. “It’s more of a spiritual crisis than a physical one. We keep trying to manipulate the outside world in order to get what we want. But if your happiness, your peace, your self-worth or your sense of security and well-being depend on having things a certain way, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of pain and suffering.”
“So how do I let go and let things be? I’m a practical sort of guy. I need some down-to-earth suggestions.”
“This may sound oversimplified, but again, truth is simple. For starters, William, be generous, patient and appreciative.”
“That sounds too simple.”
“Give it a try and see. It may be simple but it’s not necessarily easy.”
“I suppose,” said William, “if everyone in our corporate world cultivated those three simple qualities, life would be just about perfect, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, because generosity of spirit teaches something about the in- ner ability to let go. And patience helps release attachments naturally. Appreciation focuses on love rather than fear.
“What do you mean, ‘Patience helps release attachments naturally?”
“In order to be patient you must let go of the past, let go of being right, and in particular, let go of the attachment to what might happen,” Charmaine explained. “Being free of an attachment is a byproduct of patience - a natural outcome.”
“I’m all for ‘natural’, William said, reaching down to pick up a peanut bag and toss it into the trash.
“Letting go and releasing your attachments is the most calm- ing and freeing thing you can do to detach yourself from your ego. Worrying about results and outcomes breeds fear and anxiety. Isn’t that what you’ve been going through lately?”
“It’s hard to relax and enjoy life if you’re always worrying about results and what other people think. How can you be open and spontaneous if you’re trying to control every outcome?”
“It is a full-time job, that’s for sure.”
“Letting go of attachment to outcome frees you from stress and many of the physical symptoms that accompany stress.”
“I get it! How can I let go of attachments all the time? at would be a full-time job, too!”
“You can’t. So you might as well let go of that one, too,” Charmaine said. “Remember, always trying to let go of every attachment is an attachment in itself. Do you recall how we talked about the ego and the soul and how the ego is always trying to gain control?”
“Trying to control the results is an ego-driven activity. All we can really do is attend to our intention and the quality of energy we put in. Situations and other people are one hundred per cent out of our control. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about what happens and what others do. In fact, it may mean caring a great deal, but you can learn to let things be and suspend your expectations: to let go of the illusion of being in control, let go of trying to control the behaviors of others. You can grant others the freedom to find their own way.”
“I can see that, in the quiet of this moment with you,” said William. “But it’s difficult to remain calm when stressful stuff is happening all around me, especially at work.”
“Earlier we talked about living in moments of now and how being unattached to the results of your work frees you to be fully present with your work. Letting go of attachment is being here, now. Practice letting go of the past and stop worrying about the future. As best you can, live in the moment. It’s a prescription for detachment, a prescription for happiness.”
“But sometimes things just don’t work out even when I have the best intentions and I’ve been fair and worked hard on something. What then?”
“Try developing a trust in the Universe, William. Have faith. From the perspective of the infinite safety and peacefulness of the soul you will realize the abundance of the world. And if it feels that life is not meeting your physical and emotional needs, allow your soul to guide you.”
“You may not always know that, but if you have faith, you know you’ll be okay. Detachment from a particular outcome is really another way of saying you have faith in the Universe. Attachment is based in fear - the fear that we will not get this thing or that outcome. Or that once we get it, we will lose it.”
“Me, again,” said William softly. “Right on the money!”
“Fear forces you to focus on the deficits in your life, doesn’t it,” asked Charmaine sympathetically. “The detached person focuses on the abundance in life.”
“So I’d better start counting my blessings,” he said. “I really do have so many, when I take the time to look for them.”
“We all do,” said Charmaine.
“It would make my life easier if others understood letting go of attachments better,” William said wistfully.
“You can’t worry about what others do. Remember, the power of an open heart is that a closed heart can not stay closed in its presence. Their heart will either open or they will go away until they are ready to open their heart. You can, however, practice letting go of trying to change others. You’re only likely to see change in them when you change yourself. The most you can ever do to really help others is to open your own heart.”
“That sounds harder.”
“Here,” she said stopping at a kiosk, “let me buy you a latté.”
She handed him a steaming coffee as they walked on toward the amphibian display.
“You can learn to stop manipulating situations and other people in an attempt to get what you want.”
“I thought that’s how we’re supposed to do it!”
Charmaine saw that William was just teasing, so she continued. “As long as you’re looking outside your deeper self, in the external world, for the Source of your needs, you’ll feel vulnerable and insecure.”
“All of them. That includes your sense of happiness, security and self-worth.”
“The billions of advertising dollars spent to convince me of what I need, to be happy, doesn’t make it easier. Credit card debt and bankruptcies indicate how keeping up with the Jones’ has us all forming attachments, doesn’t it?”
“It certainly can influence us,” Charmaine agreed. “But a high-quality life has a lot more to do with what you remove from it rather than what you add. Usually the more obstacles and objects you remove from your life, the more satisfying life becomes.”
William thought about the uncomfortable incidents that happened regularly at the office. He wondered what Charmaine would say about the stress he encountered on a fairly regular basis.
“My boss is so impatient. He always wants to get involved with details that aren’t necessary for him to know. Now I’ve started to act that way, too.”
“Many managers,” she suggested, “border on being what some call ‘control freaks’. It probably means they’re feeling pressured and living with a high degree of stress and tension, too.”
“Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.”
“So, it might not be useful to think it’s all their fault. Supervisors often push because they too are responding similarly to pressure from above. But no matter the reason! Bosses must also find a balance between control and surrender, if they’re to be successful. The more serious issue? When they react with impatience, they devalue themselves and their connection to the Divine.”
“How is that?”
“Well, impatience is a failure to trust in the Source. It implies that we think we’re separate from everyone and everything.”
William and Charmaine came upon a bench tucked in a vine- green alcove overlooking the lion’s domain. With unspoken agreement, they sat down and watched the cubs playing like kittens with their mother’s twitching tail.
“You know,” William said, breaking the comfortable silence, “the wisdom of the Clues has given my life a whole new direction. I’m already seeing small but significant changes in my life. Like, latelyI’ve spent more time feeling happy than depressed.”
“And even with pressures at work I feel more confident in handling things. I’m starting to spend more time with other people. My home feels better to me, and other than being tired this week I’ve been feeling a little healthier.”
“That’s all such good news, William!”
“I start playing softball in a recreational league next weekend, which should be fun. Charmaine, you’ve helped me at a time when I really was in the pits.”
“It’s truly my pleasure. I’ve also learned from you, William.” “What could you possibly have learned from me?”
“You remind me just how special life is - how important it is to reach out and then let go. I may know these things at one level, but integrating them into my life is a lifelong process for me, too. We all need each other, you know, because we take turns being the student and the teacher.”
“But you seem to have it all together.”
“Ah, William,” Charmaine said, smiling with tenderness, “have you ever noticed that people tend to work in the area of their own greatest need? You’ve been a help to me, too.”
“Well, it’s good to know I can help someone just by being me! Thanks for letting me know that.”
“My pleasure, again,” said Charmaine. She took a deep breath of the soft, fragrant air. Would you like me to show you the breathing technique for ‘letting-go’ that my grandfather taught me?”
“By all means.”
“It’s a simple but powerful way to reclaim your natural connection with your soul,” Charmaine began. “Think of a ‘letting-go’ breath as a mini-meditation. It only takes four or five seconds.”
“Perfect! I can do anything that takes only four or five seconds,” William said with relief.
“First, it’s important to know that your breath can be a passage- way to your soul.”
“You lost me.”
“I visualize it as a stream of light going right to my core. Does that help? “Yeah, it really does.”
“You can learn to use your breath with loving intention to enter into your open-heartedness.”
“Just stay with me, William. You’ll soon see the concept isn’t as elusive as you think,” Charmaine said reassuringly. “Let’s just try it. When it feels right to you - and you’ll know the moment - simply get present with yourself and take a breath. Nothing fancy, just take a normal breath.
“As you allow the air to fall out of your body, soften your eyes and your tongue and your belly.
“I think I can get my mind around how to soften my tongue and belly, but how do I soften my eyes?”
“To soften your eyes, close them and then imagine gazing effortlessly, allowing them to be out of focus with nothing to see. To soften your tongue, imagine allowing it to become heavy and loose in your mouth. It’s just lying there with nothing to say. There’s a feeling of releasing any tension and simply letting go. Now in those four or five seconds, practice letting go of holding on to anything being of any importance at all. I’m not saying things are not important. Your ego would never stand for that. But I am suggesting you become masterful in your ability to let go of holding on to their importance for just a few moments. is isn’t about letting go of things mattering forever. It’s about becoming skillful at completely letting go of things mattering for just the few seconds it takes for the air to fall out of your body. This will help your ego practice surrendering the illusion of control.”
“Okay, I can do that.”
“Try it right now, then,” said Charmaine. “Letting go is a skill. The more you practice, the better you get and the more you will see the results in your life.”
William took a breath and as he began to release the air, he soft- ened his eyes and his tongue and his belly. It took a few seconds for all the air to fall out of his body. He was quiet for a moment. e simple little exercise felt wonderfully freeing to him.
“Should I push the air out while I’m letting my breath fall out?”
“No. Just think of surrendering to your soul. Allow your breath to simply fall out of your body. is is not intended as a cleansing breath - just a moment of release, of letting go of the illusion of control over anything.”
He drew another breath. He noticed it was easier to soften his eyes, his tongue and his belly this time.
“Just as I began to let the air out,” said William, “I noticed it seemed to require a certain willingness to let go - like there’s a decision to make - to let go or not to let go.”
“That’s your ego thinking about whether or not it’s safe, even for a few seconds,” said Charmaine quietly. “You may notice sometimes it just won’t let go. If that happens just say to your ego, ‘ There, there, you don’t have to let go right now if you don’t want to.’”
“Really. This exercise isn’t about setting up an adversarial relationship with the ego. e soul loves the ego with great tenderness, compassion and patience. Remember, its need to be in control is mis- guided but innocent. You’ll notice that in a few minutes you can try again and be able to let go just fine.”
“Charmaine, how often do you practice the softening breath?”
“Honestly, I probably do it a hundred times a day or more. It’s a very simple centering tool. I assure you, if you would practice one breath like this first thing in the morning, last thing at night and once every fifteen minutes throughout the day, you’ll see a difference in your life within 24 hours - a difference you’ll like. You’ll notice you begin to take things less seriously without losing your passion for life. You’ll begin to notice that you take things less personally even if someone is right in your face. You’ll notice your intuition and your creativity are more available to you. You’ll notice that your libido is more engaged, that all your senses of sight, sound, smell and touch are sharper. You’ll notice your sense of humor improving. You’ll begin to notice that you are more willing to ask for what you want and to say no to things that don’t feel right. You’ll notice that you are listening better and asking better questions. Everything starts feeling better.”
“In just one day?”
“I’m not kidding, William. e key is to do it without regard to how you’re feeling. Do it when you’re feeling great. Do it when you’re feeling lousy. Do it when you don’t even know how you feel. You can do it anytime, anywhere.” Charmaine took a breath, softened and let go as she said, “You don’t even have to stop talking. It’s a very personal thing and you’ll be amazed that the simplicity of it can make such a difference. It is at one end of the spectrum of meditation. ink of it as one mini-meditation.”
“You’re right, Charmaine. It wasn’t as elusive as I thought it would be. It’s actually very do-able, even for me. I’ve heard you mention meditation a couple of times. Tell me more.”
“Meditation is the final Clue. ink of this one breath as the beginning of learning the essence of meditation. It’s a moment of surrender for the ego which can take you directly to where your soul’s love, mercy, power and compassion lie.”
He turned to look directly at her. “That’s exactly where I want to go.”
Clue #6: Let Go of Attachment to Outcome.
Forming attachments is the source of all suffering. When you learn to practice letting go of attachment, you will discover that the sense of peace and joy you seek out in the world actually comes from and through your deeper self. Attachments include our addictions to people, activities, sub- stances and beliefs. Attachment to unchallenged patterns of thinking is an almost universal cause of great suffering.
- Attachment to any physical, emotional or material belief is the most universal cause of suffering. Attachments are a form of addiction.
- If your happiness, peace, self-worth, sense of security or well-being depend on possessing things or having things be a certain way, you are setting yourself up for pain and suffering.
- Letting go of attachment to outcome does not mean you don’t care about what happens. Your happiness simply does not depend on the result.
- Being fully present helps in letting go of attachment, you naturally produce your best outcome.
- Trying to control the results is an ego-driven activity. Circumstances and people are one hundred percent out of your control.
- Let go of trying to change the people around you. You are only likely to see a change in others when you change what’s going on inside yourself.
- Develop a trust in the Universe. Have faith! Detachment from a particular outcome is really another way of saying you have faith in the Universe.
- As long as you’re looking outside yourself in the external world for the ‘source’ of your happiness or self-worth, you will feel vulnerable and insecure.
- All attachment is based in fear. It is the fear that you will not get this thing or that outcome and therefore you will not get the love you need and want.
- Clinging to attachment generates fear and worry, and a lack of authenticity and spontaneity. It feeds impatience, cravings, guilt and shame.
- A ‘softening breath’ practiced many times a day can be a very effective way to practice letting go of attachment to outcome.
- Your happiness at work lies not so much in the results of what you do, but rather in the process of your efforts and clear intention.
- Let go of the results and outcomes of your work because taking credit, getting depressed, feeling guilty or placing blame are all unhealthy attitudes.
- Letting go of attachment to results allows you to be fully present and more effective at work.
- Greed is a ‘soul-robbing’ activity.
- The Benefits of Understanding Letting Go of Attachment
- You will find access to your timing, your balance, your intuition, creativity, power and your full integrity. It will free you from stress. You will become more generous, appreciative and patient.
#1: “Helium Filled Balloons”
This exercise is a simple way to practice letting go of our ego’s fearful attachment (holding on) to things in our life that are important to us. Our ego would never be willing to agree that things don’t matter. This is not about letting go of things mattering. It is about letting go of our ego’s need to hold on to their mattering. This is also not about letting go of things mattering forever. It is about developing your ability and inclination to totally let go for just a few moments. Letting go happens in a moment that you chose to release your ego’s grip on an outcome. It is a little magic trick, a soulful slight of hand, we can learn to play on our ego to help us get back to our soul’s perspective. is exercise can free us to be more present and effective in everything we do.
Find a quiet, warm place to lie down. Make yourself as comfortable as possible. Take a few softening breaths and close your eyes. See if you are willing to relax and let go of any concerns for the next 15 minutes.
Now imagine you are holding in your hand numerous strings attached to helium filled balloons. One contains the future of your primary relationship. One is filled with what you are going to have for lunch tomorrow. Another is filled with what you are going to do this weekend. One is filled with what’s happening in the Middle East. One contains the children starving in Africa. One contains problems you are having with your boss. One contains the hatred and bigotry we see in some places in our own society. And one contains what color socks you are going to wear tomorrow.
Some of these balloons contain issues that seem just too big to let go of holding on to their mattering. So think about one of the balloons that does not feel so important such as what color socks you are going to wear tomorrow and see if you are willing to let go of holding on to your attachment to that mattering.
If you are willing to let go, take a breath and imagine opening your hand as if releasing the string attached to that one helium-filled balloon. When you open your hand with the intention of letting go of that one string, you will discover that in that moment all the strings and all the balloons float away.
Some things seem too big to let go of. So think of something small and you will be able to let go. In a moment when you choose to “let go” you are totally letting go. When you open your hand you can’t just let go of one string. By letting go you can free yourself from the fear-based place where attachment to outcome keeps you stuck, ineffective, imprisoned by your own clinging. No matter how righteous or noble your cause, you are more effective when you are free from attachment to the outcome of your actions.
Once you become comfortable with the idea and the experience of letting go you will find you can do it very quickly, anywhere, any time with any issue. You won’t have to use the ‘slight of hand’ to free your- self from the fear based attachments that seem to continue to develop without our even noticing them. By practicing letting go of attachment to outcome, you can enter into your natural, deeper state of being fully present in the moment. It is in that space that your backbone and your open-heartedness reside. It is where you will find your wisdom, intuition, creativity, timing and balance to empower you in your commitment to make a real difference in the world in which we all live.
#2. “Letting Go of Attachment to Limited Thinking”
This exercise is about freeing ourselves from mediocre, autopilot patterns of unconscious and limited thinking. It is designed to help you clarify your desire and your ability to have passionate, energizing jobs and relationships. It is about embracing commitment.
Most of us desperately want commitment in our lives but we are terrified of the idea. There are two reasons for this.
We are afraid that if we were to totally commit to our relationship or job that we would have to give up some part of who we are.
It is true that commitment requires compromise and give and take. But it does not require you to give up any part of who you are at the core of your being.
We are afraid that if we totally commit it means forever and we just can’t get our heads around forever. It’s too big.
Commitment is not about forever. It is about 100 percent right now, today. This exercise does not mean to imply that we are not interested in being in our relationships forever.
In fact, this exercise is precisely about how we can increase the likelihood of being in a committed relationship for our entire life. The experience of commitment can only occur in a moment of now. It is our ongoing commitment to being present in the moment that will take us to life long relationships. It is only our fear of the idea of forever that keeps us from being fully present and totally committed in the moment. is exercise will help us get past that fear.
Prepare for this exercise by allowing yourself an extra 10 to 15 minutes undisturbed in bed tomorrow morning before you have to get up.
As you awake in the morning ask yourself a big, life changing question, such as:
“Am I going to quit my job today?”
“Am I going to disown my teenager today?”
“Am I going to leave my relationship today?”
Look deep inside and tell the truth. In most cases the answer is going to be no. The question is simply a wake-up call to invite you to live life at a higher level of integrity.
If the answer is no, then ask yourself if you are willing to be in that relationship/job today with a 100 per cent commitment to bring all you have to make it the best it can be, to do whatever it takes to be the best boss, the best worker, the best partner, the best parent you can possibly be. Make the commitment for today. Don’t let the thought of forever scare you out of going for it today.
If the answer is yes, then get up and do it. If you really do feel you have to give up a part of who you are in order to be in that relationship or job than you can not afford to have that job or relationship in your life. It becomes a soul-robbing influence. Start thinking about what it would take for you to leave. Talk to trusted friends. Get input and start thoughtfully planning an exit strategy. Whatever you do, do it with respect and compassion; be clear, be strong and be fully present each step of the way.
Ask yourself, “What would it look like if I gave this relationship/job absolutely everything I could and to do so in a way that would truly nurture my soul today?”
Make a list of habits that reflect higher levels of commitment. Here is a sample list:
- Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth.
- Show up. Be emotionally and physically present and available.
- Listen in such a way that others actually feel heard.
- Be on time.
- Keep every agreement you make.
- Make no agreements you do not fully intend to keep.
- Set appropriate boundaries. Learn how to say no if something doesn’t feel right.
- Learn to give generously without withholding and also without its becoming a soul robbing activity.
- Ask for what you want. is is not selfish. To ask for what you want is to have integrity, to tell the truth about who you are and what you really need and want.
- Apologize. Make amends. Make things as right as you can.
- Practice defenselessness.
- Tell on yourself.
- Take exquisite care of yourself. Pay attention to diet, exercise, sleep and addictive substances (drugs, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine).
- Be gentle with yourself and be in balance in all things.
Wake up tomorrow and ask yourself the same questions. If the answer is no, then see if you are willing to get totally into whatever it is. If the answer is yes, then do it.
Letting go of attachment to limited thinking requires being totally present in the moment.
To be totally present in the moment means to be totally committed.
To be totally committed is to be free of attachment to the idea of forever.
Commitment is not about forever. It is about 100 per cent right now, which is all we ever have to work with. Ironically, this commitment to be totally present in the moment is what will ultimately lead us to the lifelong, committed relationships we desire.
To totally commit does not mean having to give up some part of who you are. It is about bringing all of who you really are to your relationship, job or cause.