I haven’t gotten my vaccine yet, but I do feel as if I have had a shot of motivation and hope. Is it because Julia and I started recording a new album? Is it because my favorite Philz coffee was delivered from Berkeley, CA? Could it be because Godzilla vs. Kong was just released? Or is it that after a long winter in NY, spring is finally here and the flowers outside are budding and blooming with the pageantry of change?
All of these feel like reasons to celebrate. It’s that really cool week of holidays which represent freedom. Passover celebrates freedom from oppression and tyranny. Holi, the “festival of colors,” celebrates the victory of good over evil. Easter celebrates life’s victory over death (and chocolate bunnies.)
It is not happenstance that these three holidays coincide. Our need as humans to alleviate the restlessness that may result from being cooped up in the winter, in a pandemic, and through prolonged episodes of injustice, is lightened with observed rituals, festivals, flowers, and reminders that life is not stagnant. Change, however slow it may appear, is always in motion.
It is helpful to have these collective markers to buoy us up. It becomes all too easy to be overwhelmed by everything we deal with collectively, and individually, on a daily basis.
The reoccurrence and persistence of tyranny in the world, among other things we must face in this life, requires us to be vigilant in our awareness, and resilient in our spirit. The new voter suppression law in Georgia that makes it illegal to offer someone water or a chair while they are waiting in line to vote, harkens back to the original Jim Crow Laws.
Persecution, in its many forms, seeks to rob us of personal choice. Our ability to refresh our perspective dispels the illusion that we are trapped in an abyss of unending cruelty or meaningless monotony.
Holidays can refresh our perspective. They are not meant to free us up from social ills but, rather, to stand as models and prompt us to reconnect. They are opportunities to restore our joy for living and our capacity for freedom.
In his book, Untethered Soul, the author Michael Singer, says, “Right in the midst of your daily life, by untethering yourself from the bondage of your psyche, you actually have the ability to steal freedom for your soul. This freedom is so great it has been given a special name – liberation.”
These collective events are time-honored catalysts for rejuvenation that can inspire us to realign our priorities. However, the freedom that Michael Singer is talking about is a choice that is available to us moment-to-moment.
Eating matzah with cream cheese, decorating eggs, or throwing scented powder and colored water at each other, are not simply mindless pleasures. These rituals have the ability to align us with the distinct beauty we are being afforded at this particular time of year.
My neighbor has built up a collection of inflatable lawn figures and scenes that announce various holidays throughout the year. It is a labor of love proclaiming that, even if we find ourselves traveling in a relentless desert, we can occasionally refresh ourselves with the appearance of an oasis.
Still, holidays and customs only go so far in lifting us up out of the doldrums, if we are relying on them strictly on an external basis. Happiness, as it has been said many times, “is an inside job.” How do we, as Michael Singer suggests, “untether (ourselves) from the bondage of our psyche?”
Mr. Singer offers a tool that I have been finding extremely useful: “The law is very straightforward: When your stuff gets hit, let go right then because it will be harder later. It won’t be easier if you explore it or play with it, hoping to take the edge off.”
I never thought I would be referencing Frozen, but as Elsa found out, when you, “Let it Go,” it is a time-sensitive choice.
What Mr. Singer points out is that because we have asked our psyches to try and control everything that happens to us, when things don’t go the way we think they should, we can become disheartened and ensnared by our emotions. We are consistently faced with things that can bother/annoy/trigger us, or bring us down in myriad ways. When we find we are adversely affected by anything, our natural inclination is to avoid, ignore, become engulfed by, clutch, or attack it. Mr. Singer is suggesting we allow ourselves to let it pass through us by witnessing it. By not becoming absorbed in the melodrama that our minds may fixate on, we can make a decision to let go of our attachment to whatever it is. Instead of justifying our indignation, rage, depression, or whatever arises from clinging to whatever has disturbed us, we make the effort to consciously let it go. More instructively, we can take time in the moment to let it flow through us. This is not a denial, or a dismissal, but an acknowledgement without dwelling on it so that we don’t hold it within our mind and bodies.
Have you ever typed a heart felt email and, because of a glitch, it is erased before you can send it? This is, of course, relative to all the suffering in the world, no reason to get upset at all. Still, it can be infuriating. If I write it again, right away, I am usually able to recapture the sentiment, and often, it is an even better message. It is a gift to myself if I don’t have to go through the anguish of cursing fate, and indulging my anger, before I dive back in.
If I become impatient, usually over a time-related issue, my frustration may lead to anger. If I get angry then my psyche tells me that, with all my advantages, privileges, and tools I should be able to handle the situation. I may feel ashamed. Not wanting to stay in shame, I become angry again. It is a spin-cycle that can be avoided by consciously witnessing my impatience and making the decision right then and there to let it go.
I have been finding that, when I do this, the disturbance actually does dissipate. There is a relief that rises and frees me to proceed in a way that not only allows for solutions, but also restores my natural appreciation in the moment.
This does not mean we become unconcerned with injustice and refrain from standing up for one another. By freeing ourselves internally, we are much more likely to have compassion and be willing to see one another in a clearer light. This may even lead to finding new ways to be here for one another and for our planet.
Another author, that I am currently enjoying, Robert A. Johnson, says, “With inner work you take part in a process in which every element of life, including the dark elements, has a place of dignity and worth.”
I discovered that, when I am willing to let go of my attachment to what seems to mar my day, I have increased my gratitude for the fullness of life. My conversations have become more meaningful, I am able to pause to wonder at the splendor of blossoming trees.
As with any practice, this tool of letting go is something to constantly utilize so that it becomes more innate. The openness that results from not clinging to age-old reactions, grants me the ability to welcome change in a festive way.