Friday, June 8, 2012

Let Go of Everything Completely

What should wash up on my shores of Stumbleupon this evening but a ten year old recording of the Venerable Sarah Thresher speaking in San Francisco on the topic of healing.

It sounded as though the organizers of the talk has set the topic out for her as "Healing the Pain" but she addressed the broadest ranges of individual and physical healing, all the way to healing suffering between nations. And she did so with an engaging series of stories and examples from her own life. I found her teaching style delightful and I commend the audio to you when you have time.

What I have always found compelling about Pema Chodron, Roshi Halifax and also Joko Beck is what I call their Great Grandmother Compassion. No, not that they are literally a great-gran anything, but that they pull no punches, don't sugar coat anything, and their stories are meant to help correct you. To help correct your mind. And however unpleasant it is to be corrected, it's because they love you. After hearing this talk, I now include Ven Thresher in that set of teachers as well.

So as much to get these concepts and practices more firmly in mind myself as to share them with you, here are a few of the approaches Ven Thresher raised during her talk:

Whatever is happening, I need to have happen. Whatever comes, let it come. Try to recognize exactly when we find ourselves saying "This shouldn't be happening to me!" And then say to yourself just: "Well, this is what's happening." When we find outselves thinking "This is outrageous!" then note that is resistence arising, and allow it to be. Because it is what is happening. The toughest part is that part where you say "...and I need this to happen." No I don't need this disease or car accident difficult job situation exactly, but I need to recognize where I am resisting this set of circumstances so I can let go of the resistence which is only increasing my suffering. So I need to work with it, with things as they are.

The only thing you can control is your response to what is happening. Keep asking the question: "Why don't I want to accept what is happening?" If we can recognize in moments of resistence or suffering that we don't actually have to need anything extra, we are complete. Wisdom mind says we don't have to create additional needs. Ask yourself, resisting: "What is it I think I need (that I'm not getting)?" If you can identify (correctly!) what it is you are holding on to that is causing can begin to let go. "But that thing I'm holding onto gives me my identity!" What is it you think you are losing if you do let go? Pride. Self-importance? Sense of self? "If I let go of this, what's left?"

When I let go, things change. When I let go, what actully changes is me. Circumstances haven't changed. I have accepted them and therefore can more effectively adapt and respond to them.

View whatever arises as the teacher. Freedom is the mind that doesn't hold onto anything. Because really there is nothing to hold on to (groundlessness is reality). Once you are not trapped by the mind you can help yourself and others. "Let go of everything completely; there are no difficulties."

There is really not a lot I can add to that except to say these are things I really needed to hear right now, and hope you find them similarly compelling.


  1. Nice post... And thank you for the synopsis of her talk. That was helpful as she was difficult for me to hear. I liked what she said about exposing the wounds of the mind. I would also add the wounds of the heart, which of course are related to the wounds of the mind, which ultimately is the wound of *believing* in our separateness, separateness from our True Nature - a separate "me"; what she refers to as "self-importance." And "healing" being a recognition our True Nature - our wholeness.

    We can't always change our life circumstances, but we can bring more awareness to *how* we live life - how we perceive life, how we *see* our circumstances - as Sarah pointed out - and become aware of our minds tendency to go down rabbit holes of fear and stress...

    A book you might (?) like is The Wise Heart, by Jack Kornfield, which I recently started reading. He has a whole section called - Mindfulness: The Great Medicine.

    Many Bows...

    1. Yes, I love Jack Kornfield's stuff, but most especially his talks. He tells this great story of one of his teachers in India saying to him "You Americans, I don't understand this, you always want what you don't have, and you don't want what you have. Why not just want what you have and don't want what you don't have? Simple!"
      Thanks for the book rec as thats not one I was familiar with.
      Healing wounds of the heart, mind and spirit and not just understanding oneness with the intellect but apprehending oneness inherently, Yes that is the practice. Loved you response above and thanks again.

  2. I find this all very compelling and life giving, especially this-

    "If we can recognize in moments of resistence or suffering that we don't actually have to need anything extra, we are complete. Wisdom mind says we don't have to create additional needs."

    SO freeing to walk in this truth.

    1. Yeah, and if you listen to the audio, she really has this lovely casual teaching style, and lays down these simple, ringing statements of fundamental truth, all in a row, interspersed with stories, just tremendous. Glad they're resonating with you too!

  3. First off, great Zen hands! I think this talk would hit the spot for me. On the weekend a family member did something I found hurtful. It was so interesting to watch myself. The hurt arose and then I could see the self protective anger arising. Instead of reacting I went off to the garden to work. It was so hard to let go of it all, the hurt which simply arose and needed to subside, but the stories I wanted to tell myself. And finally it all washed itself away. But not as quickly as I would have liked!

    I am going off to listen to this talk.

    1. Thanks for the compliment on the artwork, trying to make that part of my practice and healing process.

      Gardening is such the greatest way to work through things like that. People head for the meditation pillow but for me that's sometimes far too static.

  4. Thanks for this connection. I had never heard of Sarah Thresher before. I loved the talk, especially the part about "the problem rests in our mind, so if we don't change that we will continue to encounter the problem." This struck me as simple but profound (and difficult). I have never heard it put quite that clearly before. She reminded me a bit of Tenzin Palmo in her simple directness and perhaps her Brit accent. And Joko Beck and Pema Chodron have always been 2 of my favourites. I used to call my old Dharma teacher Grandma Zen (she's 86 now). I like some gentleness mixed with my fierce honesty.

    1. So glad to hear you were able to take time to listen to Ven Thresher's talk! You pulled a clear gem of a quote out of it -- appreciate your sharing it here. I have been meaning to thank you for recommending Gil Frondsal, I've been llistening to some of his talks as well. What a rich background he has.

      I loved reading Cave in the Snow years back, and it's one of the few that still sit on my small shelf of Buddhism-related books. You made me curious to hear Tenzin Palmo's voice because I never had so just looked her up on YouTube. Interesting that her accent almost has a Germanic quality to it--perhaps all those years away from UK speaking other languages.