Letting Go

September 12, 2015 | Monastic Musings

Reflections from some of the nuns

Abbey Gateway

I have been pondering the spiritual practice of letting go. The simple action of walking demonstrates succinctly what is necessary. When we take each step, in order to move through to the next we need to let go of that last step. We let go of the place we have been and step out, literally throwing ourselves off balance, toward the place we have not yet arrived at!

When our lives are thrust into the between times we will almost certainly have to leave some things behind us. Sometimes we surrender them freely and at other times they are forced from us by circumstances beyond our control.  Beginnings and endings of relationships, job or career changes,  births and deaths, accident or injury, loss of relationship, career or reputation, are a few of the many areas of life in which change can be unexpectedly thrust  upon us. Usually there is grief and loss. We need to acknowledge these losses honestly and honour the pain. It is real and sometimes it is excruciating – and it also needs to be let go of. There is the choice also to see it as a birthing pain. The coming of new life in us is often dependent on the letting go of the old.

I have been pondering babies and trees – who leave their comfort zone.

Human beings seem to have an amazing propensity to settle in a comfort zone. Nobody welcomes challenging change and we usually only embrace change when it is forced upon us, and even then may fiercely resist it.

The unborn baby is in the perfect comfort zone – good food, central heating, space to grow and mum’s heartbeat nearby. Who on earth would want to leave this?  But when the time is ripe and right – nature takes charge – and the waters flow out, the contractions begin and this perfect haven becomes an alarming and painful place, expelling us painfully into a new and frightening existence.

And… the new born is now on the brink of a new world in which to grow, a whole new range of much more tempting food and much deeper relationship, not only with mother but many other significant people. It may help to remember this when God, or circumstances push us out of the temporary wombs we have made for ourselves.

Then there are the trees…

In autumn our beautiful liquid amber trees enter into the fullness of their glory, but also face the rapid and cruel loss of all of that when the cold winds arrive. If a tree could decide not to let go of the leaves, but to hang onto them through the winter, what would happen to its depleted winter energy reserves?  There is only enough energy in winter to do one thing – either to keep the root alive or hang on to its leaves.  If it hangs on to its leaves the root will die and there will never be any leaves again but if it uses the energy it has to keep the root alive, then the tree will survive the winter and next spring there will be fresh leaves.

Walking up our drive last spring I was mesmerised by a beautiful red rosella.  The ambers were just beginning to sprout their new leaves and seed pods still lay covering the ground. This young fella was within inches of me, totally unconcerned as he balanced on one leg. The other was holding a large seed pod and he was totally immersed in extracting the tiny seeds from the pod. It struck me that in the letting go of the leaves and appearing to die, the tree was in fact giving life, sustaining life in this beautiful bird.

Thanks to Margaret Silf for the image of the child in the womb and other ideas shared at a weekend teaching in Sydney some years ago.

Sr Magdalen Mather osb