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Center for Action and Contemplation

Letting Go of What We Have Known 

Thursday, May 4, 2023

CAC teacher Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes writes that our Western habits of acquisition and clinging make life’s transitions more challenging:  

Transitions can only take place if we are willing to let go of what we have known, the worlds we have created, and our assumptions about “how things are.” To let go is the precursor to being reborn. We discard the baggage of societal expectations and, like a morning glory, open to the possibilities of each new day, each new moment, even if those possibilities are shadowy and disorientating.  

Unfortunately, in the West, we don’t let go of anything. We hold onto reputation and material goods long after they are no longer needed. We store acquired stuff in every nook and household cranny before renting a storage unit so that we can continue to hold onto our stuff. Dazed, we clutch at relationships long after they are on life support and cling to a past that no longer exists, grasping, desperate, and confused.  

We say that we are letting go, but, in our society, letting go is more like a tug of war. We diligently guard our stories (true or not), our lifestyles, and our belief systems until they are ripped from our sweaty palms. And yet, letting go is a necessary part of transformation….  

Letting go may be the only path toward rebirth. The truth of the matter is that we are clutching at nothing! The stripping has already begun. When the worst happens, our addictive desire for control and the futility of our desires are fully exposed. If we are wise, we open our minds, our hands, and our hearts, and let go.  

However, I do not want to mislead you: Letting go has consequences. Finally, the striving is over, the effort to salvage and fix, be or do something, is over. It is as if we have been clinging to the wall of a mountain of our own making, a mountain of expectations, striving, and goals. When that mountain disappears, we plummet….  

When we let go, the only constants are God’s love and God’s promise that we will never be left alone. We let go of our public persona and our striving and pursuits. Sometimes it takes a crisis to remind us that we are not in control. This space that I name contemplative is a place of breaking, relinquishment, and waiting. [1] 

Writer and former pastor Felicia Murrell describes the inherent uncertainty of transition:  

In the radiance of dark, there is process:  

the unfolding of mystery,  

things words cannot articulate, 

a threshold to freedom the mind cannot comprehend.  

But the body feels, 

the heart knows:  

This is liminality.  

The threshold of transition, 

from death to life, from evening to morn,  

from gestation to giving birth. 

The unknown is a part of it all. [2] 


[1] Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Wounded Village (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2021), 46–47. 

[2] Felicia Murrell, “Liminality and Certitude,” Oneing 11, no. 1, Transitions (Spring 2023): 19–20. Available in print and PDF download

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—McEl Chevrier, Untitled. CAC Staff, Exercise in Grief and Lamentation. Jessie Jones, Untitled. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise. 

Story from Our Community:  

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, our only son was preparing to move two time zones away. Each morning, I awoke to a wave of anxiety—even after taking morning meditation—[that] lingered throughout the day. While walking one morning, I noticed a vast carpet of wild violets, covering a great lawn like biblical lilies of the field. When I returned home, there were texts of good news—tiny affirmations to reassure me. Every few days, I hear another whisper that in God’s time, all will be well.  —Melanie-P. S. 

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