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Letting Go Is Liberation

Self-Emptying

Letting Go Is Liberation
Friday, December 18, 2020

In talking about letting go, we are really talking about liberation. It’s a type of liberation theology for a Global North country, if you will. Here are the proper questions: What is it we need to be liberated from, and what is it we need to be liberated for? And who is the liberator?

I think we need at least six kinds of liberation:

  1. Inner liberation from ourselves (letting go of the centrality of the small self)
  2. Cultural liberation from our biases (which involves letting go of the “commodity” culture and moving into the “personal” culture) [1]
  3. Dogmatic liberation from our certitudes (letting go of the false self and discovering the True Self)
  4. Personal liberation from the “system” (letting go of dualistic judging and opening to nondual thinking)
  5. Spiritual liberation for the Divine (some form of letting go happens between each stage of spiritual growth)
  6. Liberation for infinite mystery (the mystery that what looks like falling is in fact rising), which is really liberation for love.

As you have often heard me say, if you do not transform your pain, you will most assuredly transmit it. Healthy religion on the practical level tells us what to do with our pain—because we will have pain. We can’t avoid it; it’s part of life. If we’re not trained in letting go of it, transforming it, turning crucifixion into resurrection, so to speak, we’ll hand it off to our family, to our children, to our neighborhood, to our nation.

The art of letting go is really the art of survival. We have to let go so that as we age, we can be happy. Yes, we’ve been hurt. Yes, we’ve been talked about and betrayed by friends. Yes, our lives didn’t work out the way we thought they would. Letting go helps us fall into a deeper and broader level at which we can always say “Yes.” We can always say, “It’s okay, it’s all right.” We know what lasts. We know who we are. And we know we do not want to pass our pain on to our children or the next generation. We want to somehow pass on life.

This means that the real life has started now. It’s Heaven all the way to Heaven and it’s Hell all the way to Hell. We are in Heaven now by falling, by letting go, and by trusting and surrendering to this deeper, broader, and better reality that is already available to us. We’re in Hell now by wrapping ourselves around our hurts, by over-identifying with and attaching ourselves to our fears, so much so that they become our very identity. Any chosen state of victimhood is an utter dead end. Once you make that your narrative, it never stops gathering evidence about how you have been wronged by life, by others, and even by God.

Maybe this is why scholars have said two-thirds of the teaching of Jesus is, in one form or another, about forgiveness. Forgiveness is simply the religious word for letting go. Eventually, it feels like forgiving Reality Itself for being what it is.

References:
[1] For an expanded and helpful discussion on liberation from our biases, we invite you to listen to the newest CAC podcast Learning How to See with Brian McLaren, Jacqui Lewis, and Richard Rohr.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, discs 3 and 6 (Sounds True: 2010), CD; and

Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction, disc 1 (Franciscan Media: 1987, 2005), downloadable audiobook.

Image credit: Ajanta Caves (detail mural of the Buddha), Aurangabad, Maharashtra State, India.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: When we meditate consistently, a sense of our autonomy and private self-importance—what we think of as our “self”—falls away. Little by little, it becomes unnecessary, unimportant, and even unhelpful. The imperial “I,” the self that we likely think of as our only self, reveals itself as largely a creation of our mind. —Richard Rohr
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