Rise Up Rooted Like Trees

Spirituality of Letting Go: Week 1

Rise Up Rooted Like Trees
Sunday, August 28, 2016

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world. 

Each thing—
each stone, blossom, child—
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees. 

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused. 

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left [God].  

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

Rainer Maria Rilke [1]

In my work with men’s initiation, I’ve found that all great spiritual wisdom, all true soul wisdom, can be found in nature. I do believe that’s true. St. Francis didn’t learn by only reading Bibles and books, but by observing the natural world, which we call “the first Bible” (see Romans 1:20).

When you sit quietly and for extended times in nature, you see that everything changes. If you stay longer, you see that everything dies or erodes. Nothing stays in the same shape or form for long. Plants and animals seem to accept this dying. All of the natural world seems to accept the change of seasons. Nature fights for life but does not resist dying. It learns gravity’s fall, as it were. Only one species resists this natural movement: humans—you and me. The very freedom that can lead us into intimacy with an utterly free God who invites our cooperation and participation also allows us to resist, oppose, or deny Love. We are free to cling to our own egoic resources, to climb instead of to descend. But we must fall if we are ever to fly.

Meister Eckhart said, “God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction.” [2] In our consumer culture, religion and spirituality have very often become a matter of addition: earning points with God, attaining enlightenment, producing moral behavior. Yet authentic spirituality is not about getting, attaining, achieving, performing, or succeeding—all of which tend to pander to the ego. It is much more about letting go—letting go of what we don’t need anyway, although we don’t know that ahead of time. On the mental level, it is more “the shedding of thoughts,” as the Desert Fathers called it, than piling on more thoughts.

Gateway to Silence:
Let be. Let love.

[1] Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy (Riverhead Books: 1996), 116-117. Used with permission.
[2] Meister Eckhart, translated by James M. Clark and John V. Skinner, Meister Eckhart: Selected Treatises and Sermons Translated from Latin and German with an Introduction and Notes (Faber and Faber: 1958), 194.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis (Sounds True: 2010), disc 1 (CD).

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