There are different kinds of realizations. They are not always lightening bolts but sometimes soft and slow, as if snow were quietly falling and settling. Softly and slowly, as we relax into our practice and our life, we can come to see and feel the way we habitually treat life as an enemy to be overcome. Some days, we are brave warrior, pumped up, focused and solid. But other days, life is an occupying army rolling over us. Fear makes everything go dark.
It is important to note what happens when we are afraid or stressed or overwhelmed. And there is a lot of this going around these days. Fear triggers the doors and gates to come down and lock. Instantly, and I do mean instantly, we go from open to closed, becoming embattled little fortresses in a dark and unknown world. We are thrown for a loop (in times like these, we understand the meaning of such expressions), pushed out of the brain’s broad and civilized avenues, and pulled down into the wilds of the reptile brain. What becomes strongest in us is the impulse to fight or flee or freeze.
There is a powerful undertow to fear. There are stories to it, both in the narrative sense and the sense of levels. Fear can pull us down into our earliest or most painful memories, and under them all the primal fear of dying. And we discover at such moments that it is not just physical death we fear but ego death, the death of who we think we should be.
And yet when life asks more of us than we think we can handle, we tend to see things about ourselves that we don’t usually see. The ego is suddenly exposed as a scheming little creature, endlessly spinning a better, shinier version of ourselves. We see that under the mind that is freaking out, there another mind, a vastly more quiet and receptive and responsive mind. A mind that is like sunlight, open to everything. We feel that under the heart that is a clenched fist there is a heart that can go on quietly and steadily beating “like a clock in a thunderstorm.”
Letting go can feel like garden variety giving up. “Thy will be done,” we may say to ourselves. Or “What will be will be.” Or even “The hell with it. I’m not going to go out and drive in all this snow.” Yet, as anarchistic as it might feel for a second, this letting go is actually letting things be the way they are, stopping our war with what is. A most amazing thing can happen when we do this. A new energy and a new freedom can flow in to our lives. A peace, like falling snow.
“Advice is like snow. The softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.” — Samuel Taylor Coleridge