As I mentioned in a previous post, there are still “patterns of the me” that are emerging in awareness here. Control appears to be one of those patterns, and was brought home to me recently through interactions with my mother. As I have heard several teachers say: If you think you are enlightened, spend time with your family. For some of you this post may constitute “story." However, I often find that what is considered “story” can be a great teacher - allowing me to step back and experience the Dharma in the situation.
My mother is 82 years old and getting ready for eye surgery Monday after a failed first surgery 4 months ago. I have tried to be “helpful” in the preparation for this upcoming surgery – meaning: I feel the weight of responsibility to be “on top of things” in an attempt to make sure everyone is on the same page, that all ducks are in a row – which has not been welcome by my mother. It has been met with resistance and with irritation at me for at least trying to make sure everything is understood and the appropriate questions are asked to the appropriate people – without actually “taking over” – meaning not taking the control out of my mother’s hands – trying to respect her and allow her to make her own decisions and ask her own questions. But when I see mental acuity failing, I feel a need to step in. Confusion has been created because she has been told different things by different people. The more I try to make sure that everything is in place, the right questions asked and understood, and urge her to get clarification, the more she resists. It’s a dance that my mother and I have danced many times. And I no longer want to dance this dance.
So I’ve had to recognize that my need to be on top of things, to be responsible, is my subtle way of trying to be in control, trying to make sure everything turns out “right” – under the guise of “caregiving” – by taking on the role of “responsible daughter.” It is also indicative that there is still a *belief* in a separate “me” that can control life and its situations… This pesky little me…
How I function in this “responsible mode” – stressed, anxious, insecure, controlling - is not helpful to anyone. Attempts to control through instructing her on what to do, correcting her misperceptions, prodding her like a child to take responsibility and so forth only serve to alienate. I know this. But those hardwired neurons keep misfiring, sending me the fear messages that I need to be in control. I ignore them as much as possible and offer my mother encouragement and subtle, supportive suggestions instead – giving her a sense of control, a sense of “rightness”, rather than “wrongness”, which seems to be more “helpful.”
But can this “me” really willingly “let go” of its need for control? (And it doesn’t help to tell myself that there is no “me.”) My experience is that I cannot will myself to “let go” of anything – even the sense of “me.” It has to come through relaxed awareness – and trusting that life is as it should be. Through being aware and bringing awareness to a situation, there is a natural “letting go.” Stepping back into the greater context of Awareness is what allows a “letting go” to occur. It allows the pattern of “me” to be seen. Once the “pattern” has been seen, recognized – found out – so-to-speak, its grip loosens. It is no longer “me” trying to “let go” – another form of control. It lets go on its own, as it is no longer able to hide in the shadows of my mind. *It* lets go *by means of* the awareness that is brought to it - by letting the light of awareness in, and by how willing I am to actually face it, as many times as I need to.
And there is another aspect I had to look at as well. For me this “letting go” through *awareness* is an ongoing process of relaxing into a deeper sense of the all-encompassing Beingness that we actually are - and allowing That to be my focus. By continually bringing awareness to what is Aware, and not trying to figure out how to let go, or how to control the situation, noticing what it feels like to be in this space of Awareness, a “letting go” occurs on its own. By bringing awareness to what is Aware, “letting go” is no longer an issue – there is just a subtle dissolving of control, and acceptance of the way things are. From this space of Awareness I don’t get into struggle with the *concept* of “letting go” – or with my mother. I don’t follow the *thought* that I need to let go – or that I need to be responsible. It’s more of a space of allowing, of letting things, life and people be what/who they are. This does not mean that I do not take the necessary actions in the care of my mother – when needed - but it is not a fear-based need to be in control of how things go and the way they may or may not turn out. From this space of Awareness there is a softening of old patterns and a more genuine, open-hearted presence that emerges.
Although, I have to admit, there is still a lurking sense of fear-based responsibility for my mother’s well-being and the resulting anxiety… And so it is…