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Friday, October 29, 2010

"Letting Go" of Control Window

Sometimes what we need to see comes through the window of life itself, not just “window sitting.”

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…



  1. Thank you for this beautiful post Christine. LOL...everytime you come up with a post I say...'YES! Keep this one up for a lonnnnnggg time.' Then the next perfect post comes :)
    "...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." Amen...may as well wallpaper the 'room' of my mind with this.
    Warm wishes for you and your mother's surgery. My mother is going through the same procedure.
    The (especially upcoming necessity) to Let go of control is becoming imminently obvious. I am deeply thankful for your re-pointing to this being done in and through Awareness. Rest in That while the goin's good...as they say.

  2. Ah, I know the steps to this dance too well! Letting go offers the sweet taste of freedom and yet it is not easy to find the right shoes and hear a different tune. And yet as you show us with your awareness each moment is ripe with possibility.

  3. Yes, ZDS, you know this dance well! :) And you're right - in the "letting go" there is a sense of relief. And then the familiar tune plays again and I step into the same shoes. But - with a little more awareness each time. We'll see what happens next week :)

  4. I did this dance with my daughter for years until I finally became so exhausted I gave it up! Now...well, she either sinks or swims and I will find her as we float down the river or not...I refuse to swim upstream any longer, against the current.

    I love Zen's comment!

    I resonate with your words 'From this space of Awareness there is a softening of old patterns and a more genuine, open-hearted presence that emerges.'

    Such sweet release Christine. Sweet!
    Bless You My Friend! :)

  5. Hello Akasa! Yes! I refuse to "swim upstream" as well - swimming against, fighting the battle, etc. As I also discovered this year, as I think you did with your sister, we can't save someone else from their life experience - even if it is my mother...

    As I lay in bed this morning, I focused on the breath and kept repeating "I am Awareness." This also brought release and seemed to open the space to allow everything to be as it is...

    Blessings back :) C

  6. Hi, I sure can relate to this post in many ways. I especially love this part: "Once the “pattern” has been seen, recognized – found out – so-to-speak, its grip loosens." And your beautiful image illustrates "Letting Go" perfectly, doesn't it? :)

  7. Hi Diane! This is one of my favorite pictures actually. Was astonished at how well it came out! And yes, it really does reflect that space of "letting go" - the Tao.

    Really liked your in depth interview with Robert Wolfe today... Gave me another perspective with which to look at all these "control issues " :)


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