I remember seven years ago as I was preparing to move to China, I was in incredible fear, and pain. I was upset about leaving a relationship I was in, I was scared out of my mind about moving to a country I knew nothing about, I was sad about leaving behind my gorgeous sisters, my adorable Daddy, my lovely mother, and whoa is me… my friends! On and on my list of grievances went. I met with a spiritual teacher of mine named Maureen, and shared my uncomfortable state of mind with her. Such an AMAZING women! She told me simply to open my hands. I did. She faced my palms facing up. She told me to stop holding on to everything so tightly! LET GO. Have trust. She demonstrated that everything in life drops into our hands and then leaves again. Our families, our friends, our kids, our youth, our jobs… everything. Nothing is ours so don’t bother trying to physically or emotionally hold on to any of this “life” stuff. The most uplifting part of this demonstration was when she explained that when we are willing to live with open palms, trusting in a power greater then ourselves, that incredible and magical things will come to pass. Nothing can be delivered into a pair of clenched up tightly waded fists.
Alternately, ANYTHING can come into palms that are patiently waiting openly. My experience since hearing this, and frequently thinking about it, has been that it is TRUE. So true. I occasionally fall into a space of fear, anxiety about the future (It is soooo unpredictable!) or I will tightly grasp something I don’t want to lose and then I immediatly feel the consequenses. A tightness that doesn’t feel good. Now I know what to do. I visualize opening my hands. I let go. I trust that I am right where I am supposed to be and all things will come and go as they are supposed to.
The underlying theme for all this open palm business comes from the Yoga Sutras, aprarigraha, the last of Patanjali’s moral restraints, other wise known as the yamas. Aparigraha is non-possessiveness or non-attachment. I believe that these two definitions can be divided as they are essentially two different things, culminating as the whole result of freedom. Non-possesivness, relates to our belongings, all physical things in our life. Non-attachment is about our reaction to the coming and goings of the people, places, and situations in our lives.
The primary reason for needing to do this, is when we are trying to walk the narrower path of the right minded, wholesome, yogi-like life… holding on to possessions, people, places and situations is simply painful. As I experienced before leaving the United States for China (and many times since 😉 ). The gifts however of learning to let go, to be open and non-attached are exponential.
Let the magical author and poet Kahlil Gibran take it from here with both an amazing drawing and two deeply meaningful poems:
Non-possesivness: On Giving
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?
There are those who give little of the much which they have–and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.
You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
And you receivers… and you are all receivers… assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.
Non-attachment: Children Chapter IV
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
These poems are beautiful and clearly illustrate a concept that is so vital to our spiritual growth, yet incredibly uncomfortable for many of us. How does it feel to internalize that your children are not your children? That your parents are not your parents? Does it upset you? Do you regard it as “new-age” non-sense? In a way I find comfort in the notion that nothing is ours, it is all Gods, given to us for a short time to borrow. Brining this attitude toward everything in life is where the ultimate freedom arrises. Allow me to finish with a beautiful quote from Osho that was in this mornings daily meditation:
When that attitude (of possessiveness) is dropped prose is no longer the center, but poetry; purpose is no longer at the center, but play; money no longer at the center but meditation; power no longer the center but simplicity non-possessiveness, a sheer joy of life–almost a madness.