Building bridges

When things are bothering us, big things, small things, people often advice us to let go. But we usually have no clue how to do that. And mostly, we feel that it is impossible to let go or even that we don’t want to let go. I’m no buddhist monk, but in 10 years of actively letting go, I have learned one or two things about this proces that I really would like to share with you.  So, ‘letting go’ what does that mean?

We all have pains, big pains, small pains. And we all suffer. Yet pain and suffering are not the same. Pain is a physical experience, suffering is a story we tell ourselves about our pain. Letting go primarily is a proces in which we work on acknowledging that our story is a story we tell ourselves, and that our view only is a small part of a greater picture. Letting go is a proces in which we softly allow ourselves to see that greater picture, a proces in which we soften our resistance to the whole picture. It is about accepting that things may be different than we believe them to be, that there are many things we cannot know for sure and then choosing the story that does justice to all we are and / or to all involved. Letting go is like a building a bridge. A bridge between the story we tell ourselves that is hurting us and the story that may be equally true, but would give us peace instead.

My story is a story I tell myself. That’s a hard one to swallow. It means that my life could be different if I told myself a different story. It has taken me a long time to embrace to this truth. There were a lot of ‘yeah, but’s on my way there. My story is a story I tell myself essentially means I’m responsible for my life. Me. No one else. What helped was learning that different people who live the same event, react differently to it and live different lives as a consequence. Those who see it as a tragedy, usually live tragic lives. Those who find some kind of meaning in the event or in (what is left of ) their lives will most likely live meaningful lives. It’s not what happens to us that makes the difference, it’s what happens in our minds as a result of the event that does. I don’t mean to imply that we just have to change our story and everything will be alright. That would be a classic example of sticking our head in the sand, playing make belief. I do mean to imply we have a choice about how we live our lives. I have learned that no matter how insignicant my pain may seem in comparison to someone else’s pain, it is real. It is not only real, it is my pain and if I’m suffering from this pain, I need to deal with it.

Building a bridge starts by examening the terrain. To change our story, we need to become aware of the story we’re telling ourselves. Who are we in our stories? What’s our role? What’s our script? Which thoughts are creating our suffering? And what is holding us back to believe a different story than the one we’re telling now?

My view only is a small part of a greater picture. I have learned there are more sides to this story than the one we’re seeing. Most of us have established a rather solid view of the world and life at the age of 25. It’s a story we tell ourselves. This story accurately sums up our very personal life experience up to that point. It is our story, our truth.  Yet, we have come to believe this is true, not only for us, but for all. Life will prove us wrong time and time again.  And the tension that builds between what happens in our lives and the stories we tell ourselves causes suffering. In case of severe suffering, most people either cling to their story fanatically or throw it out of the window completely and cling to the opposite story in the same measure.

The same goes for people. We usually think we understand people or even know them. That too is a story we tell ourselves. We see other people as we see ourselves, and when they appear to be very different, we either glorify or demonize them. But no one’s behavior is perfect and  no one’s behavior is completely flawed, we’re all human.

It is helpful to explore the concept of not-knowing, to examine our ‘evidence’. Can we be 100% sure? Really? We often think we know, we want to, because it gives us an often, much needed sense of security. Yet, we simply cannot know anything for sure, life is too complex for us to wrap our minds around. Maybe there is more to our story than we’re currently seeing. Allow yourself to adjust to a new reality. Open your mind to the possibility that your story is not the whole story.

Building bridges means acknowledging there are more sides to this story than the one we’re standing on. For me, building bridges means trying to look at the world with fresh eyes. Not just the eyes in my head, but with all the eyes I’ve been given. My physical eyes show me contrast and allow me to focus on what I choose to see. The eyes of my imagination help me create new stories by exploring different possibilities. My heart eyes are filled with Love and show me a larger perspective than the physical one I currently have, they inspire awe and compassion. And the eyes of my gut are old and wise, they know what is best for me and help me choose which story feels best, fits ME best.

Letting go means freeing yourself of obsolete stories and trying on new stories, stories that allow you to live your best life. And then let them be stories, no more, no less. Letting go maybe even means freeing yourself of stories all together and living a life in which you are the bridge and the water which flows underneath.

photo by Roger Waleson