let it be

I was in yoga class last week, and as I lifted into a heart-opening backbend, this cover of the Beatles song “Let it Be” came on. And upside down, sweaty, and for anyone to see, I started crying. For sure out of the sense of comfort the song offers -- “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom: let it be.” But also and maybe more so out of sense of permission -- the permission to let it be. Whatever it is. Whatever I am. To let go of the perfectionism and the striving, if only for a moment. To let it be.

So much of our suffering comes from our grasping to what we wish were true, to the wish that things were somehow different, more in line with what we believe would make our lives better, easier, prettier. What happens when we let it be, whatever it is? Whatever we are? When we relax into the actual now, without striving to alter its essential nature? When we open to the world’s more difficult gifts?

It’s coming up on the winter solstice, the day of the year with the least light, the most dark.

Around now, or even sooner, we start complaining about the winter, the cold and the dark, as if the cold and the dark don’t also have their gifts. We keep our sights focused on the dream of spring, the fantasy of spring’s perfection and summer’s bliss, rather than the generous now of how the dark does come early, beckoning us home or inward or out to wander among the shapes made by starlight or moonlight or streetlights or bonfires.

When we could just let it be. 

The central rule of my lineage and practice is so long as it harms none, do as you will. Which can be read as very passive -- do whatever you want, as long as it causes no harm. But the deeper, truer reading focuses on the idea of “will” -- an injunction to live the lives we are meant to live, to do what we are meant to do, so long as no one is harmed by our actions. 

This duality lives in “let it be” as well. 

The word amen means “so it be.” Amen from the Hebrew āmēn, meaning “certainty,” “truth,” “verily.” The pagan so mote it be -- so may it be. In this path, let it be can be an invocation, a tiny prayer, a request. Let it be. Please let it be. 

And in all of it, we are invited to move with the universe, in alignment with our individual will, to let it be by releasing, to let it be through our actions, held in the comfort and grand permission of an immense power through the rich darkness of which rings language for us to hold

And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be

I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be



life, liberty, and the pursuit of affirmation

Someone doesn’t like me.

While I have guesses as to why, wild and not-so-wild surmises, I know that I didn’t do anything directly to her. We hardly know each other, though we share friends and acquaintances. And it rattles me, her palpable distaste, every time I’m in her vicinity, which is, fortunately, not all that often.

When I was six years old, and new to a school, there was a girl who took an inexplicable dislike to me. I was a quiet, bookish kid with an accent and habit of chewing on the end of my hair, which was long enough that even when the teacher put it into a ponytail in an attempt to prevent the chewing, I could still get to it.

As is the way of first graders, this girl would call me names, get other girls to shun me on the playground. I told my mom, who told me to ignore her, that you can’t fight an uphill battle and it would stop. I did, it did, eventually, and I rarely remember it.

I’m 37 years away from that girl on the playground. I’ve shouted down drunken hecklers who outweighed me by an easy hundred pounds, come out, cut ties with humans I once loved, exposed family secrets, shoved more than one unwelcome body off my body, quit jobs, fired people -- I don’t love confrontation, but we’re well acquainted.

So why don’t I confront this human who doesn’t like me?

Because what I have to grapple with here, in this adult body, with this grown-up mind, is that here, now, the discomfort is mine to manage. Mine to own. Her feelings are her feelings, and she has every right to them. Even if she simply despises my chin, or the way I walk reminds her of a teacher who was cruel, or she can’t even name what it is that makes her not like me, that feeling is hers and she gets to have it.

For my part, simply quashing my sense of discomfort is no good either. My part is to pull that discomfort to the surface and say, Discomfort, what are you here for? How are you my teacher?

The drive to be liked is so strong. But it’s not everything I’m being shown here. I have been disliked for good reason, and that was hard but it was a different teacher than this. To be unliked without knowing why, possibly without a nameable reason, is different. There are no apologies or amends to be made, as far as I can tell.

So instead, I’m left with self-work. I’m charged with turning inward. Gathering the wounded first-grader, the bullied seventh grader, the fear of unbelonging, of imposter-ness, not-coolness, radical inadequacy, and soothing them all myself.

I won’t confront her because it’s not about her. As far as I know, she’s not doing me any harm.

My job is to release the need for a respected acquaintance’s affirmation. My job is to look at her and see her, not Susie on the playground, or that guy in junior high, or a mirror. My job is to calm my mind and heart, those jittery creatures that so want to be loved, seen, embraced, and make my way through the world not ego-first, but soul-first. Which is to say, less as a self in need of definition and more as a vessel through which the divine moves.  

If I can do that, when I can do that, my suffering eases. It matters less, if at all, what anyone thinks of me, so long as I am not doing harm. And most importantly, I’m less distracted, less grasping, I’m more able to do the work I need to do in this world. I’m free.