After my playful summer, I had literally hundreds of unread emails to clear. One thing led to another, and I ended up on Groupon. In my history, I found an expired coupon a couple of years old worth three hundred dollars. I went instantly cold inside. My mind whirled. How could that have happened? There was nothing I could do about it now.
I got ready for bed but knew I wouldn’t sleep.
I listened to a guided meditation and then another to calm my body. I prayed. I sensed God saying, “You’re very careful. It’s likely a mistake. Even if it isn’t, it doesn’t change anything–not your life, your worth, or how much I love you.”
It doesn’t change anything, I repeated to myself like a mantra.
The constriction in my body eased, but whenever I remembered what I saw on my computer screen, I tensed up again.
Begin here, I told myself.
I had just written last week’s post. I thought about the tree that fell. Help me, God, I prayed and imagined Mother God stroking my forehead, gazing at me lovingly.
Something in me was cracking. Now I could name it: my attachment to money.
I can give money away, but to lose it through carelessness or to have it taken from me throws me into a panic. There. I named it. It bothers me, but I noticed that it doesn’t bother God.
Then a thought came. What if I’ve been given an experience of living into what I fear and surviving it to loosen that fear’s grip on me? If everything belongs, as Richard Rohr says, then losing the money (assuming I did), isn’t bad. What if sometimes when we can’t let something go, the universe lovingly takes it out of our hands for us?
Let it go, Mother God whispered. Let go of the regret and shame. Let go of the belief that you can’t make a mistake. Let go of the belief that if you do make a mistake, even though you know it’s okay, that you won’t feel it. This is suffering, and suffering is painful.
“The root of sorrow is attachment,” said Anthony de Mello. I remember being in the trees at our campsite at China Beach this summer and reading one of de Mello’s favourite stories.
This is a story of a guy who is moving out of his village in India, and he sees what we in India call a sannyasi. The sannyasi is the wandering mendicant. This is a person who, having attained enlightenment, understands that the whole world is his home and the sky is his roof and God is his father and will look after him, so he moves from place to place the way you and I would move from one room of our home to another.
Here was the wandering sannyasi, and the villager, when he meets him, says, “I cannot believe this.”
And the sannyasi says, “What is it you cannot believe?”
And the villager says, “I had a dream about you last night. I dreamt that the Lord Vishnu said to me, ‘Tomorrow morning, you will leave the village around 11 o’clock, and you will run into this wandering sannyasi.’ And here, I’ve met you.”
“What else did the Lord Vishnu say to you?” asks the sannyasi.
Ands the man replies, “He said to me, ‘If the man gives you a precious stone he has, you will be the richest man in the whole world.’ Would you give me the stone?”
So the sannyasi says, “Wait a minute.” He rummages in his little knapsack that he had. He asks, “Would this be the stone you are talking about?”
And the man couldn’t believe his eyes because it was a diamond–the largest diamond in the world.
He holds the diamond in his hands and he asks, “Could I have this?”
And the sannyasi says, “Of course, you could take it. I found it in a forest. You’re welcome to it.” And he goes on and sits under a tree on the outskirts of the village. The man grasps this diamond and how great is his joy. . . .
And then instead of going home, he sits under a tree, and all day long he sits, immersed in thought. And toward evening, he goes to the tree where the sannyasi is sitting, gives him back the diamond, and says, “Could you do me a favour?”
“What?” says the sannyasi.
“Could you give me the riches that make it possible for you to give this away so easily?”
God is granting me that favour. Some attachments fall away easily, as softly as a leaf falling from a tree. Other attachments break away with a crash. And if I don’t panic, I won’t run off trying to get the dead thing back or run around trying to figure out how I lost it in the first place so that mistake won’t happen again. Instead, I can stay right here in the middle of the pain of loss and let God give me the freedom my heart desires.
I still feel it now, the constriction in my chest, the feeling that something terrible has happened. I can be present to that part of myself, and gently give it space and time to see for itself that everything’s okay. I can let go of my desire to recoup my loss or regroup my inner defenses so it never happens again. I can give thanks that I’m being given an invaluable gift–to be able to lose what I have and be okay with it.
Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.–John 12:24-25 (MSG)
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AN IGNATIAN PRAYER RETREAT
November 5-7, 2021
I will be co-facilitating another Ignatian Prayer Retreat weekend online with my friend Sally Ringdahln on November 5-7, 2021. It would be awesome if you could join us. Register early. Space is limited. A past participant said, “This Ignatian Retreat offered me an opportunity to have encounters with God like never before. It has opened a door for me that I didn’t know exists and is possible.” Another said, “The Ignatian Silent Retreat created beautiful space within a chaotic time to meet with Jesus. The assigned prayers and times of spiritual direction were useful ‘structures’ within which to stay present to the holy.”