I just saw the movie “TopGun II“ in which the main character Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is speaking to his colleague and friend Tom Kazansky (Val Kilmer) as they face his impending death together. Tom’s message to Pete is “It’s time to let go, Pete.”
In that moment, it looked like Pete was really struggling with letting go. He wanted to do what he had been trained to do — get through a powerful mission using his strength and his resilience–powerful aspects of his success in life as a fighter pilot. He wanted to help his friend feel that same resilience and fierceness as he faced his death. Instead, his friend was helping him get in touch with his other approach to his reality. His life was going to end, and soon. He was “letting go” in the full sense of it knowing his death was coming quickly, was inevitable, and therefore he was ready to face this truth directly.
These are examples of how our current culture of getting through and over something fast interacts with the truth of being in the process with grief or death. Our first reaction is to jump to getting beyond it — not to face it. Only when we are staring at it in the face do we realize we must be in the present moment with it. Sometimes, we can’t even do that.
When we really embrace the concept of “letting go” it is sobering. It is a decision to face the present moment of right now. It is not aversion to one’s challenges. That’s distraction or avoidance. It’s not being passive or settling into non-action. It is a deep relaxation into the present moment and accepting the challenge of allowing whatever is here to be here. It is trusting what is happening and allowing growth and curiosity and fierce compassion to carry you into welcoming it. It usually requires action — compassionate action. That might be just being present and feeling what is here — the reality of death. Ultimately that’s what Pete did in the movie and it was a powerful & compassionate moment when they hugged each other and faced it together.
Letting go for me is all about allowing what is here to be here. This is an important part of mindfulness. The wisdom of mindfulness is seeing the truth that is here in the present moment and allowing it to be here. This takes “letting go” of all your expectations, desires, fantasies, hopes and dreams, fears and just dropping into the reality of what is here now. It means noticing what is not truth and how it is keeping you from the truth. This awareness is “letting go into the truth” of what is here. Sometimes, we have to be still and open to let the truth appear and to be open to discerning what is here and what is coming from our minds.
Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis as a Daily Practice is a perfect way to explore what “letting go” can be for you. We do not know what life is going to bring us each moment, but we can be ready for it. Thich Nhat Hanh said there is no life and no death, only this present moment of awareness of life. In order to live fully we must embrace each moment as if it is our last. As you ponder this concept, think about “letting go” as a process of learning each day how to “let go more” into the curiosity of the present and what is here. This doesn’t mean we ignore the future.
But instead, we embrace the importance of feeling the polarity of both the fierce reality of addressing our Earth’s warming and the steadying of our present moment fear in our breathing.
If we apply this Practice of “Letting go” to working with Grief, we can see that the more we learn how to “let go” with each time we sit down to practice, the more we can allow whatever feelings are in the present to be here without pushing them away. If grief arises unexpectedly, as it often does, just as it did for the characters in this movie, we can be willing and open to discover what the feelings may need from us. This allows us to face and deal with whatever arises, knowing we have the tools of mindfulness and “letting go” to guide us.
You can learn these tools of mindfulness in my 5 day retreat in October. Because this retreat is located at the Rocky Mt. Ecodharma Retreat Center, we have a perfect location to learn this deep listening practice. Learn these tools for your lifetime, tools for deepening into a soul connection with everything that is alive, and learning to embrace it all. This is eco-dharma.