Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose. – Yoda
There is a line in recovery literature that reads, “Appreciate a sunset without wanting to own it.”
The sentence stirs lost feelings of innocence in me. I’ve been living in a challenging and somewhat harsh adult world lately; it’s been quite some time since I engaged in anything with childlike wonder.
It feels like forever since I just marveled, gazed, or marveled at something and then let it go. Can you remember when you–recently–immersed yourself in the splendid momentary feeling of something beautiful and then walked away from it with nothing but the appreciative memory to follow you?
Have I ever really done that?
No, my way is to grasp that glorious feeling and clutch it to me as if it’s my last breath. I want to wring every teeny bit of whatever that feeling is into a cup so I can sit it in front of me and just stare at it. If I keep it in my sight, then maybe the feeling won’t disappear.
Rarely has it occurred to me that I can choose to move away from a good feeling. I also assume that when the good feeling ends, I must mourn its passing, when in truth, the ending is supposed to happen.
Instead, I want to talk about it. Relive it. Process it. View it from all angles. Discuss it. Keep it alive.
Have you walked through the dissection of your feelings toward a sunset (or pick another fleeting moment) and in the end thought, “What was so great about that sunset?”
Of course not because every time you watch a sunset, it is a wholly special capsule of time. But when I hold its memory too tightly, I lose sight of what comes after the sunset.
Think of it this way: Obsessing about something means you spend hours weighing its merits, maybe even listing them in columns on a legal pad. You write pros and cons and ponder the possibilities of reenacting the thing over which you’re obsessing.
If we’re still talking about the sunset, these are hours when you could have seen each of the stars God throws nightly into the sky. You missed the first cool breeze on the evening air. You may have even lost the chance to exchange a sweet kiss with your loved one while gazing at the rising moon.
I use the sunset as a metaphor, of course, for the ways in which we put a death grip on our moment-by-moment experiences.
Because if we let go of the feeling, we fear it may never return.
That, my friends, is a learned, adult behavior.
Children who scamper and play, experience fun and then move on without worrying about whether the fun will still be there IF they decide to return. They don’t think about it one way or another. They just go on to the next experience.
Here’s what I’m slowly learning to do
During the day, when there is a moment to pause and notice a thing of beauty–a yellow finch on a feeder, a tree with its tiny spring bud leaves, a dog lying quietly under her person’s chair at an outdoor coffee shop–I take those moments and file them away in my mind. Then I go on about my business.
I’ve marked the file tab Field of Flowers.
At the end of the day, before I sleep, I open the file folder and briefly recall each of those moments. I imagine each one is a flower in the field and then I feel the flowers gently swaying in the evening breeze.
Each of the flowers–representing the day’s momentary beauty blessings–is a planting of gratitude for the day. Make it your mission to plan a huge garden each day. Enjoy it for a moment knowing that tomorrow you get to grow a whole new garden.
The trick, of course–and I say this mostly for myself–is to let the garden just be. Don’t feel like you need to take a hoe to it every day. This particular garden won’t be growing weeds.
Resist the urge to prune and water and fuss over your garden. Plant it and go. Appreciate and move on. Express gratitude and be quiet.
I know it’s difficult. Sometimes letting go of adult habits is excruciatingly hard. Please persist. I promise you the rewards will be worth the work. While you’re practicing, go to a park and watch kids at play. Emulate them. Why should kids have all the fun?
Then, breathe deeply and pat yourself on the back. You’ve just appreciated a sunset without having to own it.