Learning to let it be

Blog Published: November 16, 2012
By Kerri Leigh Power

We welcome writer Kerri Leigh Power as our guest blogger today.

I’ve never really understood how to strike a balance between “being” and “doing.” Lately I’ve had some help in this, since over the past year, health problems have made it hard for me to “do” much of anything. All the things I once did so easily—walking, driving, housework—have become daily challenges.

In my vigorous attempts to “fix” my body, I’ve been slowly brought to the realization that healing won’t come simply from more doing—more physiotherapy, more exercises, more medical treatments. I’m coming up against the limits of action, and it has occurred to me that perhaps I’m not in charge here. Maybe I’m being called to a relationship with my body that’s more about accepting, listening and being present, in compassion, than about making things “right.” In learning to be with what’s happening, rather than trying to rigidly control it, I feel a sense of ease that, ironically, is probably more conducive to healing.

I recently came across the following passage in Evelyn Underhill’s short but rich little book The Spiritual Life. As a writer, I liked that she used a grammar reference when describing how we struggle to create meaning and coherence in our scattered lives:

“We mostly spend those lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do. Craving, clutching, and fussing… we are kept in perpetual unrest, forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by, and included in, the fundamental verb, to Be, and that Being, not wanting, having and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life.” (p. 43)

How do you strike a balance between being and doing? Have you had experiences that jolted you out of compulsive “doing” and forced you to just “be”?

Archived Comments

Sister Julie November 16, 2012 at 8:41 am

A beautiful piece of writing, Kerri. And yet I know that dealing with health issues can be anything but beautiful on many days. I hear in your words an acuity that I recognize as coming from struggle and a willingness to be open to something more even in the midst of struggle. It reminds me that as compelling as running away or running to “solutions” may be, the call may be right here already.

Interestingly, I was just reading Thich Nhat Hanh last night and he talked about letting go and sometimes even having to throw away. “It takes insight and courage to throw away an idea. If we’ve suffered, it may be because we’ve entertained an idea that we haven’t been able to release.” (Beyond the Self: Teachings on the Middle Way) While this might initially look like “afflictions are only in our head,” I don’t believe that is what he is saying … I think his words reflect what you’ve described as being called to a new place … a new idea perhaps … even in the midst of challenges such as health problems, or work overload, or relationship mishaps or whatever may be in our life.

Peta November 16, 2012 at 9:08 am

How poignantly your words touch me. I am also in recovery and am frustrated at not “getting better” quickly. I’ve had to withdraw from the demands of tertiary study for yet another semester and have been puzzled at the how come and if i can’t continue my normal doings what am i being asked to do/be. I too have had my aha moment recently and see that i am to sit still in my soul/mind/heart and be present in the now. The healing will come in it’s own time. The thing is i have always pushed hard against the obstacles and this time i have met my match. i am considering that this is what i am supposed to be doing, just in contemplation and living simply. my mind isn’t accepting my university studies yet it is greedily absorbing anything spiritual. Thank you Kerrie for your lovely exploration on being, it’s a further affirmation for me. Also thank you for reminding me of Evelyn Underhill. All the very best. Sr Julie i am just exploring Thich Nhat Hanh and find what you have shared a perfect message for me, thank you

Barbara November 16, 2012 at 11:26 am

How well my mind is spoken here in the post and comments! As I age I’m reminded of Jesus words to Peter: “When you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.”

Being vulnerable can force us to enter more deeply into ourselves. I find it necessary to often remember what is really important, like openness and compassion and gratitude. I find myself as the person receiving from the goodness of others, instead of being the “do-er” for others. I often have to renew my trust in the muddle of worry. It truly is a new depth of spirit that is offered. It is a blessing, a process, and a pain in many spots!

Sister Maxine November 23, 2012 at 10:01 am

When you said, “I often have to renew my trust in the muddle of worry,” I initially read “in the middle of worry.” It reminded me that “muddle” often happens in the “middle” of worry, and that even just an awareness of that helps me find peace.

Kerri Leigh Power November 16, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Thanks everyone for your comments, you’ve brought more depth and insight to this whole experience. It’s comforting to know that every experience we have is basically a shared one. The Thich Nhat Hanh quote is perfect. Peta, I can really identify with how you describe your challenge and the realization you’ve had about what you’re meant to be doing now. Barbara, I loved what you said about a new depth of spirit coming from vulnerability, I’m trying to recognize that process also and go with it.

Eileen November 18, 2012 at 3:35 am

Some years’ ago, I cried out at the altar of Blessed Brother Michael Tansy for the answer to what I must do in a very difficult life situation. The answer came very softly and profoundly thus “Eileen, it is not what you must do, but what you must be.”. This threw me into a stunned silence and I spent the next few months contemplating the difference between “to do” and “to be”. For the first time in my life, I began just to be. I went back to the Blessed’s alter and told him that I had discerned the difference. But, I asked, what must I be? The answer came: Be still. Listen. Be a Vessel.

The two incidents and the words have never left me. Through the crisis at the time they helped me find my rootedness to become aware, to be solid and to witness. Not to be thrown sidewards, but to live through the crisis moment by moment and to witness and learn – to be in the precise moment all of the time. It was a wonderful discipline of quietness and spirituality in the world of chaos around and it taught me much.

Since this time I have found myself often being more concerned with doing and wanting and having. But your blogs and commentary have served to remind me, today, yet again, that sometimes we have to Let It Be. It is as it is. Be Still.

Thank you for your insights.

Sister Julie November 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Eileen, Thanks for sharing those two amazing moments with us … and then to see how you have allowed these moments to unfold in your life.

Kerri Leigh Power November 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Thank you so much for this Eileen.

kbart November 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm

For the last several years I had been dealing with on-going pain that just impacted everything I did. I slowly started to give things over as it was just too painful to do some things. I did fight this giving over for as long as I could and for sure it was not an easy thing to do. At some point I realized that the fight of doing through the pain was just not the right way to spend energy, so I really worked to give to God what I could not fight.

I have been blessed to have gotten rid of that pain. I have been given a gift of new opportunity. It is a gift with a reminder tag that I have to keep touching, just so I remember. That “tag” or scar in this case – helps me remember that pain. By doing so, it brings me into THIS moment I am in. It helps me focus on what is most important. It has been so easy to slide back into the craziness of what is normal and I need many reminders each day to slow down and focus on what I can do, just me with God’s help.

Know that I send you focus and encouragement to give to God Kerri. I pray that God helps you keep focused on one thing at a time that you CAN do, and let go of the angst that all to often comes with those things you can’t.

nerdymko November 21, 2012 at 12:33 pm

well said, kbart

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