Monday, November 18, 2013

Letting Go and Letting Come

I recently heard an interview with Arthur Zajonc, a physicist and contemplative. As part of the On Being episode, titled “Holding Life Consciously,” Zajonc took listeners through a short “singing bowl” bell meditation.
The purpose of this four-part, 10-minute meditation is simply, at least as he described it, “contemplative.” That is, using the sound of the bell as a single source of sensory input to create a locus for meditative attention. But it has proven to have a more robust purpose for me.

I have a large L-shaped desk in my home office that I haven't used in maybe the past two years. I prefer to wander with my laptop from big soft chair to big soft chair, or the kitchen table, or someplace outside when the weather is warm. So several months ago I decided that I might as well move the desk out and make more space for yoga practice and for, well, I wasn’t quite sure what else.

I cleaned out the desk (except for one small drawer), and then simply couldn’t get rid of it. I don’t use it, but somehow I can’t let go of it. I keep telling myself—and others—that I just need to be clearer about how I’ll use the space—and how to store some of what has been removed—and then I can let it go.
This is a reasonable facsimile of the "desk."
But the reality is, I’m not really sure why I can’t free myself of it. Perhaps it’s letting go of what the desk represents, my source of income and security.

So, the bell meditation has become a mini practice for me to learn to fully release, and then open to whatever might come to fill the space. Zajonc calls it “letting go and letting come,” allowing the flow of all things to move both ways.

Perhaps if you’re also afraid to part with something—your own “desk,” an unhappy job or relationship, or an idea of how something should be, this practice may help. Here’s the meditation: 


1.      Sound the bell. Give full attention to the vibration of the bell, imagining the sound fill the room. Zajonc suggests three strikes of the bell, but if you like, allow the bell to sound several times. He uses a Tibetan singing bowl, which has a wonderful echoing after effect, but you could use Tibetan cymbals, or any sound that lingers after being struck. Download a Tibetan singing bowl being struck in succession.

2.      Sound the bell in memory.  Repeat the memory of the bell sound so that you’re filled inwardly with the resonance and vibration of the bell. Move inside the body and saturate yourself from crown of head to tips of the toes and fingers--all parts of the body—with the sound.

3.      Let go completely of the bell sound. Here comes the hard part. Release any holding of the sound. Let go completely. Perhaps visually move through the body, emptying each space of the sound and its afterimage.

If you encounter struggle here, stay with it. I find using a systematic process helpful. For example, go into each “room” inside the body and conduct the equivalent of “cleaning out the closets.” Or, move from crown of head to limbs and toes as if gradually emptying a full container.  

4.     Open to receive. Finally, let come. Be present for whatever arises after releasing all sound of the bell. Be present in a way that can welcome all things. After the clearing out, this is a sweet space, and opens to a lovely, quiet flow of love, energy, and clarity. Receive with gratitude whatever gifts and insights come.

If you’d like Zajonc to guide you through this meditation, listen here. And, read more about how sound heals

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