Throughout the years there has been a very special set of guidelines that have informed my work on behalf of consciousness. They have grown me into the person I am. The guidelines, which are called “The Four-fold Way,” are the products of Basque wise woman, Angeles Arrien. Angeles passed on last year, but has left us all with these universal cross-cultural practices. They represent the world’s wisdom. And, they have the capacity to shift consciousness, into subtler, and more poignant, forms of awareness. Each is a deep and compelling practice, which will with time, reveal the underbelly and glory of reality.
The Four-fold way is composed of the easily remembered guidelines “Show Up,” “Pay Attention,” “Tell the Truth,” and “Surrender Attachment To Outcome.” They represent truly multi-use guidance.
I’m writing about them today, because I want to focus upon the last of them. I am finding special relevance, and huge difficulty, with the last one, surrender attachment to outcome. This guideline has always been the most reliable, and hardest to practice, for me. I think I especially need it now, to take me deeper, as I am ageing, and experiencing so much loss.
I have learned how important it is for me to let go of my expectations, particularly in my relationships, but now I have entered old age, and I am realizing that I have to let go of everything.
I have, with the help of the perspective provided by this guideline, settled myself down a lot. Change — the impermanence that is everywhere — tends to throw me less often. But, as I face the loss of energy, functionality, loved ones, and even self-assumptions, that comes with age, I find I chafe more, even with this good reminder. Grief seems to be becoming a regular emotional feature of my life now. Letting go isn’t just a practice, it is a choice-less experience that seems to be ushering me toward the inevitable. There is relief in knowing death is approaching. I’m not too worried about that, I’m anticipating a kind of solving justice, with no more disabilities.
Instead, what I find difficult is that I am learning as I age, what is really important. And, those things, which have come into focus so recently — pass so quickly. I barely have a chance to take hold before I have to let go. I used to hear Johnny Cash sing, “now that I am old enough to finally live, I’m old enough to die.” The poignancy of that reality is kicking my butt. Letting go, surrendering attachment to outcome, has taken on a new level of meaning, and is delivering me to a new, deeply poignant reality.
I am still practicing surrendering, and I’m getting more and more into the world’s creation myths that feature a creation deity who’s tears are the source of all things. It seems that existing is a grievous thing (I know it is also a miracle) because it inevitably means dying. Creation and destruction, birth and death, surrender and attachment are all paradoxical parts of this great Mystery, and they take my breath away, as they ask me to be human. I sometimes flounder. And that is when that particular guideline helps me the most. When I have occasion to remember, surrender attachment, I recall that other humans came this way, and foundered more wisely on these same paradoxical shoals, alive with grief and wonder, compassionately trying to take it all in, and becoming more broken down and alive along the way.
I haven’t been able to reconcile surrendering attachment with my desire to live yet. I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t know what ripening has in store for me. But, I find that I am ever thankful that Angie found the wherewithal to give this aspect of human experience such an elegant, and abbreviated wording — now as I stumble across it, I become ever so slightly more humananized.
Ageing seems to mean placing more emphasis upon surrendering. I prefer to think the powers that be are essentializing me, getting me ready, for the final stripping that is simultaneously a birth into a new, and hopefully wiser, form. I am letting go, because I have to, not because I’m good at it, but I am getting softened up, hopefully becoming more malleable, and slowly fading, into I don’t know what. I don’t know exactly why, but I trust being human, existing in this bittersweet world, and waiting for meaning to ripen into greater realization.
The Universe is grinding me down. I am learning to surrender. I don’t know much more than that. I don’t know how to account for it, but I feel grateful. Life has made me up, breathed life into me, and exposed me to grandeur. The trip seems to come with a very exacting price tag, but I think I might have paid it anyway. Surrendering seems to be the price/wonder of this trip.