Ditching the 2 x 4’s…

<August 2007>

A lot of us seem to understand these days that a new era is coming. We know that our personal lives seem less and less “under control” – that big forces are at work in the Universe, on the Earth, and in our personal lives. (Plenty of people don’t seem to realize any of this stuff, too, of course, but these folks are not liable to be reading any of the things I write about anyway, hmmm?)

As we get older (I’m 54 as I write this), we seem to have to “get” the lesson that we are able to “control” very little in our lives – much less than we once supposed – although a lot or perhaps most of us sure do try very hard to control all kinds of things!

“Letting go” is a concept, then, that most of us seem to have to learn to grasp – only if we want to lead reasonably contented lives, of course! If we’re prepared to live with endless, daily, constant frustration and anxiety because everyone around us drives us crazy with everything they say and do and their utter unwillingness to do, say and think precisely what we want them to do, think and say, more power to us!

Me, I like to be happy on a more or less continual basis, so I’ve worked a fair bit at learning to “let go.” I’m no expert at it or anything; like everyone, I sometimes get irritated with a variety of people’s attitudes & behaviour & with lots of the stupid stuff (and worse!) that goes on on the planet. I just do my best not to let it get the better of me (after all, what we focus on, expands. What do we want to have expanding inside us?).

It may be helpful too if I admit to the fact that I’ve spent my fair share of time in this life trying to run things – control things – more than was healthy for me (or, no doubt, for the people around me!)(1) As a long-time environmental activist, I will always find plenty of what takes place here on Planet Earth not merely irritating, but sometimes crazy-making to the point of occasional near-despair! (2)

But life events have conspired to make me realize I am not the Great Big Boss of the Whole Darn Show – or even often, seemingly, of my own!?

I’ve become grateful for the lessons I’ve learned in this regard, although some of them were mighty painful ones (did I say painful? Gutwrenching would be a little more like it…).

Lately, the way I see it is that most of us seem to be born with a bunch of 2 x 4’s rammed up our rear ends. I think our life lessons are really mostly about the work of getting the durn things out.

Some of us have more than others, of course. Some of us seem to have a whole fleet of them!

And I have compassion for such people. Plenty of compassion, because I think it’s very hard (impossible?) for these people to be happy very much of the time.(3)

I want to come up with some words of wisdom on the 2 x 4 extraction process – and I know I can’t very well recommend that everyone get thrown against a wall or have her life blow up in her face (these are the very kinds of things that often break the 2 x 4’s down, so they begin to dissolve and fall out, of course).

I can leave you with a couple of great sayings that might help, and a book recommendation.

Anne Lamott had a character in her novel Crooked Little Heart say, “Holding onto a resentment is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”(4) Holding onto resentments is one of the ways we keep our 2 x 4’s firmly embedded (not to mention making us at least a little crazy, and maybe even sick!).

Julia Butterfly Hill has a lovely prayer: “When I pray, I ask for guidance in my life to be the best person I can be, to learn what I need to learn, and to grow from what I learn. Always when I pray, I ask to let go. Letting go is the hardest part.” (5)

And there is a quite lovely book called the Little book of Letting go – a revolutionary 30-day program to Cleanse your Mind, Lift your Spirit and Replenish your Soul, by Hugh Prather, that I also recommend…(6)

I’ve also taken part in two personal growth experiences that gave me some great personal insights:

The Art of Living – Powerful exercises (involving yoga and a breathing technique, but not limited to these) that give us insights and lessons about how to live our lives more joyfully. Level 1 left me feeling as though my emotional innards had been scrubbed clean. A very good friend of mine told me that when she took Level 1, many years ago now, she felt some serious old childhood crud fall right off her, and that the experience definitely changed her life. Gotta love that! www.artofliving.ca

Landmark Forum – I attended a LMF weekend several years ago & feel it helped me gain quite a few insights about myself & about the world. http://www.landmarkeducation.com/section.jsp?top=21 Landmark is rather controversial. It’s not everyone’s "cup of tea," for sure. You can read about my LMF experience here

I can’t think of a single person I know, by the way, who would not benefit from either or both of these powerful personal growth opportunities. In the Landmark Forum there is an anti-spiritual bias that I find puzzling, offensive and wholly unnecessary; however, I believe in mining every experience I have for its value, and given how much I’ve gained from both Art of Living and Landmark Forum workshops, am happy to give them both thumbs up!

2 x 4 extraction is, I suspect, a lifelong process. I like to think I’ve shed a few of my own big ones along the way – and I’m here to tell you, life is a good deal more comfortable and fun, the fewer of the darn things there are stuffed up back there. Lighter, more open, free-er, more joyful… What’s not to like about that, I ask you, hmmm?


P.S. The essay ‘Ditching the Poverty Mentality’ covers some ground that may also be of interest.

(1) Just ask my ex-husband and children!

(2) I will also confess that I occasionally get so “low” that I take a day off; I have what I call a “bed day” (not a bad day, a bed day). Generally, after a bed day, I cheer up and get my “can do” energy back…

(3) I’m also very well aware that the 2 x 4’s wind up there for a reason. So many of us had such difficult childhoods, and difficult childhoods are fertile 2 x 4 creators, hmm?

(4) Crooked Little Heart, Anne Lamott, Anchor, 1998.

(5) The Legacy of Luna The Story of a Tree, A Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods, July Butterfly Hill, HarperSanFranciso, 2000.

(6) The Little Book of Letting Go – a revolutionary 30-day program to cleanse your mind, lift your spirit and replenish your soul, Hugh Prather, Conari Press, 2000.