I recently listened to “The Art of Letting Go” by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar who lives in my home state of New Mexico. I will now sing its praises to anyone who cares to listen (or read, I guess).
In the decade or so that I spent staunchly removed from organized religion, I still felt a deep desire for spirituality and connection. Like a good liberal Portlander, I explored meditation, Buddhism, yoga, and other forms of Eastern spirituality. I read a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh (which I would still recommend to anyone). These explorations and practices allowed me to disassociate from typical American Christian beliefs and politics to which I objected. There was just one problem. I never felt they were really leading me anywhere. Yes, a good yoga class can alway make me feel more calm and centered. But that’s about it.
Now please don’t think I’m trying to put down other belief systems. I’m not. The problem was mine. I was raised going to church and being in community there. No amount of meditation could replace that. And the spiritual communities that I did dabble in just never felt like home.
Which I why I am back to square one, trying to learn what Christianity has to teach me about life, the universe, and everything.
Turns out, it has quite a lot.
“The Art of Letting Go” is about a 6 hour audio program that sounds somewhat unrehearsed, making it feel that Fr. Rohr is effortlessly sharing a lifetime of wisdom. The most central lessons involve “learning to identify and let go of the possessions, beliefs, and biases that no longer bring you contentment…The Art of Letting Go is a guide for shedding the ambitions, certitudes and fears that grip us, so that we may allow ourselves to be pulled toward greater freedom, joy, and spiritual unfolding” (from the study guide found here).
I don’t think Fr. Rohr would feel there is any accident that so many of the insights he gives echoes what I learned when studying books by meditation teachers. His perspective is that all great religions help us to let go of our tightly held egos.
Near the end of the program, Fr. Rohr invites us to consider what distractions we can let go of in order to live more in touch with God. The first thing that came to my mind was online shopping. Isn’t that silly? But, I can tell you that I’m learning that all the time I spend coveting myriads of belongings and nurturing my tendency toward consumerism isn’t doing me any favors.
In honor of this insight, I am going to try my best not to engage in that activity for 1 week. That means no browsing websites for things I might want (including Amazon, eek!), no monitoring my eBay feed for great deals, and probably no reading fashion magazines. It’s just one week but I’m already questioning whether I can do it.
So let me ask you…do you have anything that you could try to let go in order to make room for deeper experiences? Would you be willing to give it up for a week? Or did you give up something for Lent and find it to be helpful? Leave a message in the comments if so!