For more information, contact:
Gary Schouborg, PhD
Schouborg, Gary (2010).
"Letting Go: Six Stages"
Letting Go: Six Stages
Gary Schouborg, PhD
Some images compel us to let go of our thoughts and let our body alone respond.
One instance of letting go is Anthony de Mello's, "Doubt your notion of God and God will love you for it." This seemingly radical statement by a Jesuit theologian is actually quintessentially orthodox, at least if your orthodoxy is that God is beyond anything you can think or believe. The secular version is, "Let go of your thoughts (and feelings) and your body will love you for it." At the start of our spiritual journey, letting go is usually an act of hope. We spend time just allowing our thoughts to pass through our awareness without trying to employ them in any way. We do this hoping that, from what others tell us, we will eventually be rewarded in some way. What is given us for our efforts can be classified in the following stages of depth, but without implying that they are hermetically sealed off from one another and follow rigidly in this order.
1. A nice sense of relaxation as we let go of any effort to attend purposefully to our thoughts
2. A positive bodily feeling more primal than the pleasures we derive from our thoughts and actions
3. A sense of primal nourishment
4. Compared to that primal sense, our thoughts feel less important, less urgent, at least at the moment
5. Some of our thoughts feel so peripheral to our sense of well-being that we abandon them forever, not necessarily as false but as irrelevant or not worth pursuing
6. The spin offs in stage 5 may be endless, increasingly simplifying our intellectual and emotional lives
One response to such experiences is to conclude that our thoughts and actions are incompatible with spirituality, with our deepest gratification in living; that only by jettisoning them completely and living in contemplative solitude can we find the deepest purpose of our existence.
Another response is to regard the impulse to withdraw as the early stage of spirituality, where we must disengage from our thoughts and actions in temporary bursts in order to allow our more primal bodily response to emerge. But as the primal sense takes hold, we can increasingly engage in our ordinary, practical world without losing that more elemental feeling. Indeed, we not only don't lose it, but it is there to give perspective and weight to what we do, a touchstone that tells us what's really important and what we really know.
The practical challenge of contemporary spirituality in an increasingly complex technological culture is how to engage without losing our primal sense of being. The theoretical challenge is to understand the mechanisms of such integration, the better to understand just what integration looks like, and to facilitate its development and avoid its illusory variants.