Letting Go in the service of our children

Irish CliffsSometimes we hold onto things.  We stay entangled in our pain and in relationships that seem to afflict us.  Sometimes those relationships fill our homes with strife and our children keep wishing that we wouldn’t quarrel; sometimes those relationships exist in our heads, between us and those who have hurt us in the past—and this silent strife somehow screams at our children through psychic channels.  Sometimes we inadvertently project the shadows of our wounding parents and persecutors onto our children, and then Shadow box with them, much to the detriment of our kids—particularly because it negates and misses our children’s authentic identities.

Perhaps we know that we need to let go of something, maybe it’s our fear of being alone, maybe it’s our fear that we’re not good enough, maybe it’s our fear that we do not (or will not in the future) have enough; our procrastination on letting go hurts our kids and it hurts ourselves.  For example, if we are going to stay in a “bad marriage” for the sake of the kids, then we have to do so not only out of love but with love.  If we cannot do that, then we have to ask ourselves if we’re really sacrificing for our kids, or if we’re using our kids as an excuse to avoid facing our fears?

Like sobriety, letting go of things is best done one day at a time.  Instead of blanket forgiveness, if we don’t feel ready willing or able to do that we might try a day of forgiveness; if that’s too much we might try a minute.  Of the myriad prayers, affirmations, meditations and other frameworks for presence and healing that I’ve come across, one of my favorites is a simple exercise suggested by John O’Donohue, a poet from County Clare, mentioned in his book on Celtic wisdom, Anam Cara.  “Anam Cara” means soul friend—those with whom we feel strange and immediate affinity.  

O’Donohue explains that the Celtic take on this phenomenon is that we were somehow formed from the very same clay as those Anam Cara that we meet.  It’s as if the molecules in us recognize and re-connect with the clay of the other.  Knowing, that my people came from what is today the Ukraine and the Carpathian mountains, it surprised me to feel a profound resonance to Celtic ideas.  When I learned that the Celts had lived for years, many years ago, in those same remote mountain villages, and that Celtic burial mounds are to be found there, it made perfect sense that something in my clay recognized the very ground when I stepped off a plane in Shannon Ireland.

Often the soul-whispering feeling of the Anam Cara strikes us most uncannily in the form of falling in love with a so-called “soul-mate,” but it can also be a confusing feeling when we don’t realize that that a new-found affinity is a soul-friend relationship and not necessarily a romantic relationship.  This can be especially confusing if we are already in a committed relationship, or if this powerful feeling of affinity is with a member of our same sex and we’re neither gay nor fully secure in our sexual identity.

And when an Anam Cara relationship involves wounding or misunderstanding, just letting go, walking away or releasing the deep entanglement with love can prove quite thorny.  This is especially true when grieving and mourning the death of an Anam Cara.  When relationships that we really think should no longer disturb or limit us continue to do so, we might consider the possibility that an Anam Cara, who has come to be utterly misunderstood and now appears to be an enemy, may be an underlying factor in our feeling roped to the White Whale.  

Anyway, the O’Donohue exercise is simple:  breathe in love, breathe out fear and desire.

The more deeply we breathe in, particularly when we consciously link that breath with taking in spirit, the more we are nourished and renewed at a powerful and elemental level.  The more fully we exhale, especially when we consciously key this breath to relinquishing fear (i.e. the past and it’s imagined re-appearance as our future) and desire (i.e. the future and it’s never fulfilled promise pushed forward one more day), the more fully and vividly do we come into the present moment.  We smell the hay and salt air; we taste the brown bread and sweet butter; we hear the birds and the wind, the whispers of the living world ever around us; and we feel the rain on our skin, the touch of our child’s hand, the soft coolness of a dog’s belly.

This transports us to the only place our happiness can live and breathe—the present moment (and not the fantasied or feared future, nor the chewed over and resented past).  So, let’s dedicate today to being present to today, one consciously breathed moment at a time, done in the service of all our children and ourselves as well.

Namaste, Bruce

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One Response to “Letting Go in the service of our children”

  1. Leo Says:

    Great thought provoking post. I think many of us carry the psychic burden of past relationships, past wounds and unknowingly pass it on.

    I had never heard of Anam Cara before, but it resonates very strongly within me. In my life, I think I can name a precious few that fit the description, The ones that do fit are the folks that I can not see for months or years, yet feel as if we hadn’t ever been apart the moment I see them again. And you are right, in some cases, when it is someone of the opposite sex, it creates an odd feeling. It takes some serious introspection to realize that there is love in that relationship, but not necessarily a romantic love.

    Thanks for giving a phrase to this wonderful feeling!

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