“You’ve got to learn to let go”. We hear this expression so often, usually in the context of a therapist or friend trying to help someone recover from some traumatic event. But it’s a difficult concept; how does one let go of past trauma and grievances? It’s like the guy who bets you a Million dollars if you can not think of the word “cow”. The very act of trying to forget the word, conjures it up. As the Johnny Cash song goes: “I forgot to remember to forget”.
I’ve discovered that learning to “let go” psychologically can come from physical experience. Before I became a couch-potato lard-belly some ten years ago, I was actually quite a maniacal “extreme” mountain biker. My friend Stuart and I would meet at 5 AM every morning and drive 60 minutes to Oka Mountain (Yes, where the monastery that makes the famous eponymous cheese is located), and we would climb its steep and rocky slope to the top. We would then fly down the boulder-strewn narrow path, skidding on the dirt and maneuvering our way around boulders.
There were many accidents, especially in the beginning, and we wore the cuts, scrapes, dislocations, and bruises like boy scout badges…symbols of guts and honor. But the glory of getting hurt wears thin over time and we had to learn to avoid it as much as possible.
The trick, I discovered, was in letting go of the hyper-vigilant, self-preservation attitude that kept me holding back the speed with which I went down the path. The problem was that without adequate speed, the bike didn’t have enough rolling momentum to go over the boulders; it kept getting stopped, at times violently, by every big rock. I discovered that the faster I let myself go down, and the less I thought about what I was doing, the more easily I was able to go over the boulders rather than around them. I became a 6″2″, 210 pound fluid that was able to flow over all obstacles…very Tao Te Ching.
Mountain biking becomes an excellent metaphor for letting-go psychologically; fear holds us back and prevents us from developing sufficient momentum to roll forward through life without getting stopped by every obstacle.
It’s interesting to me that those mountain-biking experiences were so formative psychologically, as if the physical experience had also caused mental changes. And of course, that’s right, there is no body and mind, there is only the body-mind, words serving to make them appear different.