Susan's Thursday morning note September 11, 2008 When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd Changes in Life & Letting Go
This is how a powerful chapter I read twice yesterday ended with this ancient eastern saying. I ordered all of the books by Sue Monk Kidd last week and the one that I am entering this week is called When the Heart Waits. I have to write for you out of her chapter Letting Go. She begins her book discussing the chrysalis stage of a butterfly and the importance of the silent times in our lives for changing. For change to take place at different times of our lives we must enter the chrysalis. Evolve slowly. She mentions a painting of a butterfly where the husk of an empty cocoon was in the bottom lower corner. They require the courage to let go and spin the chrysalis. In soul-making we can’t bypass the cocoon. Wherever there are bright new wings, there’s always the husk of waiting somewhere in the corner… In Latin the words passive and passion have the same root, pati, which means to endure. Waiting is both passive and passionate. It means descending into self, into God, into the deeper labyrinths of prayer.
Referring to Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus (now I’ll have to order this one!) two caterpillars hold a discussion. “How do I become a butterfly? What do I do?” “Watch me…I’m making a cocoon. It looks like I’m hiding, I know, but a cocoon is no escape. It’s an in-between house where the changes are taking place…During the change, it will seem…that nothing is happening, but the butterfly is already becoming. It just takes time.
Before I write what I underlined in her chapter of letting go, first think about what is keeping you from entering your chrysalis. Your change. Your cocoon. What are you not wanting to leave, but that you would like to not be holding your spirit back from? A location? Do you always cling to a place that you believe makes your soul alive? Do you keep from entering your chrysalis of a new stage in your life because you don’t want to change your role that you had as a mother of a certain aged child? The changes we make of who we are as those in our home change their shape? We must change with them…letting go of our role as infant changes into toddler who then changes into child who then changes into adolescent who then enters the chrysalis of the change into adulthood? Are we not letting the changes others are going through change us into a new role? Letting go of friendships? Friends that no longer need you as they enter a new phase of their life? Are we willing to let that particular friendship go, appreciating the time that they were part of us? Our friends and family go into their own changes – do we let them? What about letting go of desires we have for others? Having those desires consume so much of our energy that we aren’t changing into what we can find – our spirits. Are we having a hard time of letting go of a time period in our lives? Letting go and accepting that those that have moved or died are no longer present in our reality. Are we ready to accept that? Or, are we keeping our minds in a time that is no longer our reality? Losing what we could be gaining from today because we aren’t aware of today? Are we having to let go of being healthy? Of accepting the chrysalis of change that is a different, older body? So much to let go. So easy to say just “let go”. Here is what Sue Monk Kidd has to say on this subject…
When the moment to spin the chrysalis arrives, some actually resist and cling to their larval life. They put off entering the cocoon until the following spring, postponing their transformation a year or more. This state of clinging has a name; it’s called the “diapause”….I smiled…all God’s creatures have trouble letting go…”Clinging” comes from “clingan” meaning “shrink”…clinging creates a shrinking within the soul, a shrinking of possibility and growth.
She then discusses stages of letting go: Thomas Kelly wrote, “The will must be subjected bit by bit, piecemeal and progressively, to the divine Will.” (First 3 steps – self-initiatiatves)…
1. Pry open your eyes to the “flaming vision of the wonder of such a life” (Picture what you could be after leaving the cocoon.)
2. Begin where you are and begin now.
3. If you stumble and “assert your old proud self” (and you will), don’t waste a lot of time with regret and self-accusation. Just begin again.
4th Step: Not self-initiative anymore…The fourth step moves in a completely different direction: “Don’t grit your teeth and clench your fists and say, “I will! I will!” Relax. Take hands off. Submit yourselves to God…Thomas Merton cautioned. “We need to leave the initiative in the hands of God working in our souls either directly in the night of aridity and suffering, or through events and other men.” We shift…to a less tangible step…We let go of our letting go. We stop struggling, stop saying, “I will let go, I will, I will.” Instead, having done all we can, we allow God to work directly on the more secret and deeply ingrained attachments…we allow God to release us through the experiences, encounters, and events that come to us. Merton wrote, “This is where so many holy people break down…As soon as they reach the point where they can no longer see the way and guide themselves by their own light, they refuse to go any further…It is in this darkness that we find true liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night that empties us.” Chrysalis. Cocoon.
…when it comes to letting to, we have to arrive at a moment of genuine readiness…Merton’s second level of surrender to God we don’t use force to pry our clinging fingers away; nor does God. Rather, granting infinite, loving freedom, God offers us the experiences, events, and encounters that help us find the courage to open them ourselves, with gentleness.
The opposite of courage isn’t only fear but security…where there’s no risk, there’s no becoming; and where there’s no becoming, there’s no real life…the ones who touch the edges of life – are people who risk, who let go. Courage comes from the French word, coeur, meaning “heart”. In order to travel from clinging to letting go, we have to “take heart.”…recognizing that letting go is a piecemeal process and that I needed to come to my moment of readiness in God’s time and way, I decided to let go of letting go and wait on God to work within me. I wanted to stand back and let God give me the experiences, encounters, and events I needed to awaken my courage…slowly and gently uncurling my grip, finger by finger. Let it be. Be still and cooperate with the mystery God is unfolding in you. Let it be. Such beautiful words. Eckhart wrote “The fruit of letting go is birth.”
It is necessary for the silkworm to die. Let’s be quick to do this work and weave this little cocoon…Let it die; let this silkworm die, as it does in completing what it was created to do…A little white butterfly comes forth, Oh greatness of God! Truly I tell you that the soul doesn’t recognize itself. (St. Teresa of Avila). Again referring to the conversation above between two caterpillars, “But how do you become one?” “You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” “You mean to die?!” “Yes and no, What looks like you will die but what’s really you will still live.” …observing waves at the ocean……Die and become. Die and become. We must cooperate with the inevitably of change. “What kind of music plays in your heart when you learn that part of loving is knowing when to allow another to walk away? (asks Alan Jones) I’ll tell you what kind: the sweet and painful little aria “let it be.” Die and become. Let it be. In such ways God draws us, inch by inch, prayer by prayer, wave by wave washing over us, until we finally open our hands once and for all.
And my favorite analogy of all I’ll end on by this author that I love… I felt as if I’d come to the brink of all my prayers and searching. Letting go is like crossing a bridge, I thought. I walked to the edge of it….My legs felt weak as I started over the bride. In my heart I knew that this was more than a stroll through a pretty scene. It was my own ritual of letting go. Something told me that I had come to my moment of readiness….My letting go wasn’t complete and perfect. I know that. The process continues on in us forever, I suppose. But I sensed that this was my moment to express the shifting I felt inside. It was the beginning of leaving behind the first half of my life and those ways of living it that no longer worked. What I was walking toward, I had no idea….Halfway across the bridge I stopped and stared down into the ravine. There was that awful ache again. Letting go can be so wrenching. There were huge weights in my shoes even then. I looked across the bridge, wanting to turn around and go back…then I saw one of those white butterflies dipping and flying about on the other side of the bridge. I fixed my eyes on it and walked across. God gives us the courage one way or the other, if only we would see it. On the other side of the bridge I sat down, feeling spent but oddly light. The lightness welled up in me and became laughter that traveled among the trees. And I thought about that old saying: “When the heart weeps for what it has lost, The spirit laughs for what it has found.”
I can’t even add to this one. What a beautiful book. Don’t ever say you aren’t a reader. You just haven’t found the author that touches your soul. Never stop trying to find that book. That reaches into your soul, that gives you the strength to enter your different chrysalis stages in your life, to continue changing, stepping heavenward until we enter the presence of God. Changed so many times to becoming a mirror when he looks at us – His reflection. Painful. Beautiful. Thank you for letting me once again enter your Thursday. I hope that you find the strength today to enter whatever chrysalis you need to enter. You will come out with your spirit light. Susan
Latin for this week: "Alis volat propiis" - She flies with her own wings (state motto of Oregon) Works Cited: Kidd, Sue Monk. When the Heart Waits. New York. Harper Collins. 1990.