Letting go of the ego

“Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever feeling, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that feeling must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.” — The Buddha

The soul that is to know God must be fortified and established, so that nothing can penetrate into her, neither hope nor fear nor joy nor grief nor suffering or anything that could disturb her. Heaven is at all points equidistant from Earth; likewise the soul should be equally distant from all earthly things, no nearer to the one than to the other. Where the noble soul is, she must maintain an equal distance from all earthly things, from hope, from joy and from sorrow: whatever it is, she must rise above it. – Meister Eckhart (Walshe, Vol. II, Sermon 69)

As long as the shells [covering the soul] are intact–be they ever so slight–the soul cannot see God. Thus Boethius says: “If you want to know the straight truth, put away joy and fear, confidence, hope and disappointment.” Joy, fear, confidence, hope, and disappointment are all intervening media, all shells. As long as you stick to them and they to you, you shall not see God.Meister Eckhart (Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist, 1957, p. 78)

Dispassion

The most effective means, in fact, the only means of attaining enlightenment is to reach a state of perfect dispassion or detachment. In Buddhism the passions are called klesa (klesha), which is also translated as defilements or hindrances. Klesa are unwholesome states of mind, such as joy and sorrow, pride and shame, craving and aversion, fear and anger. These feelings arise from attachments (wanting) and aversions (fearing), which themselves arise as a result of seeing ourselves as separate and distinct from everything else. We first discriminate things and then judge them as good for our survival or detrimental to our survival. Seeing things as not us, and as good or evil, is the original sin in Genesis. Passions, and the attachments and aversions that gives rise to passions, keep us from realizing what we really are.

The Release Technique

Resolve
1a : to deal with successfully : clear up (resolve doubts, resolve a dispute)
b : to find an answer to
c : to make clear or understandable
4a : break up, separate (the prism resolved the light into a play of color) also : to change by disintegration
b : to reduce by analysis (resolve the problem into simple elements)
5 : to progress from dissonance to consonance
8 (obsolete) : to dissolve, melt

Lester Levenson developed the Release Technique based on his own enlightenment experience. From his knowledge of Freudian psychoanalysis, he knew that negative emotions that were repressed in the subconscious governed our behavior and made us ill. When he was faced with an existential crisis, he discovered that he could intentionally bring these emotions up into conscious awareness, making it easy to let go of them. He then proceeded to do this systematically. In so doing, he became aware of the desires and fears that were at the root of negative feelings and let go of them as well.

“[The emotions] are all destructive; every bit of [emotion] is destructive.”
“Every feeling is a pro-survival feeling.” — Lester Levenson (“Get Off the Rollercoaster,” 1986)

Lester’s method is being taught by a former student, Hale Dwoskin (watch this video about the Sedona Method and check out Dwoskin’s book, The Insider’s Guide to the Sedona Method, below). Lawrence Crane, the publisher of books of Lester’s teachings, also taught what he called the Release Technique; he passed away in 2018.

Because Hale tends to overly complicate releasing, I prefer Larry Crane’s demonstration of releasing: AboutTheReleaseTechnique (available here). You should read about Lester’s enlightenment experience in the post, “Lester Levenson (1909-1994)” or Crane’s biography of Lester here or here: http://www.presentlove.com/lester-levenson/. The biography provides more details of how Lester discovered releasing than his autobiography, No Attachments, No Aversions, which is also well worth reading for other reasons. Lastly, Larry Crane’s Abundance Course Workbook (download below) can be used as a step-by-step guide for letting go.

Lester’s book, The Ultimate Truth, talks about releasing as a means to enlightenment. He equated ‘releasing’ with meditation, which is appropriate, because meditation should be a means of letting go of the self.

When mind arises, rely on the Teaching to gaze at the place whence it arises. If mind discriminates, rely on the Teaching to gaze at the place of discrimination. Whether greed, anger or stupidity arise, rely on the Teaching to gaze at the place whence they arise. . . . If there is arising of mind, then investigate and, relying on the Teaching, clean house! – Bodhidharma

Negative feelings

We deal with negative feelings in three ways: suppressing them, acting impulsively from them and trying to escape them (drugs, entertainment, sex or keeping busy). None of these coping mechanisms works; by running away from feelings we keep them and the thoughts behind them in our mind. The only way to permanently get rid of a negative feeling is to face it; it will then go away all by itself.

Question: “How does one quickly attain the Way?” Answer: “Mind being the substance of the Way, one quickly attains the Way. When the practitioner himself realizes that delusion has arisen, then, relying on the Teaching, he focuses on it and causes it to vanish.” – Bodhidharma

Aids to releasing

The first step is choosing to let go of the unwanted feeling. The second step is to welcome the feeling into your conscious awareness. The third step is to examine the desire or fear that is at the root of the feeling.

If you are reluctant to choose to let go of a negative feeling such as anger, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Could I let go of it?
2. Would I let go of it?
3. When?

Another way to overcome reluctance and to see your progress is to assign a number between 1 and 10 to the feeling.

To release, allow yourself to have the feeling without resisting it, since it is the resistance that keeps the feeling in your mind. Allowing the feeling into your conscious awareness means bringing it up and observing it until it passes without judging it as right or wrong or trying to do anything about it. Ignore all thoughts and focus on just the feeling.

Keep pulling it up, over and over, until you can’t find it anymore. Then other repressed feelings will come up, since you have now opened the door–those feelings all want to come out. But take your time; be thorough and systematic in your releasing. You won’t be able to clean out years of negative feelings in one day. On the other hand, letting go is not like going to church once a week, but something that you be doing every waking moment. You don’t want to die before you attain enlightenment.

One reason why we repress feelings is because they are childish. Feelings such as anger because things didn’t go the way we wanted, sadness because someone doesn’t love us, fear of failure, etc., seem inappropriate in an adult. However, everyone has an id, and the id is a child. Don’t be embarrassed about having any feelings: recognize them and allow them to come out without judging or indulging them.

Releasing painful memories

There is more pain from holding on to the thought of pain than there is in the situation itself. A painful memory, when faced fully and squarely, will resolve. Because of its unpleasantness, one tries to flee from it and escape it. This holds it in mind [instead of resolving] it, and thereby holds onto the pain. — Lester Levenson

  • Bring up the memory; allow the feeling to enter your conscious awareness.
  • Stay with the feeling until it passes.
  • Bring up the memory and the feeling again. Repeat this process until there is no feeling attached to the memory.

As negative emotions are recognized and let go of, we feel lighter, freer and happier.

Releasing dislike or disapproval of a person

Ask yourself the following questions until you have completely released your negative feelings:

Do I want to control the person?
Can I let go of wanting to control him/her?

Do I dislike or disapprove of anything in this person?
Can I let go of dislike and diapproval?

Can I accept the person exactly as he/she is?

Can I allow myself to love this person?

Releasing fears

  • Bring up the fear; allow it to enter your consciousness.
  • Stay with the fear until it passes.
  • Bring up the fear again. Keep doing this until the fear is gone.

Question: How is mind the substance of the Way? Answer: The mind is like a piece of wood or stone [upon which a picture is painted]. It is as if someone painted dragons and tigers with his own hand, and yet upon looking at them became frightened. Deluded people are like this. The brush of mind and the senses paints Razor Mountains and Sword Forests (the hells), and yet the mind and the senses fear them. If you are fearless in mind, then delusions will be swept away. – Bodhidharma

Releasing desires (attachments and aversions)

Desire comes from attachment, and fear comes from aversion, but attachment and aversion are two sides of the same coin. The root of attachments and aversions is a fear of not surviving (desire for security), a fear of being completely alone (desire for approval and love), or a fear of being helpless (desire for control).

The Three Types of Desire:

  • For security
  • For approval or love
  • For control

Desiring approval is wanting attention, acclaim, respect, admiration, etc. Anything you do desiring approval or attention, even charitable works, has no benefit for you or anyone else, but only creates karma. It is better to sit facing a wall than to perform charity with the hope of receiving something from it.

Wanting to be loved is also desiring attention and approval for the ego.

Desiring control can take the form of wanting to change someone, wishing you could change something, wanting to be right, and wishing you could change the past.

The good man should so conform his will to the divine will that he wills everything that God wills. And since God in a certain sense wills that I should have sinned, I should not wish to have committed no sins. And that is the true penitence. — Meister Eckhart (Vol. I, 1987)

Wanting to help others comes from a desire to control them. People will find the help they need when they are ready for it, and not a moment sooner. Don’t impose your will on others but focus instead on yourself.

A poor man (poor in self) should desire whatever is determined, or is, suffering for no one more than for himself. — Meister Eckhart

To release a desire, identify which type it is, ask yourself “Can I let go of this?” and then release it. For example, if you feel anxious about the future, ask yourself, “Can I let go of this desire for security?” Then exhale and let it go. Repeat until it’s gone.

Question: Which of the three desires is the desire to be superior to others? If nobody else knew of your superiority, would it matter to you?

Whatever you try to push away will torment you

At that time there was a heavenly being, a goddess, in Vimalakirti’s room who, seeing these great men and hearing them expound the Dharma, proceeded to make herself visible and, taking heavenly flowers, scattered them over the bodhisattvas and principal disciples. When the flowers touched the bodhisattvas, they all fell to the floor at once, but when they touched the principal disciples, they stuck to them and did not fall off. The disciples all tried to shake off the flowers through their supernatural powers, but they could not do so.

At that time the goddess said to Shariputra, “Why try to brush off the flowers?”

“Such flowers are not in accordance with the Dharma,” he replied. “That’s why I try to brush them off.”

The goddess said, “Don’t say these flowers are not in accordance with the Dharma. Why? Because the flowers make no such distinctions. You in your thinking have made up these distinctions, that’s all. If one who has left the household life to follow the Buddha’s Dharma makes such distinctions, that is not in accordance with the Dharma. One must be without distinctions to be in accordance with the Dharma Look at the bodhisattvas–the flowers do not stick to them because they have already cut off all thought of distinctions. Just as evil spirits are able to take advantage of a person who is beset by fear, so because you disciples are fearful of the cycle of birth and death, the senses of form, sound, smell, taste, and touch are able to take advantage of you. But once a person has done away with fear, then the five desires that arise from these senses will not be able to get at him. So long as one has not done away with all such entanglements, the flowers will stick to him. But they will not stick to someone who has eliminated them all.” (Watson, The Vimalakirti Sutra)

Eckhart Tolle: “How to Stop the Voice in the Head.” https://youtu.be/CfyRMHtwJkk

* * *

Lester Levenson on Pain and Pleasure

Pain is a prod to push us in the right direction. The right direction is to know that we are masters over body and mind. The more we look in the right direction, the more we find that which is right and true, and the less the pain.

There is more pain from holding on to the thought of pain than there is in the situation itself. If you let the world strike you, it will do so less cruelly than your own imagination.

Pain in the body is the sense of heightened awareness at a point. When a part of the body is being damaged, a mental alarm is turned on, called pain. If the mind answers the alarm fully, the pain turns off immediately, and the body mechanics go to work at that point and rapidly repair it.

Because of past unpleasant experiences, we have developed a fear of pain, and mentally try to flee from it, to escape it. This is not fully answering the alarm; it causes the pain to linger, and the body repair mechanics to slow down. If one knows this, one can eliminate pain and effect a rapid healing of the body. [Since it isn’t] easy to understand what “feeling the pain” means, try increasing the pain. This mentally places one in the pain and makes one feel it. On really feeling the pain it will immediately disappear and the body will rapidly heal.

Mental pain likewise can be eliminated by recognizing it and facing it. A painful memory, when faced fully and squarely, will resolve. Because of its unpleasantness, one tries to flee from it and escape it. This holds it in mind rather than resolves it, and thereby holds onto the pain.

Levenson, Lester. The Ultimate Truth. Sherman Oaks, CA, Lawrence Crane Enterprises, Inc., 1998.

The Buddha’s Discourse on the Not-self Characteristic

“Feeling, O monks, is not-self; if feeling were self, then feeling would not lead to affliction and it should obtain regarding feeling: ‘May my feeling be thus, may my feeling not be thus’. And indeed, O monks, since feeling is not-self, therefore feeling leads to affliction and it does not obtain regarding feeling: ‘May my feeling be thus, may my feeling not be thus.’

“What do you think of this, O monks? Is feeling permanent or impermanent?”
“Impermanent, O Lord.”
“Now, that which is impermanent, is it unsatisfactory or satisfactory?”
“Unsatisfactory, O Lord.”
“Now, that which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to regard that as: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?”
“Indeed, not that, O Lord.”

“Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever feeling, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that feeling must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to the Dharma, thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'”

Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: The Discourse on the Not-self Characteristic. Translated from the Pali by N.K.G. Mendis (2007) (https://accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.059.mend.html)

Meister Eckhart on confession

Confession is a method of letting go of negative feelings by allowing God or a priest to take them upon himself and absolve the confessor, leaving him or her in a more purified state. The act of confession involves acknowledging passions instead of repressing them, and encourages introspection regarding the source of the passions.

Whenever a man wishes to receive the body of our Lord, he may well approach without undue worry. But it is seemly and very profitable to confess first, even if one has no pangs of conscience, for the sake of the fruits of the sacrament of confession. But should a man have some compunction, and if on account of preoccupation he cannot go to confession, let him go to his God, confess himself guilty with true repentance, and be at peace until he has a chance to go to confession. And if during this the thought or pangs of conscience for his sins disappear, he may consider that God has also forgotten them. One should rather confess to God than to man, and it is a duty to take one’s confession to God seriously and accuse oneself strictly. Nor should a man who intends to go to the sacrament lightly abandon this [confession] and leave it aside for the sake of some outward penance, for it is a man’s intention in his works that is righteous, godly and good. (Walshe, Volume III, p. 44)

Lawrence Crane Enterprises (1998). The Abundance Course Release Workbook. Sherman Oaks, California. (Abundance-course-workbook)

Levenson, Lester (2003). No Attachments, No Aversions: The Autobiography of a Master. Sherman Oaks, California: Lawrence Crane Enterprises, Inc.

Levenson, Lester (1998). The Ultimate Truth. Sherman Oaks, Califonia: Lawrence Crane Enterprises, Inc.

Sedona Training Associates (2005) The Insider’s Guide to the Sedona Method. (download)

M. O’C. Walshe. Meister Eckhart: Sermons & Treatises Volume III. UK, Element Books Limited, 1987.