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 (Anatta-lakkhana Sutta)

When there is no self, there is peace. When there is me and mine then there is no peace. Worry, anxiety, what are they? They are all from me and mine. When you let go, then there is cessation of me and mine. There is peace, calm, clarity, dispassion, emptiness. – Ajahn Sumedho

Lose the mind, stop the thought, by ridding yourself of the motivator of all the thoughts, called feelings. No feelings and you’re there. And when you so decide to let go of your feelings, it’s easy. It’s an accretion that takes tremendous effort to hold on to. Become effortless right now and you’re free. Let go of all your effort, every ounce of it, of trying to be limited, of trying to be what you are not. It’s simple, you are it, and it’s easy, it takes no effort. Every ounce of effort you use is trying to be a limited body. – Lester Levenson (Get Off the Rollercoaster)

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, hope and disappointment.” Joy, fear, hope and disappointment are all intervening layers, all shells. As long as you stick to them and they to you, you shall not see God. – Meister Eckhart (Suzuki, 1957, p. 78)

756. As when a garment is cleansed of its dirt, or when gold is separated from its impurities, they are not destroyed but remain as they are; so is the self freed from its defilements. – The Lankavatara Sutra (p. 359)

Whatever confronts you, don’t let it get the better of you. Learn to put a stop to thoughts–whenever anything appears, shine your light on it. – Lin-Chi

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 are unwholesome states of mind, or feelings, such as pride and shame, fear and anger, envy and frustration. These feelings arise from attachments (desires) and aversions (fears), which themselves arise from a fear of not being loved.

Feelings come from the id. Even though the things we desire as adults seem different from the things we craved as infants, the feelings are the same. A young child craves love. It craves the feeling of security that being loved brings. It craves the ability to make its parents love it, which means it craves control over its parents. When a toddler feels frustrated it can throw a tantrum, and then it feels better. As we grow older we continue to crave love, security and control. But when our desires are frustrated, we can’t throw a tantrum. We are embarrassed by both the desire and the frustration, and so we endlessly push away, or repress, our feelings. But they don’t go away: they accumulate. To release is to do the opposite. It is to intentionally bring up repressed feelings and observe them: in so doing they go away on their own.

Question: How does one quickly attain the Way?
Answer: The mind being the substance of the Way, one quickly attains the Way. When the practitioner realizes that delusion has arisen, then, relying on the Teaching, he gazes at it and causes it to vanish. – Bodhidharma (Method for Quieting the Mind)

The Release Technique

Resolve, v.
1. to deal with successfully : clear up (resolve doubts, resolve a conflict)
2. to find an answer to
3. to make clear or understandable
4. to progress from dissonance to consonance
5. to dissolve, melt

Lester Levenson developed the Release Technique based on his own enlightenment experience. From his four years of Freudian psychoanalysis, he knew that memories buried deep in the subconscious govern our thoughts and behavior and make us ill. Faced with an existential crisis, Lester discovered that he could bring these memories up into his awareness and let go of negative feelings effortlessly; he then proceeded to do this systematically. In so doing, he discovered the attachments and aversions that were at the root of his negative thoughts and feelings. This discovery enabled him to let go of tendencies (anusaya), also known as fetters (samyojana). (See Glossary of Buddhist terms for the lists).

Lester’s method is being taught by a former student, Hale Dwoskin, under the name of the Sedona Method. Another student, Lawrence Crane, also taught the method, which he called the Release Technique: he passed away in 2018. Because Hale tends to complicate releasing, I prefer Larry Crane’s demonstration of it: AboutTheReleaseTechnique (available at http://www.lesterlevenson.org/about-releasing.php). To understand how Lester learned to release you should read the post, Lester Levenson (1909-1994), or Crane’s biography of Lester here or here: http://www.presentlove.com/lester-levenson/.

Negative feelings

We deal with negative feelings by expressing them, suppressing them, or trying to escape them. These coping mechanisms do not work. When we express negative feelings we usually regret it; when we try to push them away, we only succeed in keeping them in our mind. The only way to permanently get rid of a negative feeling is to allow it to arise and face it; it will then resolve all by itself.

Even though the mind has entered delusion, do not push delusion away. Instead, when something arises from the mind, rely on the Dharma to gaze at the place from which it arises. If the mind discriminates, rely on the Dharma to gaze at the place of the discrimination. Whether greed, anger or ignorance arise, rely on the Dharma to gaze at the place from which they arise. To see that there is no place from which these can arise is to cultivate the Way. If there is anything arising from the mind, then investigate it, and relying on the Dharma, clean house! – Bodhidharma (Method for Quieting the Mind)

How to Release

The first step is to decide to let go of the unwanted feeling. The second step is to welcome the feeling into your awareness and observe it until it is gone. The third step is to identify the desire or fear that is at the root of the feeling. You may be able to identify the desire or fear before you release the feeling; sometimes, however, you have to allow yourself to feel one emotion, such as anger, before you realize that there is another one beneath the anger, such as the pain of feeling unloved.

• Decide to let go
• Welcome the feeling
• Identify the desire or fear

To release, you allow the feeling to come up without resisting it, since it is the resistance that keeps it in your mind. Hold it there and stay focused on it until it passes away. Do not judge it as right or wrong. Do not think about the person or situation that triggered it: focus on the feeling only.

Don’t turn away from the pain. Face it. Feel it fully. Feel it–don’t create a script in your mind around it. Give all your attention to the feeling, not to the person, event, or situation that seems to have caused it.

Since it is impossible to get away from the feeling, the only possibility of change is to move into it; otherwise nothing will shift. So give your compete attention to what you feel, and refrain from mentally labeling it. As you go into the feeling, be intensely alert.

At first, it may seem like a dark and terrifying place, and when the urge to turn away from it comes, observe it but don’t act on it. Keep putting your attention on the pain, keep feeling the grief, the fear, the dread the loneliness, whatever it is. (Eckhart Tolle, 1999, p. 135).

Keep bringing up the feeling over and over until you can’t find it anymore. When it has resolved, 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. Lester saw traumatic events as links in a chain. He would grab hold of one event, release the feeling, then move on to the next event in the chain. He did not stop until he had let go of the entire chain, even if it took days of releasing.

The reason we repress feelings is because they are childish and we are ashamed to acknowledge them. We have an adult in our mind called the superego, which tells us that we shouldn’t feel the way we do, so we push away “bad thoughts.” We push away anger, envy, sadness, shame, etc. Everyone has an id, and the id is a child. Don’t be ashamed about having any feeling; instead, seek them out and release them all. The procedure is the same for all feelings–and that includes shame for having these feelings!

Lester: You must consciously drop the thought or consciously cast out the tendency or motivation. One reason why we don’t like to dig them up is that we don’t like to see how awful we are. But there’s nothing good or bad; there’s just moving in the right direction or the wrong direction. When we move in the wrong direction, we move toward more limitation and that’s really [all that] so-called bad [is]. But everything is experiencing. And when we don’t judge ourselves we move much faster.

Q: When we don’t judge ourselves?

Lester: Right. When we don’t judge ourselves. Whatever comes up, [say] “So what?” To get this far in your limitations, you have run the gamut of everything bad. It’ll come up, but it’s from past experiencing. (Realization through dropping the unconscious)

Dreams

The reason why we have dreams is because our psyche is attempting to release some of our repressed desires and fears. Therefore we can use our dreams tell us about memories buried deep in the unconscious. Once you begin releasing, your dreams will become vivid and will often wake you up. Immediately release the feeling while the impression is strong in your mind. Consider the context afterwards, because the mind often confuses things, and the feeling may not be related to the person or situation in the dream. An anonymous person may say something meaningful to you; remember that it is the words which matter, not who spoke the words.

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

If a feeling attached to a memory is too painful, use EMDR and bilateral tapping on yourself to release it, or get someone to help you with it. (See EMDR and bilateral tapping)

The following is the releasing method without the sensory stimulation:

• Recall the memory; allow the feeling to enter your awareness, and experience it as if you were a very young child, with no one to tell you how you should feel.
• Keep focusing on the feeling until it passes away.
• Go back to the memory just long enough to bring up the feeling again.
• Repeat this process until there is no longer any feeling attached to the memory.

Once an emotion has been detached from a memory, the memory itself will fade away. In the end you will release all of your memories, good and bad, because memories are no more than the labels with which the mind organizes the storage of negative feelings.

Releasing negative feelings about a person

When we have a negative feelings towards someone it is often because that person has made us feel bad about ourselves. Our feeling of dislike, disapproval and anger often hide a feeling of hurt, envy, or shame. We feel hurt and angry when we are not appreciated. We feel shame for feeling envious, hurt or angry. We are so accustomed to repressing these feelings that we may not even be aware of how hurt or angry we really are. In order to accept and love each person exactly as he or she is, you must release envy, hurt, anger and shame.

• Think of the person and try to identify the feeling.
• Allow the feeling to enter your awareness. Imagine yourself as a very young child, with no one to tell you that your feeling is wrong.
• Remain focused on the feeling until it passes away.
• Think of the person again just long enough to bring up the feeling again.
• Repeat the process until you can think of the person without the negative feeling.

Once you have let go of the negative feeling, you can replace it with love. There are three stages of loving someone you have disliked. First, you love him in spite of his faults. Second, you love him unconditionally, no matter how he behaves. Third, you love him for his faults, seeing the faults themselves as an essential part of the harmonious whole that is this world.

• “Can I love this person in spite of her faults?”
• “Can I love this person unconditionally?”
• “Can I love this person for her faults?”

Most people are just young children in adult bodies. They do wrong not because they are bad, but because they don’t know any better. You don’t hold a grudge against a toddler for acting like a toddler, and you can’t make a toddler grow up sooner. That person will grow over the course of many lifetimes, according to laws you can’t begin to comprehend. – Inscribed on the Believing Mind

Releasing fears

• Recall the frightening thought: allow the fear to enter your awareness. Imagine yourself as a very young child, with no one to tell you there’s nothing to be afraid of.
• Keep focusing on the fear until it passes away.
• Go back to the thought just long enough to bring up the fear again.
• Repeat this process until there is no longer any fear attached to the thought.

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 when he looked at them he became frightened. Deluded people are like this. The brush of mind and the senses paints Razor Mountains and Sword Forests, and yet the mind and the senses fear them. If you are fearless in mind, then delusions will wiped off. – 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. At the root of attachments and aversions is a primal craving for love, which is actually a craving for God. We don’t really fear death, but what death signifies, which is that we are not loved. An infant given love but not adequate nutrition has a better chance of survival than one which is fed but never held.

The desire for love expresses itself in three ways: as a desire for approval, for security, or for control. At the root of a desire for approval is a craving for the love of one’s parent. We seek approval by grasping for attention, affection, recognition, respect, admiration.

At the root of the desire for security is a fear of not being loved by one’s parent. We seek security by grasping for food, material possessions, and relationships which can help us materially.

At the root of the desire for control is frustration at not being able to control one’s parent and get the love that one craves.

The Three Types of Desire:

• For approval or love
• For security
• For control

To release a desire, identify the feeling that is at the root of it and focus on that feeling only, not the circumstances. The circumstances are only the trigger for the feeling. The following is an example of releasing a desire to change a situation:

• Think of the situation; allow yourself to feel only your frustration at not being able to change it. Again, imagine that you are a very young child: you feel only an intense desire to control your world (your parents) and you feel immensely frustrated!
• Hold on to the feeling of frustration until it passes away.
• Return to the thought just long enough to bring up the feeling of frustration.
• Repeat this process until there is no longer any frustration attached to the thought of the situation.

The desire for 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. If you wish you could change the past, consider the fact that everything that has happened to you was absolutely necessary. If one single decision or event were missing, you would not have arrived where you are right now–at the gate of enlightenment.

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 true penitence. – Meister Eckhart (Vol. I, 1987)

Wanting to help others comes from a desire to control them. You need to understand that the world is no more than a school, and karma is the only teacher. If you learn the lessons given you, you will move up a grade in your next life; and if you don’t, you will repeat a grade. So only learn, and never attempt to instruct others or to alter the events which karma has brought about, because beings only learn from the consequences of their own decisions.

End of Letting Go of the Ego

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Whatever thoughts you try to push away will stick to 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)

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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 (1998). The Ultimate Truth. Sherman Oaks, California: Lawrence Crane Enterprises, Inc.

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The Buddha’s Discourse on the Characteristics of Things Devoid of Self-Nature

“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 Characteristics. Translated from the Pali by N.K.G. Mendis (2007) (https://accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.059.mend.html)

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Meister Eckhart on confession

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 his occupations prevent him from going 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 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)

The greater we ourselves feel our sin to be, the more ready God is to forgive that sin and to enter the soul to drive it out; for everyone is most eager to get rid of what hurts him most. So, the more and the greater the sins, the more immeasurably glad and the quicker God is to forgive them, the more so since they are more hateful to Him. And then, when this divine repentance lifts itself up to God, all sins have vanished in God’s abyss more quickly than I can blink an eye, and they are completely destroyed as if they had never been, provided the repentance is complete. (Walshe 2009, “The Talks of Instruction,” p. 501)

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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.

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

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

Tolle, Eckhart (1999). Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations and Exercises from The Power of NOW. Novato, California: New World Library.