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 (Discourse on the Characteristics of Things Devoid of Self-Nature)

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

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, hope and disappointment.” Joy, fear, 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, 1957, p. 78)

When feelings arise, wisdom is blocked; when thoughts wander, the Dharma departs. – Li T’ung-hsuan (639-734)

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 pride, shame, fear, anger, envy and frustration. These feelings arise from attachments (desires) and aversions (fears), which themselves arise from a fear of not surviving. Feelings come from the id.

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 negative emotions that were repressed in the subconscious governed our behavior and made us ill. Faced with an existential crisis, Lester discovered that he could intentionally bring these emotions up into his awareness and let go of them with no effort; he then proceeded to do this very systematically. In so doing, he discovered the desires and fears that were at the root of his negative feelings, which made his releasing even more effective.

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 several books of Lester’s teachings, also taught the technique; he passed away in 2018.

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

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. If greed, anger or ignorance arise, rely on the Teaching to gaze at the place whence they arise. . . . If there is arising of the mind, then investigate and, relying on the Teaching, clean house! – Bodhidharma

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.

Question: “How does one quickly attain the Way?” Answer: “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 focuses on it and causes it to vanish.” – Bodhidharma

How to Release

The first step is choosing to let go of the unwanted feeling. The second step is to welcome the feeling into your conscious awareness and concentrate on it until it is gone. The third step is to identify the desire or fear that is at the root of the feeling.

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

If you are reluctant to choose to let go of a feeling, ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Could I let go of it? (Is it in the realm of possibility?)
2. Would I let go of it? (Will I ever decide to do it?)
3. When?

You can also assign a number between one and ten to a feeling and try to lower the number.

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 caused it. Focus only on the feeling.

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 would 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 the feeling away. We push away anger at the way we are treated, sadness because we aren’t loved, shame or feeling inadequate, envy, etc. Everyone has an id, and the id is a child. Don’t be ashamed about having any feeling; instead, acknowledge and release them all. The procedure is the same for releasing all feelings — and that includes shame for having these feelings!

Dreams

Your dreams tell you about feelings and memories buried deep in your unconscious. Once you begin releasing, dreams will become vivid and will sometimes wake you up. Immediately begin releasing the feeling while the impression is strong in your mind.

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

  • 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.

Releasing negative feelings about a person

When we have a negative feelings towards someone it is usually because that person has made us feel bad about ourselves. Dislike, disapproval and anger often hide a feeling of hurt, envy, and shame. We feel hurt when someone rejects us, does not acknowledge us, or has a low opinion of us. We feel shame for feeling envious, hurt or angry. We are so accustomed to repressing these feelings that we may not even be aware that we are envious or angry. We may know that we are angry, but not know that we are hurt. In order to accept, love, and finally stop thinking about the person as separate from you, 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 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.
  • Release your resistance to loving the person exactly as she is. You can ask: “Can I love this person for who he or she is?” or: “Can I allow myself to love him?” or: “Can I forget myself and love him or her?”

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.

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 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 [that you are afraid of] 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. The root of attachments and aversions is a fear of not surviving. This is expressed as a desire for security, a desire for approval and love, or a desire for control.

The Three Types of Desire:

  • For security
  • For approval or love
  • For control

To release a desire, first identify what is at the root of it. Here is an example of letting go of a desire to change a situation:

  • Think of the situation; allow yourself to feel only the desire to change it. Again, imagine that you are a very young child: you feel only an intense desire to control your world.
  • Hold on to the feeling until it passes away.
  • Return to the thought just long enough to bring up the desire to change it.
  • Repeat this process until there is no longer any desire attached to the thought of the situation.

To desire approval is to want attention, recognition, fame, respect, admiration, etc. Anything you do for approval or attention, even charitable works, brings no benefit to you or anyone else, but only feed the ego. To want to be loved is to desire attention and approval for the ego.

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.

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. Others will find answers when they decide to seek answers, just as you did. Don’t impose your will on others but focus only on yourself.

A poor man (a man with no ego) should desire whatever is destined to be, or is, suffering for no one more than for himself. – Meister Eckhart

End of Letting Go of the Ego

* * *

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 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)

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)

Suzuki, D. T. (1957). Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist. London and New York: Routledge Classics. https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/d-t-suzuki-mysticism-christian-and-buddhist.pdf

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