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. – 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)

Dispassion

In Buddhism passions are called klesa (klesha); these are unwholesome states of mind such as elation and sadness, pride and shame, fear, anger, envy and frustration. Passions arise from attachments (desires) and aversions (fears), which are formed in infancy. As infants and young children we crave the love of our parents. We also crave the feeling of security of being loved, and we crave the ability to control our parents so that they will love us.

A child when it is frustrated can cry and throw a tantrum. As we grow older, however, we can’t even acknowledge our desires, and so we endlessly push away our feelings. But  ignoring feelings doesn’t get rid of them; rather, they accumulate. To release is to do the opposite of suppressing feelings: it is to allow them into our awareness. When we bring them up and observe them, they go away for good.

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

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, he discovered that he could bring these memories up into his awareness and let go of negative feelings without any effort, and he proceeded to do this systematically. In so doing, he faced the selfish desires that were at the root of his negative thoughts and feelings.

Lester’s method is being taught by a former student, Hale Dwoskin, under the name of the Sedona Method. Before he passed on in 2018, another student, Lawrence Crane, taught the Release Technique. Larry Crane gives a great demonstration of releasing, which you can download here: AboutTheReleaseTechnique (available at http://www.lesterlevenson.org/about-releasing.php). To understand how Lester learned to release you can read the post, Lester Levenson (1909-1994). A shorter version of Lester’s story can be found here: http://www.presentlove.com/lester-levenson/.

Negative feelings

We deal with negative feelings by expressing them, suppressing them, or trying to escape them through distractions. These coping mechanisms do not work. When we express negative feelings we usually regret it; when we try to suppress them, we only succeed in keeping them in our mind. The only way to permanently get rid of a negative feeling is to 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

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. Do not judge it as right or wrong. When thoughts arise, dismiss them and 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).

At the same time you are focusing on the feeling, release any tension in your body. Relax the muscles of the chest and abdomen and exhale. Relax the muscles in the pelvic region and any other place where there is tension.

Even the worst feelings don’t last very long: they pass away. This doesn’t mean that you are finished, however: you must keep bringing up the feeling over and over until it is has been completely released. When one event has been resolved, other repressed feelings will come up, since you have now opened the pressure-release valve. But it’s best to be as systematic as you can.

Lester saw 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 kept going until he had let go of the entire chain, even if it took days of releasing.

As you get freer, your resistance to allowing the remaining garbage to come up gets less, until some day, all the fear of dying will come up and run out on its own impetus. But you have to open the door, press the button, ask it to come up. Because every piece of suppressed feeling is under pressure to expend itself. So the higher you go, the less you’re resisting the remaining suppressed energy, and the more it will come up. But when it starts coming up, please let it go. (https://youtu.be/O-NugWwJKSI?t=732)

One reason we repress feelings is because they are childish and we are ashamed of them. We have an adult in our mind called the superego, which tells us that we shouldn’t have certain feelings, and so we push away desire, anger, envy, sadness, shame, etc. But everyone also has an id, and the id is a child, so don’t be ashamed about having these feelings. Instead, seek them out and release them all. Then, using the same method, release your feeling of embarrassment for having childish feelings.

The only growth there is, is letting go of the ego. So to use this concept of happiness versus misery, every time we are unhappy, if we just assume that this has its source in the ego, we may then look for the source of the misery. And when we discover it we automatically let it go. The only reason why we don’t let go of misery, or can’t, is because we don’t see the cause of it. When anyone seizes the the cause of the misery, he lets it go, naturally.

So, if we hold onto that concept that all misery has its source in the ego, we can use it as a method of growth. Every time we are unhappy, we look at it, but with the desire to let it go.

Now, looking at it is not so easy, because we must learn how to look at it. When we are unhappy, we should look within for a frustrated desire—this is the source of all misery. We had a desire, and it’s selfish. We wanted something, we couldn’t get it, and therefore we’re unhappy. So, every time we are unhappy, we should sit with it, look at it, see its source in the ego. And when you see the source of it, when you see that desire that’s being frustrated, you’ll automatically let go of it. And by doing so, you’re letting go of a bit of ego. Continue this and you’ll get full realization; you’ll eliminate the ego. – Lester Levenson (“Your Path to Happiness,” June 7, 1966, https://youtu.be/Q3m7I8C6zZQ)

 

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 and thereby holds on to the pain. – Lester Levenson

If a feeling attached to a memory is too painful, use EMDR and bilateral tapping to release it. You can do it yourself or find someone trained in the technique to help you. (See EMDR and bilateral tapping)

The following is the releasing method without EMDR or bilateral tapping:

• Recall the event; allow the feeling to enter your awareness, and experience it as if you were a young child, with no one to tell you how you should feel.
• Relax any tension in your body and exhale.
• Maintaining your physical relaxation, keep focusing on the feeling until it passes away.
• Recall the event for an instant, but only to bring up the feeling.
• 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, because the feeling was the only thing making it important. In the end you will release all of your memories, good and bad. You will still have access to all of the events of your life, but they will seem as if they happened to someone else; they will not have the same importance they once had.

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. When we are not acknowledged or appreciated we usually feel hurt or angry. There may be envy. Then we feel shame for feeling envious, hurt or angry. Because of the shame, we repress our feelings to the point that we may not even be aware of them. In order to accept and love every person exactly as he or she is, we must release all envy, hurt, anger, and shame.

• Think of the person and try to identify the feeling. Look for envy or anger; don’t push them away!
• 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.
• Repeat the process until you can think of the person without the negative feeling.

Once you have let go of all negative feelings about yourself that the person arouses in you, you can replace them with love. There are three stages of loving people. The lowest is to love them in spite of their faults. The next stage is to love them while accepting their faults. The highest love of all is to love them because they are the way that they are. Ask yourself,

“Can I love this person in spite of his or her faults?”
“Can I love this person while accepting his or her faults?”
“Can I love this person because he is the way he is?” or “because she is the way she is?”

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. One doesn’t hold a grudge against a child for acting like a child, nor can you will a child to grow up faster. Everyone will grow up in the end, but it won’t be in this lifetime. Always remain focused on your own growth, never on anyone else. – Inscribed on the Believing Mind

Releasing fears

AboutTheReleaseTechnique

• Bring up the thought and allow the fear or anxiety to enter your awareness. Imagine yourself as a young child, with no one to tell you that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
• Relax any tension in your body and exhale.
• Maintaining your physical relaxation, remain focused on the fear until it passes away.
• Return to the thought, but only long enough to bring up the fear or anxiety.
• Repeat this process until there is no longer any fear attached to the thought.

Releasing desires and fears (attachments and aversions)

Desire comes from attachment, and fear comes from aversion. However, attachment and aversion are two sides of the same coin. At their root is a feeling that we lack, that we are incomplete, that we are separate. From this comes a craving for a state of not lacking, for completeness, for unity. When something threatens our ability to obtain something we lack, we feel fear and anger. 

What we feel that we lack is love. The craving for love expresses itself as a desire for approval, a desire for security, or a desire for control. The reason I say that our basic want or desire is for love is that when people are given the choice between love and security, they usually choose love. Likewise, when people are given the choice between love and control, they choose love. Sometimes it appears that people choose wealth and power over love, but look at the wealthy and powerful–they always have families, friends, a dog or a cat.

The Three Types of Desire:

• For approval or love
• For security
• For control

At the root of a desire for approval is a craving for the love of our parent. We forever 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 our parent. We seek security by by working hard to accumulate wealth; by purchasing, growing and eating food; by purchasing and hoarding things; by purchasing insurance; and by worrying about our health.

At the root of the desire for control is frustration at not being able to control our parents and get the love that we crave. Desiring control can take the form of wanting to change someone, wanting to be right, wishing we could change a situation in the present, and wishing we could change the past. If you wish you could change the past, know that every event and decision was planned before you were even born: you never had any control over your life. As Meister Eckhart said,

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)

To release a desire, identify the feeling of wanting love that is at the root of it and focus on that feeling only–not the circumstances. Use the circumstances only to bring up 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 or anger at not being able to change it. Imagine that you are a young child: you feel only an intense desire to control your world and you feel frustrated!
• Relax any tension in the body and exhale.
• Maintaining your physical relaxation, focus on the feeling of frustration or anger until it passes away.
• Recall the situation just long enough to bring up the feeling.
• Repeat this process until there is no longer any frustration attached to the thought of the situation.

You will be miserable until you release the three wants. – Lester

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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Dwoskin, Hale and Levenson, Lester (2001). Happiness is Free. Sedona, Arizona: Sedona Training Associates.

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.