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Wisdom, Knowing When to Pull In and When to Let Go

Published on 08/10/16
by randy


I’ve just come in from one of my more challenging windsurf sessions. Winds varied from 5-35mph and it was hard to figure out what rig to use. I first went out on a large sail and had to sheet out (let go) wind in the sail. It was difficult to safely sail in the gusts, but worked great in the lulls. I then rigged down to a small sail and loved it in the gusts and bobbed trying to hold my balance in the lulls. I finally came in and rigged my middle sail to meet the conditions and couldn’t help but reflect upon Goldilocks and the Three Bears. So much of finding balance is listening deeply to discover the middle way. The sail I finally went out on was not a compromise. It offered me the best combination of power in the radically changing conditions. With careful listening, it was the safest choice and the most powerful choice for playing the balance of pulling in and sheeting out. It is amazing to see how much wind a large sail can handle when you sheet out. One time I did the Gorge Blowout racing in the Columbia River. We started in light winds and sailed several miles through narrow corridors where the wind was blowing 40 mph. To compete you needed to handle a mid-sized sail through parts of the river where people were on sails half your size. It took tremendous finesse and balance in knowing when to let go and when to pull in.

I’ve been windsurfing since 1981 and learned to kite board in 2004. The kite board bar took ‘letting go’ to a whole new level. With windsurfing, when you feel a gust you first pull in and then let go if the wind is too powerful. In kiteboarding you pull in to steer the kite and when a gust hits you let go and feel the kite load up. I broke several lines as my instructor yelled at me to stop pulling in. I had to unlearn a habit that was entrenched in my mind and body. I had to learn how to listen to a new piece of equipment as it played the elements. In both sports, the real power in my connection to the equipment comes from just below the navel. Both sports incorporate a harness that trains your body/mind to your ‘center’. One’s endurance and range of use are determined by sensitivity to this. With these sports, you slowly learn that you have brains in your feet that are being forever educated to the subtleties of pressure on a single surface and balanced performance that’s found in your middle.

I was recently at a blues jam discussing politics with the host during one of our breaks. He claimed that most Americans hold life positions that are somewhere in the middle. He believed our stagnation in government and apathy in public participation was due to a focus upon extreme positions. Many politicians speak of ‘reaching across the isle’, ‘finding a compromise’, etc. They don’t seem to recognize the power of ‘the middle’. When we can truly understand that there is a ‘better’ solution, that there is a ‘best’ sail to pick for the conditions, that their is a chair, bed, bowel of porridge that fits, we can get to the position of ‘win/win’. It requires an open, deeper listening that wants to explore what comes up. It means ‘letting go our position of being right’. It requires the wisdom to know when to pull in and when to let go, forever understanding that there’s something bigger at work in finding the best solution.

When we try to use force to push our sense of ‘rightness’ we make a mess of things. There’s a lot of rhetoric coming from some political factions calling for America to exert force in it’s relations with other nations. David Hawkins has written a lot about Power vs. Force and so much of our real power on the planet has come from the wisdom of knowing when to pull in and when to let go. Can you imagine all the lives that could have been saved had our leaders better known when to ‘let go’ during the Vietnam War or the Iraq War? There’s a delicate balance that requires dialogue and the wisdom to find a balance of decision rather than a stalemate. So what does ‘power’ really look like as opposed to ‘force’?

We find our power when we ask how we can turn our issue over to what is bigger than ‘me’, but still stay connected to me. We take on an attitude not of gain, but of depth, love and respect. It takes a radical humility to ‘let go’, to ease up on the ego. We stop competing to be better than another and just aim to be better than we were. The key to real power is to treat yourself as if you’ve already arrived to where you want to be. With this comes the aim to let go being right and embrace being kind. We listen deeply and let go thoughts that weaken us. With force, we naturally create a counterforce that weakens us. Power brings grace and strengthens us. Force is loud and aggressive. Power is silent. Force is always moving against something while power doesn’t need to move against. Force continually needs to be fed while power self sustains. Force makes demands while power is at peace. Force is constantly consuming and then destroys. Power is at peace. Force takes energy away while power gives life energy. Force associates with judgment while power drives from compassion and makes us feel positive. Force is polarizing, feeding on conflict. Power unifies, feeding awareness to our interconnection. Force needs an enemy and carries a high cost. Power has no cost. Force requires ‘proof’ and is argumentative. Power deals with intangibles. Force associates with sickness and what’s wrong. Power associates with health and gratitude.

Power comes from letting go our notion of being right or our grasping for some fixed knowledge. When we open to that which is bigger than us, to the divine mystery, we’re not setting one single circumstance that would betray us. Our greatest challenge is to stabilize ourselves in an unstable environment. When we shift from ‘our mind’ to the mind of that which is bigger than us (magnanimous mind) we breath out the problem of fear that’s been fed from our ego. We can then take in a breath of power, not weakness. When we openly explore “Why” we can’t help but touch the silence and divine mystery of the unknown. When we explore the “What” we can’t help but go deeper into understanding. When we’re aware enough to witness our restless mind we’re ready to see the tremendous benefit of pause, to say we’re willing to stop and breath every time we’re out of peace. It’s this deeper listening, a faith and hope, that informs us of the wisdom to pull in or let go. It’s where we find our balance in turbulent conditions. It comes from practice and the very core of being.

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