Notes on Letting Go by David R Hawkins

In the calendar year of 2015 I went through the following life experiences:

  • I started a new job. 
  • I changed teams at that new company and have scope of responsibility increase dramatically.
  • I met a nice beautiful lady. 
  • That nice beautiful lady and I moved in to a new home together.
  • I moved cross the country and left my beloved New York City for the canyons and sun of Los Angeles, California. 

Thinking about all of those events, I can say that while it wasn't too much, it was a lot of change to manage. What I experienced was that these changes disrupted my routines, put me outside of my comfort zone, and ultimately invoked me to ask whether existing routines and frameworks previously used to rule my life were obsolete. Where I once found solace in several habits and routines, I no longer found myself able to:

  • meditate regularly first thing in the morning
  • write frequently 
  • create podcast episodes and audio stories with project partners
  • schedule 'no email focus time' at work for the first two hours of the morning on the east coast and schedule meetings with west coast teammates in the afternoon
  • rely on the same friends to round up for dinner on Friday evening
  • use my subway commute in NYC to ease into the work day with music of my choice

I found myself on an airplane most weeks of the month than not, learning to work daily with a team on both coasts, and carving out space for two instead of one in my day.

Eventually I did make some very conscious decisions to ease the change like easing back on the blog and writing time in order to give myself more time to play and become part of a community in my new home, dedicate time to create new experiences with my girlfriend, and switch to receiving my news through podcasts in the morning instead of my phone so that I could reduce strain on my eyes knowing that the day would be long and include much more inflow than my previous job.

However, the change with the most impact has come from David R Hawkin's Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender, which my friend recently gave to me. I am not even finished with the book and I feel compelled to document my notes so that I can further cement my takeaways in my memory (very bad rule writing notes on a book you haven't finished. Doing it anyway!) 

Dr. Hawkins' book is not too dissimilar from what I learned in Vipassana meditation retreats, so I found the approach to be very familiar and easy to access. The first third of Letting Go is an exposition on the art of letting go and how to relieve oneself from the strain of negativity. Very similar to inspirational t-shirts and Instagram posts with nice fonts fitting for a Sunday morning with pour over coffee. But more interesting is the work Hawkins spends on diving into very specific emotions. He takes 30 - 50 pages to thoroughly describe apathy, depression, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, acceptance, love, and peace. These emotions construct a spectrum of emotions or mental mechanisms. In other words, these emotions are how we choose to handle experiences through "suppression, expression, and escape."

Some choice passages that don't need explanation:

The reason to let go of selfishness is not because of guilt. Not because it's a 'sin.' Not because it's 'wrong.' All such motivations come from lower consciousness and self-judgment. Rather, the reason to let go of selfishness is simply because it is impractical. It doesn't work. It's too costly. It consumes too much energy. It delays the accomplishment of our goals and the realization of our wants. Because of its very nature, the small self is the creator of guilt and its self perpetuator; that is, out of guilt we strive to accomplish and achieve success. Then, when we achieve success, we feel guilty because we have it. There is no winning of the guilt game. The only solution is to give it up, to let it go.

The general progression of the levels of consciousness, as we go from the lowest to the highest, is to move from havingness to doingness to beingness. At the lower levels of consciousness, it is what we have that counts. It is what we have that we want. It is what we have that we value. It is what we have that gives us our self-image of worth and position in the world.

Actually, the way something comes into our life is because we have chosen it. It was the result of our intention, or we made a decision for it. It has come into our life in spite of desire. The desiring was actually the obstacle to its achievement or acquisition. This is because desire literally means, 'Id o not have.' In other words, if we say that we desire something, we are saying that it isn't ours. When we say that it isn't ours, we put a psychic distance between ourselves and what we want. This distance becomes the obstacle that consumes energy.

In looking at fears, then, it is well to remember that Carl Jung saw this reservoir of the forbidden inside the shadow as a part of the collective unconscious. The term collective unconscious means that everybody has these thoughts and fantasies. There is nothing unique about any of us when it comes to the way we symbolize our emotions. Everybody secretly harbors the fear that they are dumb, ugly, unlovable, and a failure.

Glamorization is living at a fantasy level...because there was no reality in it, the world is constantly selling us dishonest, catering to our desire for that romantic, glamorized aspect. it promises to make us more important than we really are. Glamour at that level of dishonesty is a fake.

If we constantly follow this procedure, we will come to the awareness that everyone in our life is acting as a mirror. They are really reflecting back to us what we have failed to acknowledge within ourselves. They are forcing us to look at what needs to be addressed. What aspect of our smaller self needs to be relinquished? This means that we have to constantly let go of our pride in order to undo anger, so that we can be grateful for the continual opportunities of growth with which we are presented in the course of everyday experience.

While Letting Go has not actually led to any tangible changes in my day (yet), spending time with this book has been enough for me to 'jump the hurdle' from 2015's shakeup and allow me to land well into 2016. Whatever that means.


A List of Reasons Not To Do Something: Welcome to 2016

I thought a lot about whether or not to post this. But 2015 was a year of change for me, and as I’ve said before, finding time to write about my experiences helps me bridge that gap to conclusion. Last year I started a new job. I moved across the country to Los Angeles. I moved in with a person that I love. And now that I’m on the other side of 2015, I can look back and see that I was slow on my feet for those last few months of the year. 

Change is hard. Looking at some of my biggest changes, I see two tools that help bring familiarity in periods of change. The first is patience (I’m the first to say that I don’t have enough of this). The second is putting in active effort. So I am posting this now as an effort to declare (mostly to myself) that I am actively working to make a new home. 

I am going to start with one new change right here. 

In 2016, I am going to start regularly posting my blog on social media, contrary to what I’ve been doing the previous five years. That sounds dumber that it is. In fact, it’s still pretty dumb, unimportant, irrelevant for 99.9999999% of the world. But the decision is symbolic for me. 

When I started this blog five years ago, my goal was to use writing and the blog as a way to continue my efforts to synthesize content and information instead of merely consuming it. I felt deluged by posts on Facebook and the millions of articles sent to me through email. And I wanted to continue deriving my own conclusions and opinions, similar to how a college student defends hypotheses in a course essay. 

I still plan on using this space in the same manner. But I’m going to be more public about it. 

But like many I have a list of reasons why I don’t think I should be writing publicly. I very much think writing (even blogging) is a creative endeavor. And anytime someone undergoes a creative endeavor what they are doing is undergoing risk. There are always reasons not to do something. Have you ever found yourself holding back on a project or getting cold feet about a decision? I do. There is power in simply naming those fears, putting them down on paper, exposing them so that they can be taken down. 

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic espouses a very similar practice. In Gilbert’s book she reads her own list of fears. The list is built of reasons why one might reject big magic and inspiration even when it chooses to present itself. I was inspired enough to create my own list. And now I am going to share my list of reasons why not to do something, even if that something is as simple as posting regularly on a blog. 

  1. I’m afraid of what others will think of me and what I have to say.
  2. I’m afraid of other people thinking I have no credibility. 
  3. I’m afraid I don’t have enough credibility. 
  4. I’m afraid I have no talent. Or better put, I’m afraid that the gap between my taste and my talent is too wide. I can recognize good work or good art. But that doesn’t mean I can create something equally good myself. 
  5. I’m afraid I won’t be able to continue my day job and create or write on the side. 
  6. I’m afraid of leaving the very safe confines of my day job. 
  7. I’m afraid that I’ve neglected my blog for far too long that everything I put out will feel rusty and less than my best. 

Numbers 1 through 3 comprise probably 80% of the total weight of my fears. They will probably always be there. But this year, I will consciously act in the face of them. It will be a change for me. And change is hard.

But I’ve already thought about that.