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Wise Words
Our authors and book editors offer these choice written selections for your contemplative reading and inspiration.

Arjuna Ardagh: Leap Before You Look


Insight practice

During the Second World War, there was a street in London where certain families had not spoken to each other for decades. They had clung obsessively to resentments of transgressions long past, from one generation to the next. As London was mercilessly bombarded during the blitz, these families were forced to share the same air raid shelter. Faced with the same mortal threat, it took no time at all for them to forget their grievances. Friendships were struck up. People who had not spoken for years began to support each other, help each other, swap jokes, and laugh together.

So much of what we think hinders us is actually optional, necessary only in the mind. If your life depended on it, you could let it go.

This practice is not intended to put you under pressure to let things go. That only creates resistance. The exercise is simply to inquire and evaluate, in a relaxed way, if it is possible to let it go. This discrimination, between what is obligatory and what is optional, is liberation.

Letting go does not happen primarily in the mind—it happens in the body. You do not need to decide to let go; you need only ask yourself if it is possible. In the recognition of this possibility, something happens in the body: a deep sigh, a muscle spasm, or a release of tension you might not have even known was there, and what had seemed to be a prison becomes a choice again. There is no need to know where a belief comes from, or to try to change it in any way, or to understand anything at all. It is enough to feel into the essence of any contraction. That alone will release tremendous energy. That very energy becomes awakening and connects us to what is real.

Would I Still Exist?

Take some time to reflect:
Who have you defined yourself to be?
You can write your answers on paper,
Or practice with a friend, and ask your friend to make
notes for you.
I’m a plumber. I’m intelligent. I’m wealthy. I’m uneducated.
I’m a liberal.

Now go back down the list, and for each of these statements,
Ask yourself, “If I stopped defining myself in this way, would I
still exist?”
Or ask your friend to go back down the list with you.
“If I were no longer a plumber, would I still exist?”
“If I no longer thought of myself as a father, would I still be here?”
“If I no longer defined myself as intelligent, would I still exist?”
Take your time to work through all the labels you have placed upon yourself,
And find out if any of them can really define you or contain you.
When all labels have been cast aside, discover what remains.

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