Let It Be, by Tracy Cochran

Oda Krohg, "By the Oslofjord," 1886 (Detail)

Oda Krohg, By the Oslofjord, 1886

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Paul McCartney wrote this famous song about his own mother Mary, who died when he was just 14 years old. Something deep inside us knows what we need in times of trouble. It turns out this is rarely ever good stern fatherly advice or even friendly advice. In our hours of darkness, broken heartedness, and sheer exhaustion it turns out that we don’t need very many words at all. What we need is a nonjudgmental and caring presence that lets it all be. What we need is a kind attention that can embrace the whole of what we are, including our pain and anger and confusion. An attention like a hug.

“Darling, I am here for you.” The great Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn composed this “mantra of true presence.” Please consider saying this to yourself. Look in the mirror at your face in the morning and say it. Say it late at night when you can’t sleep. Say it all the time. Be extravagant in offering yourself the gift of kind attention. Let yourself be. Let yourself dare to know you are acceptable and welcome in this life, just as you are.

“Darling, I am here for you.” Saying such a statement to ourselves can seem outrageously silly until we try it. Then it can seem revolutionary. Think of all the beings you have pinned your hopes on and maybe even tortured trying to get them to give you this kind, accepting attention. And here it is, whenever you need it. I have had great, life-changing experiences in my life. Yet the slow-motion revelation has been realizing that we can invite the healing power of presence into our lives, and in the simplest, most down to earth way.

It starts with giving up the war with what is. Just for a moment, give up the thinking and scheming and even in the midst of all that mental obsessing come home to the awareness of the present moment, home to the awareness of the body, bruised and tired as it may feel from all that effort and neglect. Let it be. This can bring light to dark places.

This is can seem a huge paradox. Our minds and bodies are very limited, and deep down we know this. Our cognition and perceptions have been hammered by conditioning. Even in the midst of our frantic mental posturing, we can physically feel how we spin and twist things. But sometimes we can stop for a moment, give up all that and open, trusting that we don’t have to solve everything, that more will be revealed.

An English friend once told me that he prefers the phrase “let it be” to “let it go” because letting go can feel like too much doing, inviting the ego to take over, ending the sense of being with life.  I immediately loved the phrase. Not just because my friend actually sounded a bit like Paul McCartney when he said it, but because it conveys a gentle movement of availability, allowing, acceptance.  If there is to be an answer to the mystery of our lives, if there is to be healing of the heartbreak and soothing of the trouble, it starts and ends here. We invite in the mothering attention. We let it be.

I once also heard the Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn say that understanding is really acceptance, and acceptance is love.  I’ve held this statement like an open question for a long time and I believe it to be true. Acceptance is not resignation or passivity—it is the opposite of weakness.  It is the quietly courageous movement of allowing what is to be what it is, understanding that what will be will be, and that more will be revealed.

It turns out that the greatest wisdom and the greatest love is expressed in small moments and movements, not in big sword-brandishing gestures. It does not require straining beyond our limited ourselves, just the opposite. It involves daring to silently say “Darling, I am here for you.” And “Let it be.” ♦

Tracy Cochran will be giving a talk on Letting Go and Loss followed by a meditation session at The Rubin Museum of Art, New York as part of their ongoing lunchtime series on Wednesday, May 18th between 1:00 – 1:45 PM. To register or to purchase tickets, click here.