A year ago as the New Year began, I meditated on the intention I wanted to set for the year ahead. The word that rose to the surface was this: unleash. I had no idea why that word was coming to me or exactly what role it would play in the year, but I knew it would be significant.
A month later when I attended a weekend silent retreat, I carried that word with me and bathed myself in it during the entire 36 hours of silence. Something was building in me. I knew it was time to let go, to unleash in some way. Three months later I turned in my resignation to the school system, a job I had for 20 years. This was not a quick decision. It was something that had been simmering in me for many years, but that word helped me to know that now was the time.
Leashes are meant to keep us safe, to protect us from harm, to keep us from straying too far. But the truth is they also restrict us, limit us, hold us back. It was time to say thank you to my leash for trying to protect me for all those years, and then take it off.
My job was not the leash. At one time the job I had was exactly what I was being called to do, but my calling was shifting. It was time for me to move on, to do something different. My leash had many names: self-doubt, fear of disappointing others, need for security, the status quo, among others. I had been loosening that collar for some time but hadn’t found the courage to rip it off, until then.
Richard Rohr states that “all great spirituality is about letting go”. I agree. On my contemplative journey I have added some amazing tools and practices that have been extremely helpful, but the great work has been through subtracting, not adding. Letting go of all the layers, the chains, the leashes that have held me back from my truest self, that is where the real magic is.
Down at the center of who we are, lies everything we need to live the life we are purposed to live, but we have be able to reach that center. We have to unleash to be free.
What leash do you need to remove this year? What holds you back from your truest self? What stops you from being free? If we are really honest with ourselves, we will find that most of what holds us back is something that we are telling ourselves, a hurdle that we have put in our own way.
I am not discounting the idea that there are real challenges and difficulties that each of us face, but they do not need to stop us from honoring who we truly are, even if it may be a slow process, even if we must get creative in how we live that out.
I know I still have leashes around my neck that need to be dealt with one by one over time, but each time I remove one, I feel myself get lighter and lighter, freer and freer.
In Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, she tells us not to look back with regret on our past (our lives of fear and leashes), but to be careful that we are not “permanently hesitating on the verge of courage” either. If you have been hesitating, I pray this is the year you unleash.