Open Sermon written by Proteus, posted upon request by Alexandre Orion
It is currently autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere. During one of my walks recently, I found myself looking up at the trees watching the leaves fall, and something very special happened. When I watched, I did not find myself interpreting the leaves as simply “falling off of the trees”. What I saw were the trees looking down on me, and showing me something very important. They were teaching me about letting go. It was as if they were all practicing, before my eyes, something that we all read about here in our doctrine, and talk about amongst ourselves. Watching them all let go of their leaves became a witnessing of a non-verbal dialogue coming from them. “It’s time to let go now”, they seemed to say. They had many leaves to let go of, but they didn’t lose them all at once. Instead, it was gradual - one leaf at a time - a patient process and one that was never forced. They will spend a whole winter living without something that is not only very beautiful in appearance, but something that they use to get most of the energy they want and need from the sun. And yet, during the next spring and summer, they always get it back, with an opportunity to more fully enjoy and appreciate it. But every season of fall, they will always have to let go of it again. And every season of fall, they inevitably do. I found myself reflecting on their lesson. Tt is one that should never be overlooked or taken for granted.
After a lot of BS'ing myself over several years, I’ve realized I have a lot of leaves to let go of myself. While I get to look very pretty with mine, and get to have a lot of nourishment because of them, I hold a lot of fear due to clinging to them which, while natural for any human to have, it is a part of my journey to learn to let go of them when my season comes. My leaves, along with their benefits, can also weigh me down with burdens that include expectations both from/to myself as well as from other people, the past, what other people think about me (in various aspects of my life/image), the illusionary importance of having money and nice possessions, the delusional concept of being “intelligent” and “clever”, of being popular or important, of needing emotional/social/sexual gratification, and many other resulting effects of the ego. A great deal of my delusions are a product of the effects of social conditioning from western mainstream society. A great many of us are under this influence, and as Jedi, it is part of our journey to learn how to process and graduate it (or at least the aspects of it that we let enslave us). We may shed the leaves but always contain that which makes us grow them back every time.
Dedicated Buddhist monks have a rather extremely isolated way of life. Some of them spend their whole lives away from society, among a particular community owning only utter bare essentials, giving up their personal attachments, meditating and learning about their true nature in as pure of an approach as possible. But I don’t feel it is necessary to spend a whole life doing this. A Jedi learns moderation, and one’s direction in life may be an example of what one ought to moderate mindfully… but I think to myself, what is the best way to truly understand and use this “moderation”, if not by first experiencing one extreme, for at least some time, and then the other? I, for example, might (hypothetically) spend a good part of my life living deeply enrooted in the web of mainstream society, with its capitalism, sex appeal, corporate greed, government manipulation, etc. This lifestyle on its own leaves a great deal to be desired though (ironically speaking considering where this is going). So, I may then eventually wish to spend a temporary amount of time living in a rather opposite way. Where the first extreme gave many privileges it also lacked many important things. Through the opposite way of living (isolated from society for a time, having left behind all or most of all my possessions and expectations, living with only the bare essentials, and under a completely different philosophy), I may come to thoroughly enjoy and find very deep meaning and discovery about myself that I would have never learned or appreciated from the former lifestyle. Eventually, I would then insert myself back into society with a thoroughly revised perception of what is important and what I let influence me. The point is the reason I would choose this extreme in the first place: to learn how to let go of all the attachments that I let myself become a slave to before. I will have experienced my winter, shedded my leaves, and in turn, learned to appreciate the leaves that I grow back the next spring.
There has been a point in my life that I considered putting myself through a personal winter, separating myself from mainstream society for a period of time, to go out and live with an isolated group of people who do not use modern technology and live off of the land. This is because I have felt that I have gotten caught up toward one extreme of the spectrum of living (being modern mainstream society), and felt burdened by its expectations and traditions, while not having the ability I wish to have: to more honestly appreciate the privileges I have been granted by it. I’m often afraid to make choices in life for fear of losing the roof over my head, or losing my computer or internet connection, or ending up being judged by others as a bad father who doesn’t deserve his kid for one reason or another. I feel that if I could let go of these fears by actually living life for some time in a state of not having those privileges, and learning how to thrive without the technology, without the grocery stores, without my pride being stroked by people, then when I come back into normal society, I will be able to better appreciate these things without having to fear losing them - I will not care so critically whether or not I have them. I will have already let go of my attachment to them and can be more free to act in courage among it all. I still don’t know if this would be necessary or not, but it was simply something that I have contemplated. It sounds nice in mind while at the same time, I know it would be a serious challenge, albeit a possibly necessary one.
On the other hand, maybe I don’t have to do those particular things mentioned above just to have a personal winter and shed my leaves. The thing is, I don’t know what alternatives there might be to teach me the same thing. Maybe my winter does not have to happen all at once. Those trees did demonstrate that leaves do not have to shed all at once anyway. One leaf at a time will do until every old leaf I once flaunted has passed, and new ones grow in their place. I think the point of the lesson, though, is not so much that I need to shed THESE particular leaves, as much as it is that I learn to let myself shed them at all and when the time is right. During my walk, I could tell every tree supported each other through every winter. And I know that I’m not the only tree in this forest that has to do this. I know I’m not alone. I've shedded leaves before, and I know I’ll shed them again. As a Jedi, with the support of my friends and family, I just hope to become better at letting it happen so that I have more opportunities to thrive without them, and therefore more opportunities to appreciate them each time new ones grow back.
- Written by G. E. Marrs (Proteus)
- Category: Sermons
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Open Sermon written by Proteus, posted upon request by Alexandre Orion