Allowing, Letting be
I had a phase of baking! I’m not generally inclined towards cooking and baking but I have my phases.
I needed to have caramelized sugar for one of my baking experiments. What was the experiment I fail to recall but I remember the instructions given by a professional. In order to get caramelized sugar, all you had to do was keep the brown sugar on a low flame and wait without stirring or doing anything more. To let the sugar and heat do it’s job and you would get the caramelized sugar.
As I kept the sugar on the flame, waiting and observing, I had this urge to stir it with a spoon. You know, to just check on it – if it needed to spread out so it would caramelize better. Just this bit. I again had this urge wondering if the `miracle’ of caramelization would indeed take place as promised.
This is what is meant by allowing and letting be when we practice mindfulness and deep listening. This is what students in our Mindfulness and Presence programs struggle with. This initial trust that if you let things be they in some way fall and organize in greater alignment with the natural laws of life. There may be the support required sometimes but less often than we imagine.
The other day I was facilitating a mindfulness session for a group of counselors. One of the participants shared that as she started she found herself being pulled by a number of different thoughts about things that needed to be done. But as she let the thoughts be and let her attention rest on the breath, neither pushing away the thoughts nor following them, she found that her thoughts too naturally sorted themselves into more coherency while she was present to the whole experience. Caramelizing Sugar!
So many instances in parenting, when we feel we must do something, say something to our children especially when we don’t agree or when there is a meltdown. But simply sitting with our attuned presence can be what is most needed. The crying spell, the argument propels us to stir the conversation somewhere useful. It is, in those moments of simply remembering to step back and allow for that messiness while being present and available. Resisting any temptation to `stir the sugar’.
So often it shows up in therapy. In one of the supervision sessions I was holding, the therapist was describing how he really wanted change to take place for the client. We all hold that intention dearly, that’s why we sign up to become therapists. But we also want that change to happen for the client because sometimes something what the client is saying is pulling up an unhealed dynamic within ourselves, perhaps a similar emotion or an unmet need or perhaps what something in us so badly wanted in our early history that the client’s process is mirroring for us. That’s when we feel the `force of this impulse’ to step in or rescue the client. As we wait with our urges and impulses, we mostly find that the client finds their way or the way you need to support unfolds more naturally in response to the client’s process. So this pausing, waiting, allowing, letting be is vital as the first step in allowing things to unfold as they might. Then we can respond in ways that are more aligned with what is truly needed in that moment. Mostly we find we don’t need to `do’ anything.
Did the sugar caramelize? Yes it did! Every time we feel this pull, this urge, this mad impulse to act, we remember the secret to getting sugar caramelized is to allow and let be.