Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s teaching was summed up to me in two words, “Letting go.”
When Joe first encouraged me to join the group discussions, it took a bit to convince me. The thought of sitting inside a library on a Saturday afternoon, when I could be out in the mountains or traveling around Korea somewhere, didn’t appeal to me.
In the end, Joe played the “there’s a cute girl there I think you’ll like” card and I agreed to check it out. Incidentally, “the cute girl” didn’t show up that week, or the next, but I didn’t really care. The content of the group was enough. Besides, even better than meeting a cute girl, I got to meet Marcus, Chong Go Sunim, and Carl!
At first, I was a little naïve about the teaching. “Let go… Okay, I can do that! There are many things in my life I’ve let of.” But wait, why am I still thinking about them? Why do I still want to replace that hat I lost on the bus? Why do I still miss those photos I accidentally deleted three years ago? Why am I still upset by what people said about me in high school? I realized letting go wasn’t just giving something away, or distracting myself with something new. And it wasn’t that easy either!
Sometimes, letting go can be like pealing the price tag off of something and as you go to toss it, you notice it’s stuck to your thumb. You flick at it with your index but instead of flying toward the trash like you anticipated, now it’s stuck to your finger nail. You keep at it, as it travels from finger to finger, right hand to left, until finally, success! It’s gone.
When I was young, I remember playing in the woods behind the house with my neighbors. We used to enjoy searching for little bubbles of sap on the trunks of trees and popping them. It would only take a few before my hands were a sticky mess, picking up every tiny bit of dirt I touched in the forest. Our attachments are like this. We cover our ourselves in the sap of our desires and get covered in dirt. It sometimes took a couple of days worth of scrubbing to get my hands clean. Learning to let go is taking much longer. Eventually, I learned to keep my hands clean. Maybe I can learn to do the same with my mind!