Monday, October 12, 2009

Hanging On and Letting Go: Some Wise Advice from a Whimsical Guest

Please welcome my dear friend, Mari Gayatri Stein. She's a remarkable human being—full of love, light, and laughter. Always laughter!

I "met" Mari when my husband and I were publishing Healing Garden Journal. I was looking for a cartoonist, someone who could lend a bit of whimsy to our life journeys. Since she lived in Oregon, we corresponded by e-mail. Her first e-mails were hysterical. They were full of loving "woofs" and "wags." And between the doggie language, were huge waves of love sent through the ethers. She certainly piqued my curiosity. I later learned Mari was a "dog person," at one point mommying 6 border collies.
Until Mari, I'd never experienced love through the airwaves. How was it even possible that words, heartfully penned in an e-mail, could blast open your heart? Well, it did mine. She modeled for me how to live with unconditional friendliness, openheartedness, and spaciousness—so there is room in your heart for everyone.

Mari is one of the "Holy Women" featured in Your Truest Self. She became a powerful mentor for me and many others. She represents the twelfth Transformational Truth: "I Open My Heart and Celebrate Our Oneness." I am honored to have her here with me today. I hope you enjoy this short story she's penned about hanging on and letting go ... And enjoy her drawings, too!

Be sure to make a comment, as there is a CD Giveaway happenin' here! See details below.


Yesterday, while I was swimming my daily laps in the warm delicious water, I spotted a butterfly floating and flapping in my path. My heart picked up speed as I slowed my approach. I watched this magical creature glimmering yellow against the aqua liquid. With the attention of someone preparing to defuse a bomb, I cupped my hands and ever so gently managed to lift her up without damaging her wings. (I’ve tried this in the past only to end up dunking the fragile little being.) Tenderly and in slow motion, I set the tremulous body on the brown tile at the pool’s edge. (Fortunately, we were on the shallow end.) Perilously she perched there, her gauzy lemon-colored wings looked ephemeral against the brick tile. One mindless deep breath and she would tumble back into the drink. A breeze or a bird fluttering by innocently would bring her gossamery demise.

Time was suspended. I stood still, barely breathing. My lower body was ensconced in the warm womb of water; my shoulders shuddered in the thin spring sunlight. I positioned my hands underneath her. If she fell, I would be poised for the rescue, but this time I would deposit her further from danger — maybe on a bamboo leaf or a blade of zebra grass where her quivering wings would be fully exposed to the healing air. I considered trying to ease her up a little higher to stabilize her position, but knew that interference would not be to her advantage. Her wing might tear as a result of my good intentions. I have learned that trying to help is only beneficial when right effort is balanced with discrimination, patience and wise restraint, however awkward it may feel at the time. So I just stood there watching her hang on for life, while she fluttered her papery wings so subtly they seemed to brush the air with kisses. I shifted my feet and shivered but held the safety net of my hands steady.

Ten minutes passed, and again I had to resist the urge to reposition her, this time with the use of a dry bamboo leaf I spied within grasp. A short debate, and I decided in this case, less was more. I would leave it to nature. So with a pang of guilt, I resumed my laps, moving away from her before immersing.

On my return, I reluctantly lifted my head to see if she was back in the water or had flown away. I surveyed the water’s surface, submerged to my eyeballs like a crocodile to improve my line of vision. No lemon-colored wings in sight. She was free. Hurrah! A little victory bien sur. A warm swell of satisfaction flowed through me as I cut across the water picking up speed and kicking with abandon.
I was thinking: Even though letting go is the flavor of the month and the fashionable thing to do, sometimes in order to survive, we just have to hang on. The trick is to hang on while you let your wings delicately flutter and caress the breeze. Another reminder that I must continue to commit to life on a daily basis, and at the same time be secure enough in my faith to ease my grip, again and again.

Mari and I welcome your thoughts ...

Make a comment on today's post and you will be entered into a drawing to win her new CD, "Toward Wholeness." 60-minutes of guided meditation, relaxation tecniques, breathing exercises, positive energy, serene music. Read a review by Yoga Journal. 

Learn more about Mari at 

Mari Gayatri Stein's insightful words and drawings have delighted readers for over twenty years. Her whimsical illustrations and articles have been published in numerous collaborative book efforts, magazines, newspapers and journals. Seven of her highly acclaimed books were both written and illustrated by Mari. Her latest books, Unleashing Your Inner Dog: Your Best Friend's Guide to Life and The Buddha Smiles are stories about love, spirit and heart, doused with humor, irony and hope. Most recently she provided the illustrations for the children's book, Buddy's Candle, written by Dr. Bernie Siegel. Mari lives with her husband and their two canine companions on an organic farm and bamboo sanctuary in southern Oregon. She has a new line of whimsical greeting cards from Gypsy Dog Press and is currently working on a mystical memoir. Look for her new children's book Puddle Moon, soon to be released.


Angela Recada said...

Ah! Thank you Jan and Mari. This is exactly what I need to focus on right now.

Whether it is my growing children, my routine everyday activities, my thoughts, the people in my life - I need to be aware of how I'm hanging on and whether it is time to let go. Lately I've been letting go of many things, and finding that it's OK. The world doesn't end, after all. In fact, more room is made for new people, ideas and adventures to enter my life.

I love the story of the butterfly. I've been especially aware of butterflies this year, for some reason.

Blessings and love to you both.

Julie G said...

Mari, I love the story of the butterfly, welcome to this space.

When to hang on and when to let go is difficult to discern sometimes. The butterfly can teach me something here; hanging on for survival is one thing but I'm finding lately that letting go is actually giving me more life. I have to let go of toxic relationships, let go of control, let go of striving for perfection, let go of "do-it-all for everyone" attitude in order to get my life back. Once I surrender to the Spirit and let the wind take me, I feel such a freedom and lightheartedness.
Thank you, Jan for introducing Mari here.
Always Thinking Brown

Jan said...

Mari, welcome! So glad you are here with us today. Your story of the butterfly is so touching, with sich dear reminders of how we can live with greater ease. Love it--and the drawings--as always.

'Tis true, when we get to this stage of our lives and children are ready to move it, we are offered so many wonderful invitations to let go—on many levels. The statement that jumps out at me here is realizing "that the world doesn't end." Letting go, ironically, doesn't always bring an end; it can offer such powerful new beginnings!
May you be peaceful today...

Thinking Brown,
Your comment is chock full of all kinds of "letting go" and I celebrate that you are acknowledging that. Also that you recognize how doing so can affirm your truest self! Blessings on this journey...

Mari said...
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Mari said...

Dear Radiant Selves....

Angela, Julie and Divine Jan

Balance is the organizing principle for happiness, and creating spaciousness when overflow is in Nature's plan. At least I have found that to be so. I appreciate all the sweet responses and the joining of kindred spirits and hearts.

A sense of humor provides the juice to sustain one's loving focus in the face of life's ferocity and impermanence. Loving intentions, forgiveness and taking great care with all I think, say and do helps to put me in the limelight of awareness and to stay awake. Divine Mother will reveal the path if I am teachable and out of my own way and willing to risk being authentic and saying "Oops, sorry." when I make a mistake. Taking pleasure in the moment and being kind is a recipe for joy this very day.

Good advice from The Buddha Smiles.... "Better to be the one who smiled, than the one who didn't smile back."

Blessings and woofs to all. Play well. May butterflies abound.


Nadia - Happy Lotus said...

Hi Mari and Jan,

Thank you so much for sharing your talent and wisdom with all of us. This story comes at a perfect time.

Learning when to hold on and when to let go can be so challenging at times. I have noticed that it is easy to discern between the two when it comes to things that I really do not care that much about or that I am really attached to in my life.

That said, I think we somehow know when we need to let go. The signs usually present themselves. Sounds illogical but I think on an inner level (via intuition) we just know when to hold and when to let go.

And one last thing, I love the cartoon about love transcending form. That was so perfect.

Happy Monday to you both! :)

Anonymous said...

Beautifully illustrated concept. I experienced that this morning with my partner. He suffers from deep bouts of depression from time to time. They come completely unexpected and I confess I don't understand it. I've found the best thing I can do for him is to just be the hands, gently cupped to catch him if he should fall, while keeping myself from being pulled under with him. It's a delicate balance, offering love & support, without succumbing to the temptation to rescue.

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twila (whimsical mystic) said...

I loved this simple story! I find it hard not to interfere sometimes with others personal growth. I will see so clearly what they need to do!! If only I could find my own way so easily. :)

"Better to be the one who smiled, than the one who didn't smile back." Perfect.

Mari said...

Blessings to Nadia and Carolynn

Thanks for writing.

For me holding on has become obvious because my body tells me. My throat tightens, my chest contracts, my stomach feels queasy and tentacles of fear run up my torso. Whenever I encounter resistance in my body or mind or reluctance to face up to the moment, day, person or task at hand, it is time to, "Let Go Mari!" The good news is, like beginning again, it is a grace to wake up, let go, start over, take a breath, look at something I love. Often my dog's eyes fill the bill.

With depression and I have had my fair share of melancholia, I think often it is a signal for me to surrender and let the feelings wash over me. I appreciate it when loved ones just let me know I am loved, not judged, supported and that hugs are always available. Uplifting distractions and exercise help but never when someone tries to fix me. When someone I love is in the blue zone, I'm just spaciously there and also must really focus on my life that day.

I even made up a greeting card (see website) that reads: "I'm so depressed I could eat my nose" and then some humorous art and replies. Please look, as you know a picture saves words.

Blessings of love to all


Jan said...

I am just loving your responses so far. Your words ALWAYS ease my heart. Of course, that is why you have been such a dear mentor and friend to me over the years. :-) I love your honesty and how you address such touching issues, tender emotions. And how you touch yourself back with true compassion. You inspire me today.

It does seem as if this is all about our deep listening, isn't it. Then honoring what we hear...

You would love Mari's book, The
Buddha Smiles. It is very 'you."

Oh, the tenderness with which you write is amazing. I would say your partner is one lucky soul...

Whimsical Mystic,
So glad that Mari's thoughts touched your heart. We all have many lessons to learn, don't we?

She-Who-Lives-With-Ease (and who is tired today from much weekend travel, so am being kind to myself. A nap was good and now the teapot is whistling. :-)

Kel said...

". . . sometimes in order to survive, we just have to hang on."

thankyou for this

i have been very good at letting go over the past few years, but right now it feels like there is not much left to hang on to . . .

it is a delicate balance
just like the wings of a butterfly

Cheryl Wright said...


Thank you for this timely and inspiring post and for hosting Mari today.

I believe that "letting go" can be the most liberating thing to do, not only for the thing or person involved but even more so for ourselves.

I often frustrate myself with thoughts about letting go - if, when and how much I should.

Thank you Mari for opening my eyes to the fact that hanging on can be beneficial too.

It is all a matter of balance like so many other life issues.

Mari said...

Hello Kel and Twila,

Getting still and letting myself be a channel is the best way for me to see what is the push and what is the pull. So easy to live like a Pushme Pullyu. Bless Hugh Lofting.
When I teach Yoga and meditation, I truly feel I am a vessel for the divine voice. When I draw and laugh or write, it is the same. When I listen to a troubled friend and give from my heart, it frees me from the bondage of self.

Sometimes I write a letter to God (or Dog or Divine Mother, name your own, light, energy of love, etc.) and then empty myself, turn the page over and write a letter back. All that wisdom prevails. The wisdom that is innate to us all, that which unifies and heals the world.

Love to all and blessings and laughs.

Jan said...

Oh, it is such a delicate balance. I sometimes feel like a tightrope walker in the circus. :-) Letting go is marvelous to a point, and then there is REAL letting go into groundlessness, which is quite different. I think that is the letting go of which you speak? It feels so very different....May you walk gently and with ease!

Discernment is the word that comes to mind after reading your comments. When to trusting that our inner wisdom is shining through.

I love your idea of writing a letter. That does help us let go, get clear, doesn't it? Journaling often does that for me. Makes me very aware of how I am clinging...
Lovely comments again. I bow to your wisdom. xo

Blissdweller said...

Oh my, I love this story and I thought I was the only one who rescued small bugs and insects :-).
The love shines through, the message is wonderful. I love the drawings too! Jan, thank you for sharing Mari with us, and Mari thank you for this lovely story.

Lisa (Mommy Mystic) said...

I was so glad to see Mari here, the chapter of her interview in Your Truest Self was one of my surprise since I love both Buddhism and dogs!!...but I really love this story, and also Mari's comment on keeping a sense of humor...I think this is so easily lost in 'spiritual-talk' sometimes...and the last sentence made me think of spiritual practice - of committing on a daily basis to the things/practices that nurture/grow us, but also to let go of a fixation, to the point or worrying, about them - to have faith in the big picture too...

Anonymous said...

A lovely story. In true synchronicity I had a similar experience yesterday – I found one of those really delicate spiders with a tiny body and very long legs and it was halfway down the plughole. I wondered how I would ever pick it up without damaging it, but found a way using a piece of tissue. I set it free in the garage and as I held it gently in my hands I was full of awe and wonder at this tiny miracle of life.
Perhaps another element to this story is that there is often help at hand, even when we are at our most helpless. We live in a benign Universe - it is my firm belief.

Mari said...

Dear lovely spirits

isn't this great fun? hearts meet in the ethers? Cheryl, Blissdweller, Lisa, Stoneweaver, beautiful Jan,

Deep down I do believe in a benevolent world. Even when I feel discouraged and full of doubt and existential loneliness, I observe myself "showing up" and "being of service" in this world and realize my faith is strong. Often I think we confuse our feelings with how things really are. Truth roots us and we eventually thrive. It just doesn't always look pretty or graceful in the making. That's why the moment and each individual kindness matter so much. Our culture puts endless pressure on us in ways contrary to nature -- succeed/perform/stay young/stay thin/do more,etc. We have to retrain and reframe our body, mind, spirit Self to dwell in lovingkindness. Whenever I feel lazy about contributing my piece, I remember that each thought, word and action counts, that my happiness is yours and yours mine. Our grief is one. Our suffering is one. No time out. No rehearsals, but lots of retakes.

Let us all do something really silly today and be abandoned. I'd love to hear about it. Just for today, shelve all the "I should.... if only... but if..." statements and moments and live it up. Twirl in the rain. Let chocolate melt in your mouth. Tell someone they matter. Listen with your whole heart to a clerk. Rescue a wasp. Offer yourself compassion. Snuggle your dog/cat/kid/ferret..... et al

May all beings, in all realms, in all forms be free of pain and suffering, may we all be at peace.

Hugs to all.

Jan said...

You are so welcome. What a gentle spirit you must have to rescue a spider! I am afraid that is one creature I am not too gentle with, though I do apologize before I turn their little light out. Bad karma, I know. Just sharing this makes me gulp and wonder how I can move them onward without coming into contact. Hmmmm.... I do love most creatures but not snakes, spiders, or cockroaches. Aversion. :-)

I thought you would be happy to see Mari, here. Isn't she just grand! I love your idea of an intention to grow something and to let go of something each day. Lately, I notice a pattern/compulsion, etc. and my practice is to shift into neutral about it, just like downshifting a car. It is working. :-) Blessings!

A sweet story, for sure. You are much more enlightened than I in these matters - and kind! And I love your take on help and helplessness. I do like to believe there are angels and compassionate beings (helpers) all around us!

More beautiful thoughts from your heart today. I sink into them and they bring me home. Thank you. Yes, Let's all do something silly today! What shall we do? I am thinking of gathering fallen colorful leaves today like I did as a child...xoxoxo

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

I read the story ... and I smiled as I read. I love a well-told story, one where I feel that I'm part of it, seeing the whispery wings, looking across the water's surface like a crocodile ... thank you for the gift of your evocative writing, Mari! The message and the writing combine to draw me in, to make me think further, smiling throughout. Then I read the comments and responses - and I smiled some more. It's like finding your Halloween stash - oh! a chocolate bar! Oh! malted milk balls! I kept finding things that made me smile. Thank you all for spreading my face with sunshine!

My takeaway is the part about deciding when enough is enough, knowing when the precarious balance has been struck and letting go of any intent to further one's own ego by reaching forward to do more. Lately, my mantra has been "Stay on your own mat, Rose", and Mari's story reminds me to do that. Thank you, Mari! Thank you, Jan! Namaste

Joy said...

"to let your wings delicately flutter while you caress the breeze"--so eloquently written! A "trick" I am currently working on--trying to learn the fine balance between knowing when to let go, when it is necessary to hang on, for myself. This entire essay was exactly what I needed to hear because I've recently had to let go of a lot and yes, many fabulous doors were opened, even already, but I still grieve the loss even as I celebrate the new joy. When I apply this to mothering my children I think it is such a delicate balance that I surely hope I "get right"--I didn't have good role models, and I certainly want them to be as faith filled, as grounded, as exuberant as I am--and more:)
Thank you for your insightful words--I will print your essay and refer to it often.

Rebecca said...

My post is coming a bit late--just reading this Wednesday morning. How timely for me personally at this moment in my little corner of the world and how beautiful for everyone everywhere. Thank you.
Rebecca - Dream Dancer

Jan said...

So glad to hear you found treasures within Mari's story. What I take from YOUR sharing is an invitation to stay on my mat too. :-) (Especially when drama calls) This IS a powerful mantra. My mind often thinks in pictures and this is one I will hold onto too. May we both sit well...Thank you!

This IS a delicate balance and I hear your powerful intention to hold yourself and your children in that tender place. A time of great healing for you and I support your faithfulness to it. Your learnings are amazing. :-)

So happy to know that Mari's story touched you...Be well!

My heart is full of all the wonderful things you have shared with us here. Gasho, my friend, I bow to your wisdom and compassionate heart. Love, Love...

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story and truly whimsical art.