Four Rules for Living, #4, Don’t Be Attached to the Outcome

The anthropologist and spiritual teacher, Angeles Arrien, is credited with these four rules for living:  show up, pay attention, tell the truth, don’t be attached to the outcome.

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Not one of these “Four Rules for Living” is easy.  Simple maybe, easy enough to understand (we think we understand, anyway), but not so easy to actually live.  If we are honest, and if we are looking to live a life based on our deepest self, we know these rules are not easy.  We find them challenging.  We know them to be a daily practice, a hard practice of letting go.  We know we do not choose to live our truest Self – instead, we fall into that Self, by letting go of ego.  Hard practice.  Hard – and life-giving, ultimately.

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Don’t be attached to the outcome.

Now, this is a tough one! “Don’t be attached to the outcome.” Do your part, speak your truth –  and let it go. In other words, do your part and trust. In other words, do your part and watch what happens. In other words, do your part.

This matter of “letting go” is so often misunderstood. We do what we can. Sometimes what we choose to do will have noticeable results, and sometimes what we choose to do won’t make a significant ripple. What we “let go” of is our ego-involvement. “Let go” of controlling the outcome. Let go of your ego-attachment to what happens.

Fall into it.  Don’t swim against the tide of your ego.  Fall into it.  And what you will discover is this:  when you fall, you fall into your Self, your True Self, the Holy.

So much of life energy has been wasted – and destructive – by forcing itself on others.  Tribes force themselves on other tribes, nations on other nations.  We are critical of Russia’s military action in Syria; Russia is critical of the military action of the U.S. in Syria.  We see this waste of life energy in our own lives, in the lives of others, and we see this waste of life energy in the world.  And we know this:  life is not honored, truth is not honored, life is not nurtured by force.  And yet – we are all complicit in this waste of energy.  Not one of us is better than another.  We all act destructively, even doing so in the name of love, or honor, or nation, or religion.

If we’ve each done our work, the work of showing up, paying attention, and telling the truth, the possibility is that our work will succeed, although maybe not in the way we’ve imagined.

So often when we have ego-attachment to our actions and choices, we look for particular results. We think we’re in control, so if things go as planned, they’ll go the way we expect them to go. In that case, we also think we know what is the best way for things to work out.  We are strategists, and life does not allow for strategists!  To believe so is a kind of insanity!

Trust is the word here. Trust as a tree trusts the earth it stands on. Trust as if your life depends on trust. Trust as if you understand that all the control in the world, all the care-ful-ness in the world, cannot assure the results you want. Trust that there is Something or Someone or Some-Other out there that is in charge of the results.  And that Something or Someone or Some-Other is not only “out there,” but animating you, bringing you to life – as you let go of your attachment.

This is the hardest work in the world.  More than ever, our world needs  people who have grown up, who have done their real work – which is the work to become adult.  And that work is the work of letting go, of “don’t be attached to the outcome.”

Trust as a tree trusts the earth it stands on. “Don’t be attached to the outcome.”

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