Holding on and letting go

photo©Peter Engberg

When is the right moment to let go?

By Peter Engberg

In Zen archery, there is not only the goal outside yourself. There is also an inner goal that is just as important: Knowing when to let go, not only of the arrow, but also of your attempts to control, define and explain – and in doing that, you begin to discover a self deeper than your mind.

It’s an ancient exercise that involves much more than it seems. As you begin to realise this, the journey itself becomes the goal. I lived in a Zen temple in Japan for several years. In addition to Zen meditation I also trained Zen archery. To let the body become an instrument for something else than your mind. Which means that you cannot try to let go. Either it happens or it doesn’t.

Once the Zen student asked: “How will I know when to let go?”
The Zen master replied: “ Look at the branch in the winter when it’s heavy with snow. When does the branch let go? “

At give slip. foto©Peter Engberg

About letting go in the “real” world

Many years ago, before I made the film “NOW- A MOMENT ON EARTH” I read an article in National Geographic about a small desert tribe in Mali, West Africa, called the Dogon tribe who almost never had been in contact with the modern world. It said that one man from the tribe had met a man from the modern world, the journalist of the article. I decided that one day I must go there and make a film about this tribe.

Many years passed, and when I was about to begin the “NOW” film, I remembered the Dogon story and decided to go there to do research. But – several people warned me that if you want to make a film in Mali, you must:

1) get an official permission from the government.

2) deposit the cash value of the film equipment (a large amount) to the customs, because they’re worried that you could sell it and

3) you must have a person from the local film institute to follow you around.

My intuition told me that things probably would work out without doing all these things, and so I left for Mali, with an overwhelming sense of magic in my heart. At that time, tourism had not reached Mali. It had once been a French protectorate, and quite a few people still spoke French. I took off without contacting anyone on beforehand. When I landed in the capital Bamako and came out in the arrivals hall, a black woman was standing there with a knowing, familiar look in her eyes and a radiant smile. I went over to her and told her about my film plans and also about the 3 conditions I had been told – you must have permission from the government, you must deposit a large amount of cash with the customs, and someone from the film institute must follow you around.

She looked at me with an even bigger smile and said: “Pas de problème” – no problem. “My father works for the President of Mali. My uncle is the chief of customs. My brother is the head of the film institute. “

To let go and feel how resources manifest in front of your eyes. What brought a person with those contacts to be precisely at that spot at that time? What made me have confidence that something would manifest when I arrived? Were they connected?

We went in to her uncle at the Customs office at the airport, right next door. He was in fact the chief of customs. Within 5 minutes she had arranged that when when the film crew would arrive some weeks later we wouldn’t have to deposit a huge amount of cash.

We were bringing professional film equipment worth over €150.000 which obviously one doesn’t have in cash. She then called her father and I got a personal permission from the president of Mali to make the film. Then she called her brother, and in no time arranged that we wouldn’t need someone from the film institute to follow us around, on the contrary – we were welcome to borrow any equipment we might need.

As if all this wasn’t enough she says: “I work for the aid organisation Care, and if you need a translator, a driver, a guide and a Landrover you can come with me. I’m heading north into the Sahara in the direction of the place where the Dogon tribe lives. I’m leaving now.”

Time stopped and again I just was filled with that sense that this was meant to happen. The sense of what we call synchronicity filled the air. I had arrived.

Alone in the Sahara

We drove through the vast desert, through endless stretches of sand and rocks, and two days later, we arrived in the area where the Dogon people live at the foot of a steep cliff. I could see the incredible villages far down below and I recognised them from the photos in National Geographic. I told her that I would have to climb down the cliff and we exchanged a deep farewell. I thanked her for all her help and she drove off.

There I was – alone, in the Sahara, with very few supplies, but with a lot of something else: Trust in life on a cellular level, not theoretical – the same trust that had brought me there in the first place.

There is a very small margin for error in the Sahara. I had entered an enormous silence, which wasn’t the absence of sound, but the presence of the universe. 360 degrees of desert. No people anywhere, only a thundering silence.

I sat down to meditate and arrive. About an hour later I saw a silhouette in the far distance, heading straight towards me. It was a black man with white hair, dressed in indigo-coloured Dogon tribal dress. He looked like a chief. He came right up to me, at 20 cm distance, which is the normal talking distance in Mali, and said: “Bonjour” (as Mali had been a French protectorate). We looked into each others’ eyes for a long time, in total silence. I told him in French that I had come to make a film about the Dogon tribe and that the only thing I knew was that many years earlier I had read an article in National Geographic about this remote tribe which almost never had been in contact with the modern world, and that 15 years earlier, a man from the tribe had met the journalist from National Geographic.

I told him I did not speak Dogon language and that I did not know how they would respond to a white man with a camera. Not to mention that I wasn’t familiar with the geography of the place. I only remembered the photos in National Geographic that were burned into my memory and that something had brought me here.

We stood there, facing each other in the endless silence. He looked deeper into my eyes.
“Pas de problème” he said, no problem. A huge silence followed.
Then, quietly he said: “C’était moi’ – ‘It was me.”

Of all the people on Earth – the man who was standing in front of me now was the same man who had met the journalist from National Geographic 15 years earlier. What had brought us together in the middle of the Sahara?

For the next 10 days, he showed me around the different Dogon villages, and introduced me to Dogon medicine men and chiefs. Once again I saw what can happen when you have trust and actually let go. Another world opens.

Everything exists before it takes shape

My life is filled with these examples of synchronicity – situations that I never could have planned in advance. I mention this because today we are facing enormous environmental, psychological and spiritual challenges that we can not control or understand logically.

I meet more and more people around the world who have felt this and have begun to enter the field of collective consciousness and find solutions there that they could never have found alone. But what is the “field of collective consciousness”?
Let’s say you decide to write a book, or build a house, design a thing or paint a picture. Now you have decided, but where is that decision? Can it be seen? Measured? Weighed? No, it is planted in a field of consciousness, and one day it can take form here in the physical world. Everything is somewhere before it takes a physical form. A huge oak tree is first found in a small seed. But if you cut through the seed and ask, over and over again, ‘”Where is that oak tree? I don’t see it. It can’t be measured. So – it doesn’t exist.” We are talking about another field. The field that the poet Rumi describes:

There is a field beyond right doing and wrong doing. I’ll meet you there.

When we begin to know that field through direct experience and not by thinking about it, we also begin to develop more confidence that it can happen again and this process then becomes self-reinforcing. The more trust, the easier it will be to experience the field directly yourself, which in turn again develops more trust.
When I interviewed astronaut Edgar Mitchell, he described him how it had changed his life completely to see the Earth from space, the blue planet – where everything is connected. Not only in theory. But in reality.
We meet both Edgar Mitchell and the Dogon tribe in the film “NOW – A MOMENT ON EARTH” : https://vimeo.com/57045775 (best viewed in full screen)

In my new project, ‘NEXT STEP HUMANITY’, one of the great pioneers of our time cell biologist Dr Bruce Lipton invites us to see how we are much more connected than we can imagine – just like all the cells in your body right now are connected to each other without you being conscious of it. He has also shown how our thoughts can actually change our genes and our cells, a new science called epigenetics. An increasing number of people sense that an old paradigm is collapsing, and a new is being born. However, mainstream media do not tell much about this, they are mostly focused on negative news, creating a mindset of fear. That is why I want to use the media to tell another story, a story that can bring hope that we can actually change the world. Our mindset creates our world.

One of the episodes in the film is about the need for developing a sustainable education that can provide real tools to create a world that is more in balance with the planet we are totally dependent upon. An video introduction to the project: https://vimeo.com/192587809

The time has come to focus on what connects us – instead of on what separates us. Our thoughts about each other and the future are seeds that can sprout into realities. Once upon a time we thought the Earth was flat. Then a few pioneers challenged this world view and today we think differently. A huge amount of energy is required for a rocket to break free from the gravitational field of the Earth. In the same way, it will take our full focus and willingness to let go of our old beliefs about what is real and what is possible. When we do that, individually and collectively, we gain access to completely different resources. Those resources are without limits. They connect us all – because they exist in all of us. It’s up to us. The invitation to discover this lies in every breath. Breathing in the new and breathing out the limiting beliefs of our old mindsets. To breathe in and to breathe out.

Holding on and letting go.