The moment before release is when we grip the strongest.
The first time I saw the truth of this came in Burma.
My teacher encouraged me to extend my sitting meditation to 2 hours at a time, 7 times per day, instead of just 1 hour.
Sitting for that length created huge amounts of pain that I most often couldn’t tolerate. I would shift my posture and sometimes get up early. It was too hard. And the more the pain increased, the more I tried to grit my teeth through it. But the gritting my teeth just led to further tension, resistance and gripping. It was that resistance that would cause me to give up.
I remember one meditation vividly, where I told myself that no matter what happens, I’m not going to move. Even if I die in this pain, I will stay still.
Of course, as I got past the first hour, the pain kicked up big time, but I stayed with it. It got worse, and I stayed with it. It burned, stabbed, and vibrated but I stayed with it.
I felt my body tense. I felt it grip. Sweat poured down my face, but I kept telling myself that even if I die, I will not move.
Closing in on two hours, the pain radiated throughout my body. It was searing, like I was on fire. I couldn’t do it any more. I had to quit. But the voice in my head kept saying, “stay with it, even if you die.”
But I didn’t have the energy to fight that fight anymore. It was too much. I was about to give in, but stayed with it for one more moment, and all I remember is the thought, “just take me.”
And just like that, it dissolved.
The resistance dissolved. The pain dissolved. There was warmth and ease throughout my body, and I was enveloped with the deepest peace I’ve ever experienced.
The final moments will always be when we grip the hardest, when we hold on the tightest. Stay with it, the mind can’t hold on forever, and eventually it will let go.
Deep surrender is not weakness. It’s the ultimate strength, and it comes with the ultimate reward.