I'm going to quote someone who's quoting it, because that's the only way I know the quote. Richard Bruxvoort Colligan* quoted St. Hildegard by saying:
"Hildegard of Bingen said a faithful life means 'to be a feather on the breath of God.'
And what does a feather know about wind?This quote is so great because it captures the essences of trust, letting go and surrender all in a single, beautiful snippet. Personally, I usually visualize letting go and surrender as laying, arms stretched, in a river and allowing the river to carry me to where I need to be.
What does a kite have to understand in order to fly?
How much knowledge of meteorology does a sailboat need to feel the strength of full sails?"
The river is God or the Universe or whatever higher power you believe in. If you try to swim upstream, you'll waste a lot of energy and not get very far. That's what happens when we try to control situations...when we fight against what "is". We may make some progress in the direction we think we want to go, but eventually we end up where the universe wants us to be. And, from my experience, where the universe wants us to be is generally a much better place than where I think I want to go. And the more I fight against it, the less benefit I receive at the ultimate destination. So letting go is really the smartest way to get there.
The quote also captures the "why" aspect. "Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening now?" Have you ever noticed the answers to those questions never come until you've reached—and embraced—your final destination? So the whys are just more wasted energy to add to all the swimming against the current we tend to do.
Finally, though, this is about trust. It's about lifting all the questions up to the universe and allowing the answers to come in their own time. It's about trusting that you're being led to a place that will serve your higher benefit. That doesn't always look like a winning prospect in the beginning, but my experience in life is that we have no way to lose. If you believe everything happens for a reason, then withholding trust is, again, more wasted energy.
What's key to know here is that things like trust and letting go aren't necessarily talents you're born with. More often, they're skills you develop. So when you say, "I wish I could be more like you and trust in the future," you can. If you work at it as hard as the person you're admiring, that is. Trust and letting go and surrender are all practices. They're things you work on every day in your relationship with your higher power.
So when you notice yourself letting fear creep in, stop yourself and visualize yourself floating down the river toward a magical light or soaring through the air as a feather on the breath of God. Just absorbing the idea of floating on the breath of God alone will fill you with the faith you need to weather the storm. Over time, the trusting and letting go will become more and more automatic as you begin to see the wisdom in the practice.
We don't need to know or understand why things are happening the way they're happening. We just have to let ourselves be taken away by the breath of that which has always looked after us, whether you call it God or Allah or Yaweh or the Universe. It has never failed you yet. And if you think it has, then you haven't yet embraced where you've landed. Regardless of whether you like an outcome or not, though, it is what it is. And you can live there in bitterness or gratitude. That's your choice. I choose to let go and trust.
*If you want to read the Christian sermon this quote came from, follow this link or the link above (you'll find the links on www.tierneysadler.com.) The sermon goes on to help you with a prayer you can say and it references scripture and stuff. It's a good post.
This post originally appeared on 6/25/14.