In the Disney Pixar movie Finding Nemo, there is a scene in which Marlin (an anxiety-ridden clown fish) and his friend Dory are hanging off the back of a whale’s tongue. (If you haven’t seen the movie you (a) are not a parent of young children and (b) are just going to have to trust me that this makes perfect sense.) They need to let go of the tongue, drop down the whale’s throat, and be blown out the blow hole. (Please see my previous disclaimer.) Their dialogue goes like this:
Dory: “It’s time to let go! Everything’s going to be all right!”
Marlin: “How do you know something bad isn’t gonna happen?”
Dory: “I don’t!”
Trust is tricky. It’s all very easy to have trust when everything is going swimmingly; it’s another thing altogether to maintain total trust when you’re hanging on by your fingernails. Or fins. Whatever.
When I was eight years old my father died very unexpectedly. The fallout from that loss was, in part, a loss of trust in life, which on some deep, biological level makes sense: the best offense is a good defense. I had a hard time believing that no matter what happened, I would be okay. I was Marlin: scared of life, of what can happen out there.
Ironically, it was the death of my husband in a plane crash many years later that caused me to begin to question my lack of trust. Initially, I went into shutdown, my distrust of life seemingly—and horribly—vindicated. But slowly, over time (and with a lot of work), a marvelous thing began to happen; I began to see that holding on to distrust and fear had not prevented bad things from occurring— it had only served to hinder the wonderful experiences from unfolding fully.
One hundred percent of both joy and spiritual growth comes from letting go, and letting go means trusting that no matter what happens, you will be fine. Letting go—be it of fear, old attitudes, a bad relationship, worn-out beliefs, or the need for approval—frees you. It opens you to greater possibilities. Trust propels you out of the whale’s throat.
Now, trusting in life doesn’t mean you won’t suffer or be afraid; it simply means that despite these things you know that you will be okay, because the trust is not in what might or might not happen: the trust is that you are okay whatever happens.
There’s an ocean of experiences out there. They won’t all be fun or easy—in fact, some of them will be just plain dreadful. But through it all, you will be okay, because the okayness is inside of you. Your True Self (or God, or Spirit, or Consciousness) is there through it all. This Self was never born and it will never die. Nothing can harm it. It is the constant that is with you and for you: it is you. It is Love.
Of course, you do have a choice: you can trust and let go, or you can hang on in fear. It may not feel like a choice, but it is. Just remember this: whether you live in fear or live in trust, life will go on. Given this reality, the preferable course of action seems rather obvious.
Spoiler alert: Marlin does decide to let go and is blown sky-high out of the whale, coming down exactly where he needs to be. In the process, he has an incredible adventure, finds strengths he didn’t know he had, makes new friends, faces his fears, has fun and finds the treasure he is seeking.