Lily, our border collie puppy, is as energetic as they come.  She shares the cute trait many other dogs have - loving to play fetch.  We throw her a toy, ball, or frisbee, and she runs like a bat out of hell to get it, then brings it back.  Then we usually have a problem.  She doesn't drop it.  She prances and dances and wants to play tug-of-war with it - anything but drop it.  Little does she know that we can't continue playing until she gives the toy back to us.  We've tried saying things like "Hand it over!" or "Drop it!" or "Put it Down!" and even "That'll Do!" and nothing works.  Trying to snatch it out of her hand just gets her excited and may even get us an accidental laceration.

After reading several books on border collies, the term we finally settled on was "Release."  So that's what we're teaching her as an instruction to drop the toy.

I've always liked the word "release."  I've heard at funerals that the deceased had suffered terribly from cancer or whatnot and had finally been "released" from his pain.  Release is the at the core of the AA mantra, "Let Go and Let God."  When I picture the word "release" in my mind, it's always accompanied by a big, deep sigh and a little smile, as if in releasing a heavy burden after walking with it for a long, long time.

But it's not just pain and guilt and heavy burdens we need to release.  It can be good memories, too, that we are carrying - memories that are so good, in fact, that we still live in the past, clinging to the good ol' days of when we were young or attractive or talented or popular, tightly gripping in our teeth the perspective that that time was so extraordinary that life ever since has somehow been deficient and will never ever bring us happiness again.   Sometimes it's something else - we might have a chokehold on our worldview, our paradigm for what we believe (segregation, anyone?), and no matter how wisdom has shown us otherwise, we refuse to change.

The thing that we can't get Lily to understand is that until she releases the toy, the play comes to a halt.  Her fun is in limbo because of her stubbornness.  But she will learn eventually.  She will come to comprehend that the very thing she is avoiding at all costs - putting the toy down - is the very thing which will bring her more excitement, joy, and companionship with her human family when the play resumes.  Once she lets go, she can open her mouth for the next catch - and as we do the same, we can open our hearts for the next blessing just around the corner.

My hope for 2012 is that we can all learn to release what is necessary to let go of - so we can receive again.