“Let it Be” was released 2 months after my birth in 1970….it wasn’t my favorite Beatles song but it is the one that has followed me through my forty-three years, turning up with uncanny ability whenever I’m in the worst kinds of trouble or in the glory of my days.
I strongly believe in the power of music, how it heals us, how it tears us apart…..makes us remember, moves us to action. How you can listen to the same song on the radio for years without realizing that it, like “Let it Be”, was meant for you. Paul McCartney said he had the idea of “Let It Be” after he had a dream about his mother who died of cancer when McCartney was fourteen and so she was the inspiration for the “Mother Mary” lyric.
Growing up, my Father listened to the Beatles daily and it seemed Paul and John’s voices were always echoing through the halls of our humble abode. “Let it Be” seemed too simple, too boring. I had no room for it in my abnormal life, my wildly animated “Yellow Submarine” kind of life. I believed that life treated us to lemons at birth and kept at it until we figured a way to sweeten the tartness. Maybe somewhere out there were people who lived lives of lemonade and leisure, but I’d never seen it.
By the time I was sixteen, I’d been living on my own in monastery for a few months while in the process of ordination. I had taken a big risk, ordaining and, making my way through high school by myself.  The process of Theravada ordination and the six month silent, secluded forest retreat that’s mandatory was so difficult…especially for a sixteen-year old girl. The loneliness was new to me….and I didn’t like it…..no matter how simple our living, my family had each other and our bond unbreakable. I hated going into such solitude each evening knowing that no one was waiting for me….knowing I only had my practice to keep me warm….knowing I wouldn’t see them.
Sometimes, after long study periods in the local library, I would drive around, passing houses…that sort of silence can be deafening…..I would long for the lights in the windows. One night the horrible feeling in my gut was too much to bear. The only thing that I could do was pull over, curling up around the steering wheel. When would I ever be part of my family again? Why couldn’t I feel complete by myself? Why did I feel I was failing in the practice of the Buddadharma and all the beliefs that felt so central to my being? Why was I letting down all my dear Teachers, my parents, my family, myself? Why couldn’t I just go home and simply have what I want? Why, why, why……..?
And it happened: an answer. “Let it be” on the radio. A song with the simplest lyrics, a song I’d heard but not really listened to or held an interest in for my whole life. Yet, it was meant for me. I hadn’t noticed before that the song isn’t about throwing in the towel, “letting it be” as I’d thought…….but letting those things that we can’t change, the things that keep us up at night, make us pull over onto the sides of roads……letting them be.
My answer came in the form of a song with a message that fit my predicament completely. The Beatles created generations of people who bond over their music, who feel connections that are more powerful than what they could have anticipated. I believe in “Let it Be” and its ability to heal, to create community, to shine until tomorrow.
And then there’s that something that all broken hearted people can agree on: things may be downright awful…..but it always, eventually, gets better. I knew that I wouldn’t be alone forever and that I would be with family again…..that I would be happy again. A bright, hopeful happy. A happy I could spread around, be proud of. A “Let it Be” kind of happy. I listen to “Let it Be” regularly now…it holds such deep meaning for me….it comes to me in dreams and makes me smile. Today, I am so grateful for so much in my life….my family, my practice, my Teachers, loving friends and the ability to simply let things be….Buddhism teaches us that letting go is the hardest thing of all, but invariably, the most freeing.