Let’s face it – we use this little phrase all the time. There always seems to be something we could, or should let go of – relationships, ideas, past experiences, judgments, expectations, and stuff around the house…. you name it.
Why is it important to let things go? Because by letting go you make space. In yoga language, the human mind develops attachments to all sorts of things. It does that in order to affirm and maintain its egoic sense of self, safety, security and perpetuity. It holds on tight to what it knows whether or not it may be a source of suffering. So, we hold on to harmful beliefs, relationships, situations, habits…rather than learning new things, experiencing new things, becoming different people. Sometimes, we think we are learning new things, experiencing new things and becoming different people just to find ourselves sort of in the same boat as before, just with a different set of circumstances around us. This is why we often comment “Why is THIS always happening to ME?” We do not account for the fact that we have not let go of any of the mechanisms that have lead us down this path before, we simply moved to a new locations, changed jobs, significant others, wardrobe, traded one guru for another, one diet system for another…
Attachment can be said, is also a control issue. It’s the illusion that we need to control everything in order to manipulate reality into our liking. Some people are more direct, forceful, organized, and good hearted, others are more dysfunctional, manipulative, and selfish, others are somewhere in between, but we all have a sense of wanting to elicit an outcome to our liking and that is a form of control.
The Amritta Bindu Upanishad tells us that the mind is both the source of our suffering and the source of liberation. If attached (to things) it leads to suffering, if non-attached it leads to liberation. The text calls the mind which is “possessed” of desire an “impure” mind, and states that only a “pure” mind can lead to liberation, while a “possessed” mind leads to “bondage.”
Dr. Phil – an unlikely reference for a yoga article, but nevertheless providing wisdom, asks “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy? And how’s that working out for you?” he also makes another point “Life is not a success only journey. You are going to get beat up along the way!”
Why is it important to let go? Because not letting go, in simple terms, results in suffering. Suffering comes in many forms – we obsess, perseverate, become physically and emotional exhausted, stressed out, bitter, disappointed, frustrated, feel guilty, taste failure, depressed, become competitive, self-judgmental, critical, sarcastic….in other words, we become the kind of person we’d never want to hang out with yet we expect of other to make us feel like the kind of person we would want to hang out with.
This being said, we must begin the process of letting go by simply being willing to surrender control for a moment, become present in the moment and see. What will we see? This thing we call “reality.” If we are willing to sit and experience the way things are without rationalizations, expectations, criticism, judgment, fear and making things personal, we can see things for what they are. Not worse than they are. Not better than they are. Not what they could be, if only… We can see objectively, factually, honestly the way things are.
Then we must accept what we are seeing. Accepting is not a giving in. Accepting is giving to the moment what it deserves – your full attention. It gives you back knowledge. That’s the knowledge of how things are. If you don’t know where you are standing, you cannot possibly proceed in any meaningful way. It would be the equivalent of being in the middle of China without a map and no ability to read the language, and trying to get home by convincing yourself that this is really not China and you are really not lost and that hopefully tomorrow when you open your eyes you’ll be in your living room, just like that. Forget about it!
Once we accept the way things are, we may see some options ahead of us. We may see what is in our control and creativity to do and what is not. We may see who may have answers for us, who may be of help, who may be of inspiration. We proceed from there.
But we proceed. As we make a decision to move forward, we are making a decision to let go of the attachments that we have witnessed to be in play. We choose not to dwell on the way things were. We have already acknowledged them. We proceed forward with an action plan. Whether we like or dislike the options ahead of us is not the point. Whether we are sure that the future will be what we want it to be is not the point, in fact, such expectations in themselves may be a problem if we are rigidly attached to them. Let the future be an inspiration rather than an expectation. Our action plan may be to digest the past with the help of a therapist, or it may be to look for a new job, or give up old friends, clean your house top to bottom, take more time for rest, clean the fridge and coverts from all the junk food….make new friends.
We have an action plan and we follow the action plan paying attention to how things are along the way and being honest with every moment. The mind actually likes looking forward to the new when it thinks it’s going to be beneficial. So, we put a smile on our face and remember that the yogis tell us that motion equals emotion. If we act as if we are excited, we become excited. If we act as if we are happy, we become happy. If we act as if we are enjoying the possibility for growth, we start to enjoy it. Here one finds varieties of visualizations and affirmations that can be used as part of your action plan. But none of them will work if you do not go through the process up to this point. Visualizations and affirmations only make sense and produce results if one has come to terms, honestly, to the way things are and is now motivated to proceed in a different direction.
As time goes, we find ourselves free and open. We find out that we have let go. Whatever we were trying to let go of has somehow been released and is now just information in the mind. It is only information and it does not produce an emotional or psychological reaction as parts or all of that information is brought to our attention. Memories are just information. People are just information. Things and place – information. Soon we may even find ourselves not remembering all of the details that we used to painstakingly remind ourselves about, regurgitating and re-living. Now, they just fade away and we feel space, we feel lightness and we feel available for whatever comes without the usual fears, expectations and judgments. We find out that they have been replaced by curiosity, excitement, a sense of adventure and gratitude for life just as it is.
Then we know we have indeed let go…. Until we identify something else that we need to let go of. Eventually, the yogis say that we completely let go of the notion that our personality is who we are and therefore, we use this personality to navigate to word, but we shape it to resemble more and more the divine magicians that we are, when we are not attached to a particular personality.
Meanwhile, remember, you are here temporarily. Enjoy the ride and travel lightly – less baggage is more fun because it’s easy to move around and take less time to pack and go.