Bijgewerkt: 20 nov 2019
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Has anyone ever told you to just "let it go"? As if you should just decide to let something behind you and not think of it again. You may have noticed that that is pretty difficult or even impossible to do. The concept of letting go is often misunderstood and when you think of it as something you have to actively do, or even force yourself to do, it can be a very hard and frustrating thing. But when you start discovering what letting go really means, it can be quite amazing and liberating.
First of all, let’s take a look at what it means to be holding on. There is this story about two monks walking past a village when they see a woman waiting to get out of a sedan chair. Heavy rains have made puddles of water in the streets. Refusing to get out, as the water would ruin her silk dress, she waits impatiently until her servants carry her out. They, however, are too busy carrying all her belongings. The woman looks at them with contempt. The young monk notices the women and walks past her. The older monk goes to the women, lifts her up and carries her across the puddles. After putting her down, she pushes him aside and moves along without thanking him.
The monks continue their journey as the younger monk is brooding and ruminating about what just happened. After several hours he cannot control himself any longer and he says to the older monk “that women back there was so rude and unfriendly, and you picked her up and carried her!”. The older monk replied: “I set the woman down hours ago, why are you still carrying her?”.
As it turns out, us human beings, we hold on to many things. We may be holding onto possessions, ideas, thoughts and emotions. We can hold on to our own views or expectations, even when reality is very different.
You might have an image of who you should be, even when that is conflicting with who you feel that you really are. We often have ideas about how others should be. We have hopes about how the ones we love could be different, when in fact we are not seeing their motives, feelings and views. There’s a saying: ‘expectations are suffering under construction’. We often have a hard time letting go of our expectations and hopes.
Letting go is allowing
In order to let go, we first have to recognise that we are clinging, or feeling stuck. We may get stuck in repetitive thought, we may feel tension in our body or it may feel as if we are resisting something. When we recognise this, we can start to zoom out, loosen our grip and open our awareness towards the present moment.
I like the example of holding a pen in your hand. When you hold a pen very tightly in your clenched fist, it feels tight, there is no space for anything else, you can’t do anything else with that hand. Letting go is then not throwing the pen on the floor, but it is opening your hand and holding the pen with a relaxed, open hand. You are aware of the pen being there, but there is also a more spacious and broader awareness.
When we let go, we allow, we accept what is. You might notice a racing mind or a strong emotion. Then you start to create space for whatever is there, and you meet it with kindness. If you feel grief, you may feel the pain in your chest, a heaviness in your belly. If you feel anger, let the anger be expressed in the body. You allow yourself to feel it and you allow the feelings to move through you. You may whisper mentally; this is grief, or there’s anger, or excitement, or anxiety. We don’t try to change what’s here, we neither analyze it or judge it. Thereby we are letting go of controlling the uncontrollable and we let it go.