Two simple, innocent words. Let go.
Yet quite possibly the hardest thing for us humans to do.
We know it's important, so we try so hard to do it. We use brute force with our minds to just "let it go!"
But inevitably, we come to realize that letting go does not mean suppression.
We all know what that leads to. Just look at a boiling tea kettle.
So, what does letting go actually mean? And how on Earth do we do it?
I'm no expert at letting go, and it's something I work on every single day.
However, I have made progress, so that's what I'm sharing with you today: my experience with letting go, and my take on why it's so damn hard.
Perhaps these words give you the nudge you need to start letting go of what you're holding on to.
A Buddhist monk was once walking with his master, when they both spotted a boulder in the distance.
The master said to the student, "you see that boulder over there? Heavy, right?"
The student nodded in agreement.
The master proceeded to state, "It's only heavy if you pick it up."
How true. Things are only heavy if we carry them.
Trauma weighs on us if we carry it inside our bodies. Painful memories cloud our present moment if we haven't learned to part with them.
What are we letting go of?
Life is a simple affair.
We move through time and have experiences. Some are pleasant, some are unpleasant.
For whatever reason, we're not evolved enough as a species to simply deal with these experiences and move on. Instead, we hold them in our psyche.
We do what the Buddhists call clinging and resisting. We cling to the good experiences, and we resist the not-so-good ones.
When we cling and resist, the energetic vibration from these experiences - all the thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with them - get stuck inside of us in the form of circular energy patterns, or as the Yogis call them, samskaras.
Over time, we store thousands and thousands of samskaras inside of us. What's more, each samskara influences how we process our current reality, causing us to store even more.
It's a never-ending cycle. That is, until we learn to let go.
This explains why as adults we can suddenly feel the insecurities we felt when we were 6 years old when Suzie called us dumb, or when Todd kicked us in the schoolyard. Something happens at work that takes us back to that moment 40 years ago, and the whole experience comes rushing back as if it's happening now.
What we're letting go of are these stored energy patterns - or samskaras - allowing them to release back into the universe.
After all, they belonged to the moment, not to you or me.
So why is it so hard to let go?
The very reason we clung to something because we loved it, or resisted it because we couldn't handle it, is the very reason why letting go is hard.
As we release the samskara, naturally we're going to experience every thought and emotion that we did at the time of the event. For the difficult events, that's not so easy.
We resisted it because we weren't comfortable with it. And now letting go of it means we have to experience it again.
And that's why it's so hard. We're not willing to experience the pain.
In order to let it go, the discomfort has to pass through us.
That's why it's so hard.
Letting go is hard for the same reason it was hard to experience the thing we're holding on to when it happened. Letting go is hard because we're not fully comfortable with reality.
And that's perhaps our biggest challenge as human beings.
We have a hard time with things as they are.
The good news is, the formula for happiness is pretty simple: get comfortable with reality. In other words, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. When we're not bothered by anything, we're doing okay.
The more we can learn to find peace and meaning in any situation we go through, the richer our experience of life will become. The more alive we will feel.
And that's ultimately what we're all searching for - the feeling of being fully alive, filled with love, joy, and enthusiasm.
Letting go does not mean forgetting
A common misconception about letting go is that we'll forget something we shouldn't forget, or forgive the unforgivable.
This isn't true, however.
Letting go does not mean that you'll forget any lesson you learned or wisdom you acquired by handling an event. You can still remember something with your mind without it having control over your life.
Letting go means that you won't be burdened by the past, so that you can now focus fully on what's in front of you with clear, open eyes.
When we fully experience an event without clinging to its goodness or resisting its wickedness, we're essentially letting it touch the depths of our being. We can trust that its wisdom fully integrates into our soul, far beyond any memories it creates in the mind.
Conversely, when we haven't let something go, it hasn't been fully processed. The pain or pleasure is still inside of us, clouding our judgement of the present moment.
That's why we judge other people and experiences. We're not able to look at things with what the Buddhists call beginner's mind, but rather with a mind full of preconceptions based on our samskaras.
How to let go
Letting go is a lifelong game, and while it's difficult, the good news is that we have endless opportunities to practice.
Any time we're bothered - and I mean any time, no matter how insignificant it may seem - is the perfect opportunity to practice letting go.
In fact, it's better to start with the small things.
At this stage of our journey, it's going to be virtually impossible to let go of an event like a death in the family or the loss of our job amidst a pandemic.
However, surely it can't be too difficult to let go of our resistance to being indoors, or our inability to buy our favorite pasta product.
So start there.
Start with the little annoyances that bug you throughout your day.
Learn to recognize when they enter the mind, observe what feelings they cause in your body, and simply relax and release.
If that's not clear enough, here are the steps of letting go:
The disturbance comes in.
You relax your body (your chest, your shoulders, your abdomen, your legs.)
Take a few deep breaths.
Imagine the samskara moving through your body, and then being released into the atmosphere.
If the same disturbance shows up ten minutes later, repeat the steps.
Keep practicing with the small annoyances.
Over time, you'll build a habit of learning to relax in the face of discomfort. You'll start to see that things which once bothered you no longer do.
A true sign of spiritual growth is when you look back at something that happened, and realize that it didn't bother you like it used to.
This practice of relaxing and releasing is exactly what you need to do to let go.
Now, perhaps those two innocent words carry a little more weight.
Live with substance!
P.S. I'm working on something special!
In addition to publishing two new blog posts every week, I'm working on a more in-depth, practical guide aimed at helping you return to your true essence.
Put another way, it's a guide to help you stop getting so bothered by everything that happens.
The less time we spend on being bothered, the more time we spend on being our true, loving, joyful selves. At the end of the day, this is what we all want.
If you're interested in getting your hands on this free guide, leave a comment below saying, "I want it!" or "I want the guide!" This will help me gauge interest.
(You can even enter a fake name if you wish to remain anonymous.)