Whether or not you are spiritually minded, it is worth taking some time to hear some of the Buddha’s teachings. Spirituality is often sold in neat boxes to those who buy it, or confused with religious ideology to those who are cynical. But the truth is that the spiritual approach is one that can transform your perspective and teach you how to break the hold that identification and attachment may have on your life.
Most, if not all of us, suffer to some degree. It seems that suffering is just one part of the human experience. But this suffering does not have to be the most dominant aspect of your life. Through mindfulness and conscious awareness, you can liberate yourself from much suffering. Many of us suffer because of the expectations we place on ourselves and others. When these expectations are not met, we can come to view ourselves as failures or unworthy of happiness. This mindset, though toxic, is unfortunately prevalent in the minds of many.
Through the Buddha’s teachings we can come to a place of acceptance of our feelings, a key factor in letting them go. Often when we feel something, there is identification with that feeling. When we feel anger, for example, we see that anger as ourselves, that anger is ‘me’. It’s not, though. It’s a feeling that, like all feelings, will pass, and can be let go of. Desire, one of the strongest feelings we have the capacity to feel, is also just that; a feeling. Once we recognise that we are not our thoughts and feelings, but a vessel for those things to pass through, we can break the identification with them and let them go.
In the search for ourselves, a journey that many have taken and many will take, it is easy to cling to thoughts and ideas, other people’s opinions and even our own, and attach to them, believing the illusion that that’s what we are. Once we let go, we are able to find peace and liberation from suffering. This is not an overnight fix, however, and requires time devoted to the practice of letting go.
Be mindful, too, that the practice of letting go is not concerned with detachment from life and all of its feelings, but with non-attachment. When we detach from a situation or feeling, we do not allow ourselves to be present with it. Non-attachment is the ability to immerse yourself fully in the reality of the present and still not identify with what is happening.
Letting go is not to be misunderstood as being passive towards life. Author and Buddhist practitioner Jack Kornfield says, ‘To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.’
We must respect ourselves and others, respect the feelings that visit us and understand that they are valid. Take anger as an example. If I feel anger, the best approach is not to suppress it or even let it run wild in my mind, but to see it for what it is, try to understand where it is coming from, learn what it wants to teach you about yourself, and then, lovingly, let it go. Desire can also be approached in the same way. These feelings can teach us a lot about ourselves, but we cannot learn and grow if we are in a state of identification and attachment.
The intention to bring to the practice of letting go is not to forever break free from suffering and negativity, but to equip ourselves with the tools we need to let go of these things when they arise, which they naturally do. We’re only human, and you must remember that suffering is not something to fear, but an opportunity to learn, grow, love, and let go.
Mindfulness and meditation practices are the best way to develop your ability to let go. Through meditation we can achieve a state of peace, from which we can see our attachments from a clear perspective. Meditation provides us with the opportunity to really observe our thoughts and feelings, and to see that we are the sky, and they are simply clouds.
Jack Kornfield is a great teacher if you want to learn more about the art of letting go. Below is a meditation on letting go inspired by Kornfield’s teachings:
Beginning - Setting In
Find a comfortable space to sit quietly, away from external distractions.
Gently bring attention to your bodily sensations and your breath.
Soften your mind and body, and come to a feeling of groundedness in the present.
Bring your awareness to the feeling or situation that you feel it is time to let go of.
Name the feeling - sadness, anxiety, disappointment, etc. - and allow it to rest in your mind without resistance and with compassion.
Ask yourself if you are ok with letting this feeling go.
Feel the sense of release that will come from letting go.
Softly tell yourself to ‘let go’ over and over, like a mantra.
Soften your mind and body further and feel the sensation of your feelings melting down into the earth from your body. Notice the very real physical sensations that come from this.
Direct the mind towards a visualisation of the future in which you are no longer suffering from this feeling.
Feel the sense of ease and freedom.
Continue to tell yourself to ‘let go’, then sit quietly and notice if these feelings return.
When they return, check in to to your body and breath, bow to the feelings, and lovingly say “I’ve let you go”.
‘We do not have to improve ourselves. We just have to let go of what blocks our heart.’ - Jack Kornfield
- ↑ https://jackkornfield.com/ (accessed 27/1/2020)
- ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/your-emotional-meter/201708/important-tips-how-let-go-and-free-yourself (accessed 27/01/2020)
- ↑ "Letting Go Meditation By Jack Kornfield | The Mindful Coach". The Mindful Coach, 2019, https://themindfulcoach.com/letting-go-meditation-by-jack-kornfield/. (accessed 27 Jan 2020.)