The Practice of Letting Go
“Letting go does not mean, losing the knowledge we have gained from the past.”
The knowledge of the past stays with us. To let go is simply to release any images and emotions, grudges and fears, clingings and disappointments that bind our spirit. Like emptying a cup, letting go leaves us free to receive, refreshed, sensitive, and awake.
To practice letting go, let yourself sit comfortably and quietly. Bring a kind attention to your body and breath. Relax into the ground of the present for several minutes.
Now bring into awareness any story, situation, feelings, and reactions that it is time to let go of.
Name them gently (betrayal, sadness, anxiety, etc.) and allow them the space to be, to float without resistance, held in a heart of compassion.
Continue to breathe. Feel the unhappiness that comes from holding on.
- “Do I have to hold on to these losses, these feelings?”
- “Do I have to continue to replay this story?”
- “Is it time to let this go?”
- (The heart will know.)
Ask yourself if it is indeed wise to release this holding.
Feel the benefit, the ease that will come from this letting go.
Now begin to say to yourself, “Let go, let go,” gently, over and over.
Soften the body and heart and let any feelings that arise drain out of you like water draining out of a tub. Let the images go, the beliefs, the self-righteousness, the unworthiness.
Let it all go. Feel the space that comes as you let go, how the heart releases and the body opens.
Now direct the mind to envision the future where this circumstance has been released. Sense the freedom, the innocence, the ease that this letting go can bring. Say to yourself “Let go” several more times.
Sit quietly and notice if the feelings return. Each time they return, breathe softly as if to bow to them, and say kindly, “I have let you go.”
The images and feelings may come back many times, yet as you continue to practice, they will eventually fade.
Gradually the mind will come to trust the space of letting go.
Gradually the heart will be easy and you will be free.
In Buddhist Asia, popular culture mis-characterizes nirvana, imagining it as a heavenly realm where old monks go after many lifetimes’ work of purity and self-denial. Even Westerners can naively think of nirvana as far away, some transcendent state attained by yogis in the Himalayas. This is wrong. “Nirvana,” says the Buddha, “is immediate, visible here and now, inviting, attractive, comprehensible to the wise heart.”
We know how to do this. We love to let go of the world at night when we go to sleep. Letting go and having a good night’s sleep is delicious. Letting go while we are awake is delicious too. Letting go of clinging to the changing conditions of life, we free ourselves.
Ajahn Chah said, “Let go and rest in the unconditioned, in pure awareness, the One Who Knows.” When we rest in the One Who Knows, time drops away, self drops away, the one who suffers is released. We are simply the awareness of it all.
Paradoxically, letting go is both the goal and the path. I see the fruits of letting go shine in all those who undertake this practice. Grace and generosity grow as we let go of the struggles of life.
The Buddha describes the ease that comes as we let go: “As a bee takes the essence of a flower and pollen without destroying its beauty or perfume, so the wise wander freely in this life, carrying only blessings.”
The Fruit of Letting Go
As we let go and still see others suffer, the heart fills with compassion. So much suffering is human-caused. We awaken to a poignancy and tenderness beyond our own personal injuries. One Zen master calls this caring “the tears of the way.” Our personal suffering diminishes, but our awareness of the sorrow and pain in the world grows stronger. Our heart is open and we feel connected to all things.
Resting in the peaceful heart, we weep at the folly of so many who live in the suffering of greed, hatred, and delusion, who have lost their way. And, all unbidden, we act.
Source- Wise Heart, by Jack Kornfield
Adapted by, G Ross Clark