The Practice of Letting Go
In Buddhism, the Buddha teaches in the second of the four noble truths that our suffering is caused by our attachments. In the brilliant spirit teachings of The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali refers to attachment: avidyasmita raga dvesabhinivesah klesah. Ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred, and clinging to bodily life are the five obstacles on the path of practice. I have come to believe that our attachments, our need to control, will often be what leads to the other four obstacles. Through these teachings we are asked to remember that we must move beyond greed or clinging; we must not get fixed with the varying identifications of self or other.
We do not have to search far to attend to our practices of letting go. I comfortably rest my head upon my pillow and say farewell to another day, as I happily move towards sleep. With a dance in my step I say goodbye to desert summer to welcome the cooler temperatures and an energy a bit less intense. In yoga, we learn that the release of each breath is more than benign action; it actually transforms into the magical pranification that links our very small selves to the aliveness of the planet!
While I have chosen a path that asks me to pay attention to seeing clearly, I have at times missed opportunities to see that it was time for change, which subsequently led the necessary lettings go to become all that much more uncomfortable. Do you know what it is you cling to? Do you recognize stagnation, or when it is time for metamorphosis? Have you at times imposed false security on yourself or another? While we do learn to work with others, even depend on them in love and in like do we recognize that change in relationships will happen? And how do we meet these shifts? Do we recognize transformation, or do we have a tendency to hold on tight and thereby deny a potent opportunity for the practice of letting go?
Over the years I have had quite a bit of practice at surrendering to both the small endings and the larger transitions, whether it be learning to be alright with the end of a fabulous dessert, a vacation, a creative project, a season, a relationship, or even the presence of my beloved elders on this Earth. I have also trained myself in becoming familiar with particular moods and preferred storylines, and undergone maturation and growth as I have developed the abilities to work with energies that can build up and either lead to a tantrum of sorts or get stuck and give way to depression. However, with all the growth that has occurred in so many practices of letting go, there are still so many things I cling to!
It is a certainty in life that things will shift. We have the perfect model of the wilds of nature all around us: she seamlessly moves from dawn to dusk, from winter to spring, from seed to bounty, honoring all things impermanent. There will be changes in family, the addition of a lover, a child, or the passing of an elder. We also have alliances that grow and change in our friendships, our work, and our communities. It is with the delusion of permanence we perhaps hold on tighter. We want security, and we often think it must be through sameness.
How can we open and honor how we might be on paths of varying degrees? Are we willing to embrace inevitable change? Are we training ourselves to remember how to soften, like a babe in his mama’s arms? To be free of grasping, or at least to recognize it as it arises or when its claws are imprisoning us? Are we able to acknowledge that this is an entire lifetime’s PRACTICE! Or are we so afraid of what we do not know that we forget that without death there can be no rebirth? That what we thought was indivisible might actually be ripe for expansion? This liberation can be organic, unless we fall prey to our occasional ignorance of impermanence.
As I contemplate all of this, I myself am embracing transition. A new practice budding from 13+ years integrating my studies of experiential practices of body, mind and spirit. While I would like the transformation and the blossoming to be as seamless as the ripening of a flower, I must first be willing to recognize how I cling; to acknowledge my own flavors of insecurity or inadequacy; my own ignorant states of needing to know it all, or make life shinier, or make myself seemingly more intelligent; and to be aware of my occasional ignorance that everyone will jump on board with me and be ready to progress at the same tempo as mine.
As I begin each day with an intention of seeing clearly into the ways in which I might let go a little more, I am developing my capacity to know myself intimately and to grow my awareness of just how powerful this practice can be. When we can see our attachments and work with them—honor them, actually—we can diminish the behaviors that are often reactions to our fears and that typically stem from past frustrations and mental imprints.
Are we willing to grow ourselves to see how we might resist the natural flow of life? Can we recognize the liberation that comes with a practice of letting go? The blessings might become more vivid when we notice ourselves becoming mired in fears of the unknown and then we address those fears.
May we remember that stepping into ourselves and our courage requires practice and commitment. And may we come to know through our own experiences an awakened faith that is grounded in our own daily practices. May we come to know that what is dark will one day be light, and that what we do not know will be revealed, in time, with patience, as all things are. Perhaps as we become intimate with our softest selves, as we let go when we are holding on too tightly, we will fall deeply in love with the unfolding of our own lives, and with the bliss of it all!