Letting go is definitely easier said then done…or is it?
I came across a really great meditation technique focused on this idea of letting go in Jack Kornfield‘s “The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology“. I’ll share my experience and the technique so you can try it for yourselves.
I sat down, took my meditative posture (spine straight, body relaxed, etc), and began focusing on my breath. I brought to mind some feelings and thoughts that stifle me. I thought of how I have a habit of holding on to people. These days I can see more clearly my tendencies to hold on to the pictures I paint of people. I paint my likes and dislikes of them, my own expectations of them as a friend, a lover, a relative, their physical appearance, and personality traits among other things. I can create masterpieces and I have no doubt that we all can and we all do.
The problem: taking my creations for the real thing.
The truth of the matter: as fantastic as our masterpieces may seem, they aren’t real.
They are projections, interpretations, and completely made up. Don’t get me wrong I’m grateful to have such a wild imagination, but I would rather direct my imagination to create masterpieces that encourage freedom and connection as opposed to trapping people in stereotypes, judgments, and labels.
By focusing on my breath and simply noticing any thoughts or emotions, I began to create space to observe my old habits of holding on to people. Sometimes it’s hard to face your own thoughts so I constantly remind myself to be gentle and have compassion. I visualized a sphere around my body radiating out from my heart. I felt my heart expand with every breath and said to myself “let go, let go”. As my heart expanded it pushed away all negativity to the outer circumference of the sphere where I visualized negativity as different objects or people as I had made them out to be (sort of like planets circling around a sun). The more I breathed the more my heart space grew and expanded the sphere pushing the negative objects further outward. I could visualize other peoples’ spheres as well (like other solar systems). So what of the negative objects? I was having a hard time with them. Do they dissipate or dissolve into space? Do they just crash into each other as people all expand their heart spaces? Do they transform into something else? I couldn’t find any knowledge about this or even visualize it. Next thing I knew the idea hit me: you can’t understand this because these things are not real.
And letting go just got easier. I felt a surge of freedom, fearlessness, compassion, and excitement to keep letting go and creating space within my heart. As my day went on I found myself flowing through my day with joy.
In Buddhism the idea that the world is an illusion is called “Maya“. Buddhists believe that what we paint with our minds is an illusory interpretation of reality. If we can practice letting go and recognizing Maya, we will see reality more clearly and enjoy reality for what it truly is.
Here is the letting go exercise from “The Wise Heart” (255-256):
“Letting go does not mean losing 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, clinging 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. Ask yourself, “Do I have to continue to replay this story? Do I have to hold on to these losses, these feelings? 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’ve 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.“
Love & Light,
Have you ever struggled with letting go? Comment below to answer.