Recently I found myself a little disappointed over a turn of events. I analyzed the situation thoroughly, but still I could not reach a state of peace and relief in my mind. I spoke to a dear friend, and his response was, “well, just let it go.”
The impact of this statement was immediate. No sooner than those words passed through his lips, but a soft, balmy calm filtered through my mind, easing the anguish and frustration and reminding me of just how effective this technique of letting go of all one’s worries can be. There is no limit to what one may let go of. One can let go of anger, hurt, frustration, and most importantly, fear. The list of positive and negative emotions one can detach from is endless. One can let go of happiness, pleasure, pain and anxiety. When one does drop the emotion or thought from one’s mind, peace has an opportunity to take hold and flourish. Without the ability to let go and detach from one’s feelings and experiences, one remains locked in a prison, unable to escape the relentless torrent of samsaric emotions and fears ordinary beings remain afflicted by.
So how does one learn to let go?
Firstly, one can view the thought or emotion as though it were similar to an object one is holding in the palm of one’s hand, like a pen for example. Just as one can tip the hand and allow the pen to drop to the floor, so too can one take the thought, emotion or mental or physical experience and attempt to drop it from one’s mental perspective and continuum. Just drop the thought. Let it go and allow oneself to experience the freedom that arises when that thought is no longer dominating one’s mental processes.
Another even more powerful way, in my view, is to try to locate the heart of the emotion or fear. To ask oneself where is this fear located? Is it in one’s chest or stomach, one’s heart, or solar plexus? When one finds the source of one’s pain, one can attempt to ascertain its essence. Where is its heart? The more one searches for the essence of this feeling or emotion, the more difficult it becomes to find. As one begins to discover even the most painful and uncomfortable of emotions that one begins with having a tight hold over one’s experience, will undoubtedly dissolve and disappear altogether through the power of such analysis. What was once paralyzing becomes difficult to distinguish before evaporating altogether. This is a clear wisdom path to liberation whose method could hardly be simpler to describe, practice and integrate into one’s life.
The third way of letting go is to ask oneself firstly if one could welcome rather than resist the experience. Then when one has welcomed the pain, suffering, happiness or fear, one can then attempt to let it all go by means of one of the two methods explained above. One of the primary reasons we suffer when encountering unwanted situations is that our immediate reaction becomes one of resistance as soon as we meet with something we do not like. By welcoming the difficulty, we begin to disable the resistance, which is one of the causes of our suffering. We misinterpret the event and fight to protect ourselves from having to endure the discomfort or pain. So next time you are encountering an unwanted event or emotion, ask yourself first if you could welcome the experience and then try letting go of the emotion, dislike or hatred before it takes a grip over your mind.
My experience is that letting go has a tremendously liberating effect, to the point where one can disempower the negative associations and qualities surrounding just about every unwanted mental or physical event.
The source of this teaching comes from a scripture by the Buddhist saint Padmasambhava – Pointing a Stick at the Old Man.
More recently, in the modern era, Lester Levenson taught this practice of letting go, as have other well known Buddhist masters.
Copyright © Vanessa Anne Walsh 2011