“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.”
– Lao Tzu
There are many things we need to do. One of them is letting go of our unfortunate mistakes, habits, thoughts and experiences. At times we also need to let go of other people, we need to move on from the past and look towards the future. If we hang onto the unfortunate experiences of the past, this is what we will carry forward into the present. There is a well known story of the Zen monk who wanted to know why he couldn’t gain enlightenment. His Master replied – how can a full cup be filled up? To fill a cup with honey, we must first empty the water from the cup. It is the same with enlightenment, we have to let go of what is in our mind, for new, enlightening experiences to enter in.
What do we need to Let Go of?
Letting Go of Bad Habits
There are many things that we cling onto out of habit, which really don’t help. Sometimes we have a habit that we don’t really want, but part of us still clings to it. It is like the camel continuing to eat thorns, even though it is causing camel pain. We fail to make a complete break because subtly we have a lingering attachment. If we resolve to get rid of a negative habit like being jealous of other people, we have to make it complete. Just because we always do something doesn’t mean that a) it is a good thing to do b) we are compelled to do it. Look at our daily activities and see what we would be happy to change.
Things we Have No Control of.
Many things happen in life, that we can in no way influence. It may be the behaviour of other people, it may be events in society, even our own government. Having these problems revolve around in our mind will change nothing, except to make us unhappy at our perceived helplessness and misfortune. These are the kind of things we have to let go of. This is not indifference to problems in society, it is just realising what we can and can’t do.
Letting Go of The Past.
To think of the past
Is indeed a painful task.
To carry the past
Is indeed a fruitless burden.
– Sri Chinmoy (1)
Something that has happened in the past we cannot change. If we carry unfortunate experiences around in our mind, it is like a heavy weight that clouds our state of mind and makes life a struggle. To let go of the past, and enable new experiences to enter is the most positive approach. Even if the past is good, we shouldn’t feel that this former experience is the pinnacle of our life. This can breed a complacency and make us just yearn to hold onto the ‘golden days’. We have to keep moving forward looking for an even brighter future.
The Inevitability of Change.
Whether we like it or not, life will unmistakably teach us the inevitability of change. We have no choice but to let go of things. We will lose ou physical capacities; we will lose friends, family, money – anything can be lost at any moment. However, change is not a bad thing if we are cheerful and accept it as part of life. Human nature is to seek improvement and new experiences. If everything were to remain static, we would get bored and life would feel stifled. We would never be able to realise our potential.
If we analyse our mind and the thoughts that come, we will soon feel there are many things that are good to let go of. Not least, our preconceptions and pre-judgements of other people. Our mind can be very bad at projecting false motives onto other people. If we can let go of these, we will be much happier (and better people)
How to Let Go
It is one thing to know we should let go of thoughts and experiences, but, human nature is to cling onto things, even when it causes suffering and cannot help. Firstly, we have to make a clear decision to let go of our thought / habit. It is no good if part of us wants to let go, but part of us still wants to hold on.
To let go of the past is much easier when we spend our energies cultivating a better future, living in the present moment. If we are active in a positive way, we don’t have time to dwell on the past.
Don’t Fight Nature.
Nature and life are always in a state of flux. We need to realise this world is fleeting and ephemeral, change is inevitable. But, do we always want to stay exactly where we are? There is nothing to fear about moving forward. Life is nothing if not a journey of discovery.
Real Love / Attachment.
We often mistake love for clinging onto people. But, this is just emotional attachment. Real love is compatible with letting go on an external level. The real, all embracing love, does not have to be confined to certain people and small areas of the past.
(1) Ten Thousand Flower Flames Part 63 by Sri Chinmoy
Photo by Pranlobha, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries