If someone is trying to steal your diamond ring or gold Rolex during a street mugging, you might not want to let go of his arm, so that you can hang on to your prized possession. This article isn’t about that kind of letting go. Letting go of a need for things to be the way you want them to be is the focus of this piece. Letting go of emotions that give you no respite from suffering is also its focus. Letting go of people in your life who by their treatment of you are demonstrating that they don’t want you in their life is a further focus.
Releasing what you can’t believe you can let go of is a very difficult process. Why? Because we believe that we need this or that person in our lives. Further, we believe that by letting go of difficult emotions such as anger, resentment, pain, bitterness, deception, disappointment, even the profound shame that you may feel about the way another person that you love is behaving, we tend to believe if we release such emotions that we are not giving them or the situation that created the emotion, enough importance. In other words, we may believe that by releasing the emotion, we are minimizing or undervaluing the significance of the event that caused them in our lives. Furthermore, we believe that by letting go of our need for a specific situation to be like ‘this’ or like ‘that’, we are falling into apathy, or even worse, we are simply giving up.
Let’s take a look at the last instance first. Suppose you want to convince someone to marry you. They may love you, but just not be that much into marriage. Or they may not love you enough. Or they may wish to be with you, but simply not yet be ready for marriage. The point is, you are getting the runaround, even if it’s not about the person no longer wanting you in their life. And because of it, you suffer. The way you see it, you are suffering because the other person is not agreeing to marry you. I disagree. You are suffering because you believe you need to have a specific outcome in order to feel good. So, said simply, if you were capable of letting go of that need, it would mean that you would no longer suffer. You could freely choose to remain in the situation or to leave it, but what you would be releasing would be the need for the specific outcome. This can apply to any kind of situation at all in your life. Thwarted desire for a specific outcome creates pain. Chris Griscom said where there is no resistance, there is no pain.
I know, I know. It sounds so simple, but we all know it isn’t. However, if you can get your head around this paradigm shift – that your need to have things evolve a certain way is all that is standing between you and feeling at peace – then perhaps you would agree with me that it is much more important to focus on learning how to let go of a need – or let’s call it – as the Buddhists would – detaching from a specific desired outcome – then it is – as illustrated in the example I’ve used – to convince your recalcitrant partner to marry you.
It’s the same thing with emotions that threaten to destroy or implode you. Most of us have known great heart pain. We know anger, desire, hurt, resentment, bitterness, and so much more. If we don’t encourage ourselves to let go of them; to release them, such emotions can grab hold of our innermost self, can create strong neural pathways, where those emotions become our “go-to” place in our thinking – especially our ruminative, blind thinking – and can, therefore, become our default mode of living. Releasing such emotions is a voluntary act (although I’m not pretending it’s easy), and it is an act of love towards yourself. It is a conscious decision; a choice only you can make.
You may have been – or be – in a situation where a friend, a spouse, even a member of your immediate family, is making it patently clear that you are no longer a desired element in their inner circle. You may be hanging on for dear life due to inertia, or habit, or even desire. But recognize that this, just as the earlier situations I’ve listed here, does you more harm than good. Release such people from your life. It doesn’t mean scorn them. It simply means: don’t hang on to them. They may return to you at a later point – or not. But for the sake of your own inner peace, releasing them is more life-giving, than desperately hanging on to them for the sake of what once was – no matter what the connection between you.
So: how to go about this? In a nutshell: Become mindful of your thoughts, your emotions, the choices that you make on a daily basis, and the entirety of your daily existence. Take stock of all of this, as you become more and more conscious of it all, and see – really see – how you could, if you so choose, release it all. Just be. Let go. Again, easier said than done, but as so many things that we could do to improve our lives, it is a question of daily practice. It is also a question of recognizing that hanging on to whatever you are not releasing says more about your ego than who you truly could be (and truly are, if you weren’t covering it up under so many layers of unconscious choices and mindless living).
In the 60’s Jiddu Krishnamurti told his followers that the secret to his happiness was not minding what happens. When you are able to understand the deepest meaning of that sentence, you will be on your way to inner joy, peace, and freedom.