Letting go can be the hardest thing to do

Do you find you get so caught up in something that you don’t see that what you really need to do is let go? We can get so attached to something that hanging on to the direction we’re taking seems the only option and we thus lack choices about alternatives. Letting go of “it” can seem a weakness, giving up.

It can seem obvious to an outsider but to us in the middle of “it”, whatever that is, “it” is all that matters. You want something to happen but “it” won’t oblige! The frustration builds up and we work all the harder to try to make “it” happen, with a resulting log-jam in the universal delivery service. So, what’s to be done, if anything?

For those of us caught in today’s rat-race, trying to bring in the cash, trying to square all sorts of competing demands on our time, trying to stay on course, we get locked into a way of thinking and thus deprive ourselves of the ability to see the bigger picture. For some it’s not till they get sick or some other event happens that compels them to pause and assess what’s going on.

With mindfulness, what happens is that we step back from the content of our lives, bring our minds away from what we’re caught up in, or whatever our mind is doing, come into the moment and can see what’s going on. Being able to take this perspective means we can see what is happening while it’s happening. You learn to witness yourself in action. You learn that these thoughts are not who you are. This awareness is just a breath away.

To let go is part of the process. Once you take your awareness away from being caught up in “it”, you let go. With this approach we are also non-judgemental and accepting. Thus it gives us freedom. So when we let go, we allow all sorts of possibilities to be present, we “allow” the universe to do what is needed, which could be what you really want – except that you are no longer driven by it, attached to it, and equally you are open to other possibilities. It’s a paradox. To get what you want you have to let go of it.

If there’s an ounce (or gram!) of attachment, then it doesn’t work. You need to find a way to totally let go. Then the log-jam can clear and things can flow again. When we are caught up, we can’t see this, or don’t want to.

So, have a think: what are you at this moment attached to that you need to let go of? Often this is uncomfortable, because what we don’t include in this are the very things we need to let go of most. So your list for letting go would need to include your strongest attachments. And in your struggle over this, you can use mindfulness to witness the part of you that is attached and see what that might be about too.

This is where peace lies.

 

Being unattached to the outcome

Do you find you can’t let go of what you want and keep on at it even when all the signs are that it probably won’t work. This is where one gets “attached” to an outcome. It’s all too familiar and often doesn’t serve us. Instead we can benefit from being unattached instead.

For example, have you ever found you’ve wanted someone else to do something for you and despite your efforts he or she persists in not doing what you ask? You think you’ve made your request pretty plain but what you get back is not what you wanted. Let’s assume the process relies on the other person’s cooperation for things to get done. You push harder and somehow it still doesn’t happen as you want. It seems as though everything, and particularly this person, is conspiring to prevent you getting what you want. Let’s say the day has come to an end and you leave your workplace with the matter incomplete. But in yourself, you are still fuming from what has seemed like your inability to get a result, what we call “being on it”, caught up in a drama. Do you get this in your life?

I have certainly done. In fact it’s got so sophisticated that I can be pretty sure that if I continue pushing, things will continue to jam up and nothing works. It’s like I’m working in an old paradigm that’s past its sell-by date and therefore pointless to continue to try to operate.

One thing that’s powerful of course is to become aware of what is happening, and what I’m doing here, let go and “get off it”, ie. let go of the drama. The beauty of this is that very probably everything then works out.

Being attached

However, there’s another related concept that I also use here, and that is “attachment”. While I am caught up in some drama like the one described above, I am being attached to it. To let go, or even more powerfully, not to get caught up in it in the first place, is to practice being unattached, known as “non-attachment”. Non-attachment is related to the concept of the Witness. While I am in the space of the Witness in relation to happens in my life, I am not emotionally engaged in what happens. I am not wrapped up in my ego and my egoic patterns which I learned eons ago. I am unattached. You can learn this through the practice of mindfulness.

When we are caught up in something, we are acting outside of awareness. It is unconscious, a knee-jerk response. We are wrapped up in it and we won’t see what’s really going on, such as that we are emotionally caught up, maybe feeling angry in this example, won’t take the bigger perspective, won’t see it from another angle, won’t see it from the other person’s point of view, etc. It’s as though, to use an old image, a vinyl record has got stuck in a groove and keeps repeating. We are very probably doing just that, repeating an old-established way of feeling, thinking and acting. This is the ego at work. To enable us to survive, as we saw it, we learned to react in certain ways. This is the ego, ahamkara, and the identification or attachment of one’s ego or limited personality. However, whatever we learned when we were still throwing the toys out of the pram in a tantrum now doesn’t serve us in adulthood, or as we grow psychologically and spiritually. The old creative adjustment that we made back then to the circumstances of life as we perceived them at that point is no longer serving us today. The trouble is, getting it. The seductiveness of the ego is to bring us back into old patterns, to ensure our perceived survival.

In attachment, what is happening is that, almost perversely, we keep on with the pattern. Something happens like my example of someone not doing what you want, and you dig in, get engaged and get “on it”. You are holding on to the pattern, belief, attitude or whatever. You’re attached to it. And, lo and behold, the universe, under the Law of Attraction, gives you more of what you are thinking. So you get more of it.

Being unattached

To practice non-attachment is to be in the Witness, to choose not to engage. You notice what is happening, you may even witness your own response, but you exercise your will, you take responsibility, you choose to not allow your mind to go down its familiar route and you breathe out the emotions that you sense in the background. You keep mental clarity. You hold no expectations about what is to happen. You may intend a certain result. But you are not attached to it. There is freedom here, even for something else to occur, maybe even better that the one you might have got engaged about. You can allow life to flow and to trust that what you really need comes to you.

When we are attached, we are afraid it won’t come to us. In the ego state, we live out of fear, fundamentally that we won’t get what we want, most of all of which is love.

Non-attachment, being unattached to the outcome in particular, is a hard practice to follow in the West, given our environment of desire, expectations, orientation to action and getting the results we think we need and our seemingly heavy involvement with many others thinking the same. But it can be done, even in the thick of things. It only takes awareness and a shift of perspective. That needs to be learned and practiced, developing mental clarity, nothing more.