They say life is a balance between holding on and letting go.
I’ve found that the most important of the two is actually the art of letting go. We hold onto so much in life: memories, concepts, self-definitions, hurts and grievances, losses, frustrations, other people’s opinions and our so-perceived failures and failings. We become so encumbered with these weighty layers of sediment that we lose touch with who and what we truly are. When we’re holding on to this much crap, it’s little wonder we often experience life as a painful drudge, filled with disappointment and anguish.
We’ve lost ourselves under these layers of sediment, which exist in our minds and psyche as thoughts, conditioned reflexes, memories and belief patterns. They have a phantasmic quality, and they tend to warp and distort our perceptions of reality. People tend to unconsciously forge an identity out of this mindstuff, so the very notion of letting go of it is almost tantamount to a death of self. This is perhaps why most people are so resistant to change and will do almost anything to avoid changing themselves and altering the structure and content of their mind and egos.
But I do believe that the only way to peace and liberation is to cultivate the art of letting go. And when I say letting go, I mean letting go of pretty much everything we’ve ever been holding onto. Whenever we feel emotional pain or stress of any kind, it’s a signal that we’re holding onto something that we need to discard. I’ve been experiencing this repeatedly of late. Some of the things I’ve realised I have to let go of are old definitions of who I think I am, who I think others are, how life works, old relationships, old fears and doubts, outdated notions of what I am or am not capable of doing and a number of other beliefs about myself, others and ‘the world’.
A Course in Miracles states that we are never upset for the reason we think we are. Whenever pain or hurt comes up, or any sense of frustration, fear or anguish, it's helpful to ask yourself: what would I have to believe in order to be upset about this, or for this to be an issue? Or, what do I need to let go of in order to be at peace? It might be a belief, a perception, a conscious or unconscious desire or need. Once you have recognised what you need to release, you can then do what you need in order to let go of it.
The two most powerful methods I’ve found for releasing beliefs, thoughts and feelings are the Work of Byron Katie and a technique of emotional releasing called the Sedona Method. Both can easily be learned and will serve as invaluable tools for the rest of your life. Byron Katie’s Work is superb at tackling erroneous thoughts and beliefs, while the Sedona Method is extremely effective at releasing feelings and emotions. These are the kind of things that really need to be taught in schools!
It can take some commitment to work in this manner. For a while at least, it might seem that the more you release, the more there is to release. The issues keep on coming thick and fast and the moment you’ve moved beyond one sticky issue, another rears its head. This is because we carry layer upon layer of this stuff around with us. Most of the time we’re only aware of the tip of the iceberg, but rest assured the majority of that iceberg is submerged beneath the water.
So why commit to this process of clearing and letting go?
Because, as far as I can see, it’s probably the only way to true and lasting peace. I believe our true nature is akin to the ‘zero point’ - that space of vast, expanded awareness, stillness and emptiness/fullness that lies at the heart of our being. Words are quite inadequate at describing this transcendent state. It lies at the core of our being, prior to thought, feeling, perception and ego. It’s almost like a primordial awareness, a vast interconnected oneness, in which all forms are united at their source.
The more of this toxic mindstuff we strip away, the less our true nature is obscured and the more easily we can access and rest in it. These glitches of psyche, which are all more or less rooted in ego, in the false identification with our bodies, minds and a misplaced sense of ‘self’, are like clouds that obscure the sunlight. For many years we’ve identified with these clouds and, whether they were dark stormy clouds or light fluffy ones, we’ve derived our sense of identity from them.
As we begin to disperse the clouds, seeing through them and recognising their intangible, illusory nature, the sky gradually clears and we can finally see what we really and truly are, and always have been. We were never the clouds, at least not truly. We are the sky...the sun and everything above and beneath!
This realisation of our true nature is the only thing we need to hold onto in life.
The rest we can let go of, recognising its transient and ephemeral nature.
There is only one reality, one self, one substance out of which the universe is manifested. The content of mind -- all the baggage we carry with us, our desires and fears and beliefs and definitions -- are but clouds in the sky. Let it go. Go beyond it. Find the light that underlies it, the essence that enables it to be. And hold onto that. Be rooted there. Peace, fulfilment and joy is almost a guaranteed byproduct! But do it without motive. Chase the truth only for one reason: to know the truth. Let all else be as it will be, and stay grounded in that realisation of being.
That is our invitation and our challenge, both yours and mine.