The words “let” and “go” are two that I’ve heard in every other yoga class through the past years of attending group classes regularly. Sometimes teachers will say something along the lines of, “just let go,” with a nonchalance in their voice or suggest a mantra to add to match your breathing; inhaling repeat the word “let” and breathing out “go”. With this repetitive suggestion to simply let go, I have responded in frustration, irritation, concern (for myself), anxiety, and annoyance. I have often thought, well I can’t just let go. It’s impossible. Too much to think about. Too much to solve. I have to find solutions. Letting go is impossible. Something must be wrong with me. I’ll never be able to relax. I was trying really hard and being really negative.
Numerous other responses have popped in and out of my mind after hearing this simple request asked again and again over the years.
“Just let go, why don’t ya?” is often how I’ve interpreted this request; a forceful one that I wasn’t able to access or capable of doing, or so I thought. I needed to get creative with letting go.
With the help of guided mindfulness meditations led by Buddhist meditation teacher, Tara Brach, and the intention to experience letting go one day, I started catching on to something.
Letting go could mean a variety of things and it didn’t just happen; it could look different for different people, situations, seasons, etc. After years of contemplating this concept I’ve finally started discovering ways of letting go that are working for me. Letting go doesn’t have to mean ignoring or covering up. It doesn’t have to mean switching to a butterflies and rainbows mind-set. In fact it can mean quite the opposite.
I’ve started looking a little closer (to start!) at what is arising at any given moment, in meditation or in day-to-day life. If I’m triggered by something that unsettles me or if something pops into my head randomly, I’ll consciously slow down and look at it. By slowing down I am able to broaden my view and am able to see beyond that thought (or string of thoughts). By acknowledging the feelings and emotions attached to this thought, I start to see how I have been affected by it. Finally, noticing my physical body’s reaction to the thought brings me back into my body. I experience what arises and then ease back into what is in the moment; coming back to the present and pausing the mental movie inside the mind, as Tara Brach would say.
To ease back, I practice a variety of pathways back to presence, another Tara Brach gem of a practice. Some are as simple as noticing how my breathing feels and slowing it down; or listening to the sounds around me, no matter how noisy or peaceful. To let go further, I acknowledge my senses at the skin (temperature, tingling, numb, uncomfortable or cozy) and then other senses like looking around at my surroundings or, if appropriate, closing my eyes and letting other senses take over; smell, sound, sensation, breath on the lips and tongue.
By recognizing the reality of what’s right here in the moment I am living, I am able to approach challenges and problems with a broader view, with a more expansive awareness of the situation at large. By easing into presence, even for mere seconds, I am able to think more clearly and see my life as more than grasping, worrying, and anxiously awaiting the next thing that could go wrong. I am able to let go.
This practice of letting go has stuck with me by seeing it as a continuous practice, a continuous arrival to presence over and over again as the mind wanders or new situations arise.
What are your thoughts on letting go?
What does letting go feel and look like to you?
When have you felt like you were able to let go?
What would you have to let go of to be present?