In the previous blog I wrote about the practice of letting go. Letting go is not just a practice; it is also a means of expressing compassion. First though, a reminder that letting go is simply the act of releasing something – releasing the handle of a cup, releasing a thought, a belief, a squirming child. It is not about discarding, throwing away or destroying.
Letting go is an act of compassion, not only for others but for yourself too.
Letting go as an act of compassion for the self
When you let go of whatever busy project you are working on and take time to breathe or to meditate or even to go to the bathroom, that is an act of compassion towards yourself.
When you let go of an expectation about yourself – I can’t do this, I’m not smart enough, good enough etc. or also, I should be able to do this, I’m the one who should be kind. All of those expectations are a weight, or perhaps better, a filter, that gets in the way of just being you, doing you. It is easy to understand how expectations of failure are harmful. It’s harder to see how expectations of success are also harmful but sometimes they to can be a burden that weighs you down. Failure only exists in opposition to success. Expectation colours the narrative we tell ourselves about ourselves. It is not who we are. It is not who you are.
When you let go of presenting yourself to the world a certain way, when you let go of the muscles in your face that hold back who you are or the ones in your abdomen that hold fear at bay, that too is expressing compassion for yourself. Letting go of physical tension lets your blood nourish you. What a wonderful act of self-love!
Notice something about yourself you are holding onto, whether it feels positive or negative. Then let go of it. Notice what changes.
Letting go as an act of compassion for others
When you let go of expectations, beliefs or other concepts about another person, that too is an act of compassion. This seems self-evident if we think of prejudices but it is also true of subtler expectations or beliefs. We have all heard that if you expect a child to misbehave, they are more likely to do just that. But what if you expect a child to always behave well. That too is a burden that can create stress. What if, instead, you simply let that child be themselves.
When you let go of a belief about another person – she is capable, he can’t be trusted, they don’t like apples – you let that person simply be how they are. You let your interaction with that person just be. And that is an act of compassion. You may be surprised what it brings about.
We all crave to be seen for exactly who we are. It is the greatest gift you can give someone, to simply see them without judgment. This is what compassion truly means. But before you can see another clearly, it helps first to see yourself clearly, without the fog of expectation or belief. Try it sometime and see for yourself. You may find that the distinction between self and other is not what you thought it was either.
Letting go of concepts, beliefs and expectations, whether of ourselves or others is not easy. It takes practice and attention. It is an intentional act. Be careful of having expectations of yourself about letting go or about being compassionate. Just let go of that. But remember, letting go doesn’t mean to just throw it away.