This is part three in a series that explores what it means to let go. The first part explored the link between the physical act of opening fingers to release what you are holding and the mental act of opening the mind to release thoughts, ideas and beliefs. The second part explored how letting go of expectations and beliefs about oneself or another is an act of compassion.
Letting go is a practice. It is something you do; it is not something that happens to you. You can experience what I mean yourself. At it’s simplest, if grasp your left thumb with your right hand, hold it for a moment, feel your thumb against your fingers, and then let go, you will have some experience of this. Notice what happens in your mind as you do so. Notice also if you had to let go of something else first before you could do this.
What is freedom?
At a physical level, when you let go of what is in your hand, you can pick up something new or pick up again what you released or simply remain with empty hands for the time being. This is one aspect of freedom. If you try to pick up something new without first letting go of what you are holding – well this is sometimes possible, but your options are constrained. If first you let go of what you are holding, you increase the freedom you have of what to pick up next.
In the same way, if you hold the belief for example, that washing dishes is unpleasant then you limit the feelings you can have while you are washing them. If you let go of that belief you have the freedom to explore what you are actually feeling at that moment – the warm water on your hands, the smoothness of a clean glass, the tiredness that comes from a long day of work or perhaps boredom or annoyance at having to wash dishes. You see, this freedom doesn’t necessary mean doing or feeling any differently, it just means not being tied to what you have done or felt before or what you think you ought to do or feel.
These are simple, everyday examples you can experiment with yourself.
The practice of letting go to discover freedom
With a regular practice of letting go such as we do in meditation, it becomes possible to let go of deeper and deeper beliefs, ideas and concepts. When you let go of ideas about yourself – who you are, what you can or can’t do, how you live your life – you gain freedom to actually be what you are, do what you do and live as you live. It simply means removing the barriers that were never really there in the first place.
The hardest concept to let go of is the belief in the distinction between self and not-self. The deepest freedom comes from letting go of that which doesn’t exist at all.
Letting go of nothing at all
From the deepest perspective there is no distinction between holder and held. There is nothing to be let go of, no one letting go. Even so, to find the deepest freedom, one must let go of that nothing at all too. Again, and again and again. Then, as the ancient teachers say, there is complete freedom in the ten directions. Wouldn’t you like to experience that too?