Letting go– it’s an overused term with a powerful and far-reaching meaning.
I know, everyone tells you to “just let it go” so much so that it’s started to just piss you off. I get it and I hate when anyone tells me to do the same.
The problem is it never comes with any sort of sensible advice as to how we’re actually supposed to let something go. Well, I plan to change that with some practical advice (the kind you’ll actually use).
In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.
– Deepak Chopra
What does it mean to let go?
It’s a bit of a broad term, but letting go generally refers to stepping away from the things that cause us pain.
And non-attachment refers to the state of being which accompanies this, living in a way that we seek to not grasp onto things any longer because the act of grasping on itself causes pain.
This is an important point that needs to be kept in mind throughout all this: it’s less what you’re grasping onto that causes you pain and more the fact that you keep holding onto things in general.
The problem is, we develop the idea early on that we need something specific to be happy.
Examples of this kind of attachment include:
- An intimate relationship where two people become obsessed with an image of one another as opposed to loving the actual person themselves.
- The idea that physical possessions are necessary to find happiness.
- Desiring status such as a promotion, position, or fame to find our self-worth.
One thing you might notice is that each of the attachments above at first appears physical, but is really mental.
- It’s not the relationship, it’s the obsession with a “perfect” partner
- It’s not the physical objects, it’s the idea that they’ll bring us lasting happiness
- And it’s not the fame, position, or promotion, it’s the idea that status changes who we are and makes us worthy
It’s important at this point to mention that you can be in a relationship and appreciate your partner for who they are, enjoy objects without needing them to be happy, and seek new promotions or positions without depending on them for your self-worth. And that’s the point we want to get to: that’s living with the spirit of non-attachment.
How to live with the spirit of non-attachment
With the understanding that letting go and living with a spirit of non-attachment is about letting go of ideas and concepts, you’re now halfway there.
The next step and the part that will really begin to get you to the point where letting go and living with non-attachment is possible is to find a way to appreciate the simple fact of being alive.
The reality is, we attach because we want to be happy. It’s really as simple as that. Whether it’s to find peace from a type of pain we experience or confidence when we feel unworthy, it’s all different shades of the same thing.
Because of this, you need to learn how to tap into the joy of simply being alive. This allows you to find a sense of meaning and purpose in daily life that allows you to stop depending on the various attachments that once chained you down.
How is this done? Typically, with some form of meditative or contemplative practice that heightens awareness (like mindfulness). By heightening awareness, something interesting happens: we begin to tune out the noise.
What happens when you tune out the noise
Our mind is naturally crazy and loopy and altogether chaotic, cycling through the same thoughts, feelings, and internal dialogue all at once. This means we tend to go about daily life being pushed and pulled by our unconscious mind and unable to tap into anything of a quieter frequency.
And no, I don’t mean that in a new-agey kind of way. I simply mean that when you’ve got a bunch of noise in your head (thoughts, feelings, etc.), it’s hard to notice other sensations and sensory experiences that are going on at the same time, especially if they’re not jumping out at you like our thoughts and emotions tend to be.
What happens is we lose touch (or never have it in the first place) with the basic joy of simply being alive. I know, if you haven’t felt it before, that might sound a bit vague. However, with practice, as you begin to heighten your awareness and quiet the mind through some meditative practice you start to just feel…happier.
Often, you can’t even tell why you’re happier. This is more often than anything why meditation makes us happier.
There’s all this beauty around us:
- The smell of a flower
- The sound of the trees swaying in the wind
- The smile of a child
- Or the little quirks of our partner
All of these things can bring us great happiness if we could only quiet the mind enough to notice them. Of course, keeping the mind quiet at that point becomes its own challenge. You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you? At least at that point you know the path to get there and are often much happier and more at peace as a result.
So, take some time each day to sit quietly with yourself. You don’t have to do anything crazy, just sit and follow the sensation of your breath on the tip of your nostrils or in your belly or chest and notice what thoughts, feeling, and sensations arise.
Getting distracted? No big deal, just go back to your breath. Repeat for a few minutes and you’re done.
Over time, you’ll be surprised with how this simple practice begins to change your outlook on life, giving you a fundamental source of joy that allows you to begin to let go of your attachments and simply find joy in these things for what they are without depending on them for your peace or happiness.