In Letting Go: The Path to Peace we looked at how important it is to develop the ability to let go of anything that is taking us away from peace in the present moment. This is such a fundamental practice both in meditation and everyday moment to moment living that I want to share with you excerpts from a publication that highlights its importance and has been a game-changer for my practice.
What follows is a short section from a chapter in, Cittaviveka – Teachings From The Silent Mind, by Ajahn Sumedho. The original article can be found at http://www.vipassanadhura.com/lettinggo.html. If you’re at all interested in living a more peaceful life, I would urge you to keep reading (italics are from the article):
The practice of ‘letting go’ is very effective for minds obsessed by compulsive thinking: you simplify your meditation practice down to just two words – ‘letting go’ …just ‘let go, let go, let go’.
I did nothing but this for about two years – every time I tried to understand or figure things out, I’d say ‘let go, let go’ until the desire would fade out. So I’m making it very simple for you, to save you from getting caught in incredible amounts of suffering.
Just be [someone] who knows only two words – ‘let go, let go, let go’…letting go of despair, letting go of anguish, letting go of pain, of doubt, of everything that arises and passes that we habitually cling to and identify with. Keep this ‘letting go’ like a constant refrain in your mind, so it just pops up on its own no matter where you are.
At first we have to obsess our minds with this, because our minds are obsessed with all kinds of useless things – with worries about this and that, with doubt, with anger, vindictiveness, jealousy, fear, dullness and stupidity of various kinds. We have obsessive minds that are obsessed with things that cause us pain and lead us into difficulties in life.
Our society has taught us how to fill up the mind, jam it full of ideas, prejudices, regrets, anticipations and expectations – it is a society for filling up vessels… but look at what’s printed in the newspapers! It appeals to people’s lower instincts and drives – all about violence, wars, corruption and perversities, and gossip.
All this has its effect on the mind.
So you do the things that need to be done, and you let go. When people tell you should read this book, and that book…and on and on like that… ‘let go, let go, let go’.
It’s only through learning how to empty the mind out that you can fill it with things of value – and learning how to empty a mind takes a great deal of wisdom.
The suggestions I am giving you are for skillful means. The obsession of ‘letting go’ is a skillful one – as you repeat this over and over, whenever a thought arises, you are aware of its arising. You keep letting go of whatever moves – but if it doesn’t go, don’t try to force it.
This ‘letting go’ practice is a way of clearing the mind of its obsessions and negativity; use it gently, but with resolution. Meditation is a skillful letting go, deliberately emptying out the mind so we can see the purity of the mind – cleaning it out so we can put the right things in it.
You respect your mind, so you are more careful what you put in it. If you have a nice house, you don’t go out and pick up all the filth from the street and bring it in, you bring in things that will enhance it and make it a refreshing and delightful place.
Develop nekkhamma – renunciation of that which is unskilful or unnecessary – and then mentally let go of greed, let go of hatred, let go of delusion. This is not being averse to these conditions; it is letting go of them when you find you are attached.
When you are suffering – ‘Why am I suffering? Why am I miserable?’ Because you are clinging to something! Find out what you are clinging to, to get to the source. ‘I’m unhappy because nobody loves me.’ That may be true, maybe nobody loves you, but the unhappiness comes from wanting people to love you. Even if they do love you, you will still have suffering if you think that other people are responsible for your happiness or your suffering.
Someone says, ‘You are the greatest person in the world!’ – and you jump for joy. Someone says, ‘You are the most horrible person I’ve met in my life!’ – and you get depressed. Let go of depression, let go of happiness. Keep the practice simple: live your life mindfully, morally, and have faith in letting go.
So there you have it, one of the most important skills for Zen or any mindfulness-based practice: letting go. So I leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time which you will have seen on this site before:
“Do everything with a mind that lets go…If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.” – Ajahn Chah