Just outside in the early spring sunshine, my neighbors were trying to pull a root-bound rosemary plant out of its pot for replanting. At one point it looked like he was giving birth with the pot held upside down against his stomach as she, playing midwife, yanked and pulled. All to no avail. She said, 'There has to be a lesson in this somewhere, maybe a blog post?' And I said, 'Well, I am writing one about letting go.' We all laughed, and eventually the rosemary bush plopped out of the pot to applause all around.
The root of suffering, says the Buddha, is grasping and clinging. So it follows that the end of suffering comes from letting go. But most of us are not very good at. We can’t imagine that life will be okay beyond the pot we are clinging to. Conversely, when we imagine things would be all better if we could just get beyond this damned pot, we might push with too much force which, according to the Buddha is the other primary cause of suffering. There was a moment just now when my neighbor was banging a hammer on the tip of a length of re-bar into the hole in the bottom of the pot her mate was holding, all within easy striking distance of his cheek and chest. It could have been a 911 call for sure!
When we develop a meditation practice and learn to be present with whatever is arising in the moment, we begin to notice the patterns of thought and emotion that fuel the grasping, clinging and pushing away. As we patiently practice, we find we are able to allow room for whatever passes through our open field of awareness to simply come and go. To the degree that we can be aware and compassionate with our experience, we find ease, balance and joy.
In this state of awareness and compassion, we might notice a pattern of thought that keeps our mind tense and entangled. Just developing the ability to notice thoughts in this way rather than getting lost in them is quite skillful. But even at this point we might fall into the trap of wanting to get rid of that thought pattern, making it bad, making ourselves bad in some way. That’s just another painful thought entanglement.
If letting go is a subject of interest to you, here are some other posts to check out.