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How to Let Go for Mindfulness

Letting go is the essence of mindfulness meditation. Thoughts, emotions, ideas, opinions, beliefs, emotions, sensations are all to be observed, explored and then let go. This can be a difficult part of mindful living.

Imagine you were asked to hold a glass of water absolutely still. In fact, imagine that you’d get you whatever you wanted if you held the glass of water perfectly still. You’d probably try very hard and the glass might look quite still, but if you, or anyone else, looked really carefully at the water you’d notice that it was still moving.

The harder you tried to hold the glass still, the more you’d shake it, as you felt more worried or nervous about being 100 percent still. The best way for the glass of water to be still would be for you to let it go and put it down on a solid surface. Then, the water would stop moving.

Nature has many beautiful examples of letting go. Apple trees need to let go of their fruit so that the seeds inside can germinate. Animals need to let go of their young so they can find out how to fend for themselves. Young birds need to let go of any fear they feel when they first jump off a branch to begin to fly.

You’re always letting go of each breath of air to make room for the next one. This last example shows that you naturally know how to let go all the time, in one sense. Remember this the next time you’re struggling to let go.

People often think they’ve ‘got it’. They know how to ‘do meditation’. This is a mistake. As soon as you think you’ve got ‘it’, whatever you think ‘it’ is, you’re probably mistaken. You have an idea of what meditation is about, but ideas are just that: ideas.

Ideas are not facts. Reality is in a state of flux and change from moment to moment. You’d be better off thinking you have an idea of how to meditate, and the idea may turn out to be right or wrong – you’re going to find out and see what happens.

How do you let go? Imagine you’re holding a tennis ball in your hands. Letting go isn’t something you do. Letting go is about stopping the doing. To let go of something, you stop holding on to it. The first step is to realize you’re holding on to the object in the first place.

If you’re walking around holding a tennis ball, you can’t let go if you don’t know that the ball is in your hands. Once you know that the ball is there, and feel the tension in your hands, you automatically let go.

Here is a short meditation based on the practice of letting go. Have a go and see what arises for you.

  1. Find a comfortable posture.

    You don’t even need to close your eyes if you don’t want to for this exercise.

  2. Notice, right now, the position of your body.

    Can you feel any physical tension in the body? Which parts feel warm, and which ones cold? Does the tension have a shape, a color, a texture? Be aware of what they are. What happens to the tension and tightness as you become aware of them? Do they release or stay there?

  3. Become aware of emotions that are touching you at the moment.

    What happens when you observe them? Get a sense of how strong the emotion is. Don’t try to let go. Putting effort into letting go creates more tension – instead, become aware of it and allow the emotion to take its course. If the feeling lingers on, can you be okay with that, and accept it as it is?

  4. At the end of this short meditation, see if you’re willing to let go of anything that you found out – anything that you’re now holding on to, trusting that you have within you all that needs to be known.

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