The Deep Courage to Let Go
Pema Chodron, now recognized as a world leader in the Chogyam Trungpa Shambhala tradition, has presented a wonderfully clear method for letting go of personal blockages and impediments to enlightenment, the bodhisattva way of life, and awakened bodhichitta (clear mind, soft heart). She teaches us how in “The Joy of Letting Go.” It is similar to accepting “choiceness awareness” in one’s own life experiences. Chodron suggests that we radically accept whatever arises in our path in life as our opportunity to practice. Our job is to reduce the suffering of the world – one person at one time. This practice may be achieved through the Paramitas. The practice of being patient, disciplined, generous, energetic – all in meditation and life behaviors – sets the stage for our inner and outer growth. As we practice greater compassion, we care more deeply about the welfare of others. This can be an antidote to the pandemic of greed in America (and the world) today. So much greed that we may inflict great pain and suffering on others. How much wealth is enough?
One way to experience this process is to be highly generous as a personal life aspiration. By giving to others we will notice the inner emotional reactions in letting go of things we value. This implies letting go not only of the “things” but also of the attachment to the things we value. Our wholesome actions in giving allow us to experience first-hand the reality of holding on. Just how difficult is it for you to let go, give away that thing you value so much? Our improving discipline in practices tames the wild mind and expands open-hearted compassion for others, especially others who lack what we have. This awareness enhances personal gratitude for it all. We humans sometimes “own” many things; sometimes this property restricts own flexibility in life. It certainly adds fear of loss. It increases our level and intensity of grasping and competing. If you go hiking while carrying an armful of firewood, you will soon realize it is very inefficient. So to go through life with a household of “stuff” is a logical understanding of this hiking metaphor. It is in the giving away, the letting go, that true and personal liberation is experienced.
Taming our reactive minds and bodies is another important practice in letting go. Can we really be “like a log of wood” (influence of Shantideva and others) when emotionally powerful experiences occur? This does not imply suppression, repression, or being a doormat; it implies building better emotion regulation skills through practice. Slow it all down, clarify your discernment, and allow enthusiasm for making such positive personal changes. It is all up to you.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness