View Full Version : Letting Go?

27th March 2003, 14:04
Like I said in previous posts, I am fairly new to meditaion and involving it in my training. My question for everyone is, what do you feel when you 'let go'.

What I mean is, when you try to clear you mind, are there any emotions, or feelings you find extreamly difficult to push aside, or to overcome to clear your mind? If so, what are they and how do you overcome them if you can.

I will be sharing mine, I would however like to see if anyone will reply this post before I jut out onto a ledge.

Thank you

Gene Williams
1st April 2003, 04:42
Hi, Pretend like the thoughts and distractions that come to your mind while you are sitting are passing across a screen or curtain in front of you. Do not dialogue with them...just watch them pass. Gradually, they will pass out of sight. It is important to project them outside onto a screen, so to speak, because if you leave them in your head, you will want to engage them. Shunryu Suzuki, in his very good book, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" , calls these thoughts "mind weeds." This takes time. Gene

1st April 2003, 16:36
A Zen practice like shikantaza ("just sitting"), or the kind of meditation practiced in the Tibetan Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions, can be very daunting for someone new to meditation.

When thoughts arise, I agree with Mr. Williams, don't follow them, don't indulge them, don't feed them but don't don't push them away either -- if you do, invariably the result is just more thoughts. Regard them as uninvited guests who've turned up at an inconvenient time: the longer you entertain them, the longer they'll hang around.

Pay attention to your posture. Find a posture in which you can sit reasonably comfortably for a period of time without moving. Fidgeting invariably generates thoughts.

Then, you can try a practice like "counting the breath" for a time to center yourself and bring yourself back to the moment. The important thing in counting the breath is that when you become aware that you've gone off the count, and you will go off the count, doesn't mean you're a bad person or any less able, without judgment, without comment start from the beginning. Eventually you'll build up your meditation chops.

Check out Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken for more detailed, practical instruction on things like posture and counting the breath.

Aiki Schmid
8th April 2003, 17:40
Letting Go and Picking Up

J: Why is "letting go" so important in Buddhism?

Thynn: The term "letting go" has become a catchword in Buddhist circles. It is true that "letting go" is crucial for arriving at self-realisation of inner freedom, but you have to understand how to let go.

J: What are we supposed to let go of?

Let go of your clinging. Let go of the motivating desire behind whatever you're doing. It may be a desire to succeed, to be perfect, to control others or to glorify yourself. It doesn't matter what it is specifically; what matters is the desire behind your act. It is easy to mistake the act for the desire.


To let go is to let go of clinging to desire, not to let go of the act.


We have been talking about stopping and looking at emotions. Try to stop and look at an act; see if you can identify the desire propelling it. When you see the desire, you can also detect the clinging to the desire. When you see the clinging, you see it resolve and you spontaneously let go.

R: There are so many things in life I don't want to renounce or let go of.

Of course not. We don't let go for the sake of letting go. There is a parable about a Zen master who was approached by a pupil. The pupil asked, "I have nothing in my mind now; what shall I do next?" "Pick it up," replied the master. This is an excellent example of the negation that comes with proper understanding, as opposed to pure nihilism.

If we are bound to the concept of letting go, then we are not free. When we are not free, understanding - paa - does not arise. But if we truly see the clinging to desire and let go of it, our act becomes a pure act, without any attendant tensions or frustrations. When the act is pure and simple, we can accomplish more with less stress. At that point, you are "picking up" just as you are "letting go."

D: Why is letting go so difficult? I can watch my other emotions like anger and hatred, but it is much harder to see desire and clinging.

That's because desire and clinging precede anger and hatred. In any fit of emotion - and our mental formations occur so very fast - we can only identify gross emotions like anger and hatred. Desire and clinging are much more subtle, so it takes stronger samadhi to be able to see them.

You have been conditioned since you were very young to relate everything to yourself. As soon as you learn to recognise people and things, you're taught how to relate these to the "I" and "mine"-- my mom, my dad, my toy, etc. As you grow up you're taught how to relate ideas and concepts to yourself. You have to learn that so that you can function properly in society.

But at the same time, this process slowly and unconsciously creates a concept of selfhood, and you build up your ego. This build up is strengthened by the values of society. You learn to compete, to achieve, to accumulate knowledge, wealth and power. In other words, you are trained to possess and to cling.

By the time you are grown up, the concept of ego-self has become so real that it is difficult to tell what is illusion and what is reality. It is difficult to realise that "I" and "mine" are temporary, relative and changeable. The same is true of all that is related to "I" and "mine." Not understanding that "I" and "mine" are temporary, you struggle to keep them permanent; you cling to them. This desire to try to keep everything permanent is what makes it so difficult to learn to let go.

M: I have trouble accepting the Buddhist idea of self as an illusion.

You have become so used to functioning with the "I" and "mine," so used to thinking your "self" is real, that it is naturally difficult to understand the Buddhist way of thinking. The "I" and "mine," being illusions themselves, survive only by clinging to illusions of their own making. They cling to all
kinds of mental possessions - be they power, wealth, status or whatever - which are themselves conceptual creations of the mind with no substantial reality. In short, they are also illusions.

R: If "I" is an illusion and not reality, how can "I" get rid of the "I"?

How can you get rid of something that never was?

M: I feel that if I let go of "I" and "mine," I would lose my identity. How can I exist if I let go of everything? Won't I become cold and unfeeling? It sounds scary, like living in a vacuum.

You have to understand that what you lose is merely an illusion. It never was. You empty the mind of illusion about self. Just let go of the illusion.

In fact, you are not losing anything. You just remove an imaginary screen before your eyes. In the process you gain wisdom, or paa. From this wisdom unfold the four virtues of unconditional love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. These virtues manifest themselves as concern, humanness and sensitivity to others. When you have paa you can fully experience the beauty and warmth that is within all human relationships.

That is why letting go is not losing your illusory ego. You are actually uncovering a great treasure.