Dzogchen Lama Sogyal Rinpoche once said, "learning to live is learning to let go." In small ways, we all practice letting go every day. We let go whenever we get on an airplane, leave our children with a babysitter, or loan out a favorite book. Letting go can be a challenging practice, however, since it involves not just material objects but also desires, expectations, limiting beliefs, thoughts, and actions, as well as the past. Life coach and Holistic Health Counselor Robin Peglow notes, "We generally become comfortable in our discomfort. It's much easier to sit in this 'comfort' than to risk it getting worse."
When we let go of material clutter by giving away some of our belongings, we create more space in our lives for movement and for light, we also create possibility. The same is true for emotional, spiritual, and psychological clutter. Peglow says, "When we hold onto things, they almost act as anchors to the past and weigh us down. Letting go allows us to begin something new and creates space that wasn't previously there."
The concept of letting go is also at the heart of many mindfulness practices and spiritual philosophies. The goal of meditation is to let go of, or at least slow down, the speeding train of thought that occupies the mind. Buddhism teaches that desire is the root of all suffering and advocates non-attachment because of the temporary and changing nature of the universe. Even the group Alcoholics Anonymous uses the phrase, "Let go and let God" as a tool to help members recovering from addiction.
How do we know when we need to let go? Peglow advises, "If something in your life isn't working there's probably something you need to let go of." She suggests, "Look for an area of suffering or a point of ineffectiveness and then examine any thought or behavior patterns surrounding it. If you can't pinpoint exactly what it is, then just do something different, do something you wouldn't normally do." So, if you always procrastinate, start early; or if you would usually avoid communicating, strike up a conversation.
"Letting go is like thinning out a patch of garden that's overgrown or full of weeds", says Peglow. "If we don't thin out our garden, then eventually the things we want to grow will stop growing. Letting go allows us to continue to grow and cultivate that which nourishes us and brings us joy." Thankfully, the more we practice letting go, the easier it becomes. With experience, we begin to trust that although we may not understand the bigger picture now, our situation is temporary and is moving us to a better place. In Lao Tzu's words, "When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."