‘not holding on to thoughts, feelings, experience’
(Shapiro et al 2015: 11)
‘the easiest way to let go is simply to stop trying to make things different’
(Segal et al 2013:222)
Life, and all things in it, are transient, subject to change, both growth and decay. So, this attitude is in part a reflection that we should let go of how things used to be, of accepting things as they are now, and leaving space for change and growth. It is a letting go of things that are no longer relevant or current or maybe even real. We can end up hanging on to a world that has moved on.
This could include positive and negative events, objects, stories, attitudes, values, judgements.
To grow, adapt and respond flexibly to life, we need to consider letting go, and of not clinging on to these, in order that we can make space for living now. The out breath provides a useful analogy, in that we need to let go of the last breath in order to take in a new breath; which we need to do as the old breath is no longer of use to us.
So part of letting go is about allowing things to change, not trying to keep things as they were, of letting the current version fall away. This fits with the idea of not striving, of acceptance, even of resilience in terms of moving on. It is something that we practice over and over and over again moment by moment, so every time we catch ourselves clinging to something, noticing and letting it be as it is without holding on to it, or just letting it go.
It can be difficult to notice what to let go of. In many ways all these thoughts and ideas and so forth, are actually what appears to make us, us. Our thought, ideas, rules, experiences and views, our loves, pet hates, desires, sense of right and wrong, our impulses and drives, all seem to make us who we are. In this case letting go of these can be like letting go of who we are.
If we are to be present in the moment, we need to make space for it. So, letting go in this way is again like the out breath which allows space for the new incoming breath.
Letting go is an easier concept than practice sometime, though a small child seems to have the ability to let go of what she is holding if offered something more exciting.
Sometimes we have to consciously let go, to release something, sometimes it is about stopping not letting go, such as when we fall asleep by not trying to, and sometimes it is about achieving something by letting go of something that is getting in the way, as in not striving for relaxation, but letting go of tension.
In a sounds meditation we can hear a sound and then just let it go as it fades, in the body scan we systematically let go of the attention in one area, generally using the out breath, before moving it on to another part of the body.
Segal, Z. V, Williams, J.M.G., and Teasdale, J.D. (2013) Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression. 2nd edn. New York: The Guilford Press.
Shapiro, S.L. and Carlson, L.E. (2015) The Art and Science of Mindfulness. London: American Psychological Association