If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. – Ajahn Chah
Letting go is difficult. It is against our habitual tendencies; against what we have grown up learning. We may not openly admit it but it always appears counter intuitive and hence unnatural. We feel as if letting go (without getting even) is somehow belittling ourselves, it will make us smaller than what we think we are. Often we hold on to past events so that we can offer the most fitting response if it were to occur again.
Past wounds often turn into a refuse, particularly when there is nothing exciting at present. Since the mind doesn’t not find anything interesting to occupy itself in the present, it automatically falls back to memories of the past to keep itself busy. This is how the past keeps us occupied, and kills the present.
Letting go is difficult because emotions are involved. Emotional involvement is always binding; it keeps us glued to situations, people and memories. Emotions keep us tied down and make our efforts to live “in the here and now” difficult. We know in the mind that we must let go and move on with life, but doing so involves ignoring the pull of the emotions which is difficult. When painful memories surface we react with aversion and try to escape and when joyous moments of the past appear on the mental plane we instinctly try to hold on to them. This is the habit pattern of our “normal mind.” Therefore, any effort to let go appears unnatural and unreal, although we know it to be the right thing to do. Another truth: when we hang on to the past, our thinking in the present gets clouded.
Letting go is difficult because we confuse letting go with forgetting or ignoring that the painful event happened in the past. Trying to develop a selective amnesia is not letting go. It is like standing in front of a wall pretending it does not exist. This is going into a denial mode. What we really need is to be able to look at the past; without allowing it to influence the present. Letting go means that the past does not shape my actions today.
Letting go is difficult because we are impatient. We don’t understand that it takes time to change the mental tendencies and conditioned habit patterns. Quite often when we are feeling strong we “fix” our thinking and conclude that we have finally let go of some past pain. However, the pain resurfaces when we are not with the “fixed” thinking pattern. This brings a sense of defeat. When it happens several times we end up concluding that it is really not possible to let go. But if we don’t up we soon come to realize that letting go is a process; we must keep our alert and keep trying it each time we fall back. What is equally true is that our each new effort progressively reduces the intensity of pain. This is the process of healing; which is an ongoing affair.
Letting go is a growing experience. If we continue to resist letting go; we are not fully living in the present; and hence, not growing. If the road is bumpy, our ride is going to be bumpy; whether we like it or not. Letting go is accepting the fact that we can’t always have a smooth ride. Letting go is accepting pain as pain, frustration as frustration, and dissatisfaction as dissatisfaction, but not allowing them to hold us back and move on. The unpleasant won’t become pleasant but despite that, moving on is where the focus should be. This is really letting go; it is not a one time affair but a process. Maintaining the continuity of this process is very important which is healing and liberating.