Buddhism asserts that attachment is the primary source of suffering. So then detachment or “non-attachment” would be our ticket out of that pain. Except that it’s not so easy… letting go of a person, place, or thing that has our heart temporarily held hostage.
You may be grieving the death of a loved one, or the end of a friendship you had hoped would be more, or merely the realization that your father will never be able to give you what you need from that relationship. It seems as though every moment of this life is about letting go, of something or someone that is renting far too much space in our heads.
And while there is no way I’d call myself a “let go” expert, I have done a considerable amount of research in this area. So the following are some techniques that… well… will at least get us started.
So much of letting go is finding the right timing. You let go too prematurely, and your process is going to be harder and more time-consuming than it needs to be. You wait too long and things spoil … the relationship or the project. In Dennis Merritt Jones’s book The Art of Uncertainty, he includes this great quote about timing by Gary Zukav:
“Fruit drops from the tree when it is ready. Staying too long, or moving too early, misses the mark. The mark is the appropriateness that causes the fruit to fall when it’s ready… The process has its own timing, and it creates changes in your life when those changes need to happen.”
My mom had a rule growing up that for every article of clothing that came into the house, one had to go out. The result was that my childhood closet didn’t look like my bedroom closet today. It was a tad tidier… a tad. This exercise was a simple ritual of making room for something new. If we can see the letting-go process as a transition to a new beginning, one full of potential and prospects – much like getting a nursery ready for a baby -– then we can shift some of our energy and concentration from loss to opportunity. As Joseph Campbell says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”