Letting Go, Letting Be

How do you spell relief? For starters, stop trying to change things you have no control over.

Q

. I hear a lot about letting go, but how do I do it? There seems to be few teachings on the subject, except that letting go and practicing nonattachment are supposed to be good things to do.



A. The Buddha said we experience the peace of nirvana by letting things be as they are. Indeed, applying the Beatles' exhortation to "Let It Be" to our lives can bring a lot of serenity and equanimity. My own personal Buddhist bumper sticker is "breathe, relax and smile." It works for road rage and for diminishing all kinds of problems. Repeat after me: "Breathe, relax and smile." Now that's not so hard, is it?

Of course, if it were that easy, we'd all be enlightened by now. Letting go, letting be, or embodying the Buddhist term "nonattachment" greatly reduces and even alleviates suffering. In fact, it is the goal of Buddhism. Buddha taught that the cause of suffering is craving and attachment. Therefore, letting go of our tight-fisted grasping is in our own self-interest, as it helps erode our wellspring of dissatisfaction and anxiety.

Attachment is like holding on tightly to something that is always slipping through my fingers--it just gives me rope burn.

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For me, attachment is like holding on tightly to something that is always slipping through my fingers--it just gives me rope burn. But letting go--nonattachment--relieves the constant, painful irritation. A good example of this is not being able to fall asleep at night because you keep turning something over and over in your mind. It's one of those times when letting go is obviously a necessary virtue, and having some kind of relaxation tool can be extraordinarily helpful.

Scientific research has shown that people who are optimistic and have an ability to accept or let go of negative memories, experiences, and events tend to be healthier and live longer than people who are pessimistic and worry about or try to change things that are out of their control. Indeed, acceptance is actually transformative, and awareness is curative. Sometimes mistaken for passivity or complacency, acceptance has a powerful magic that is actually quite dynamic and creative. Have you ever noticed, for example, how accepting your mate rather than trying to change him or her ends up improving your relationship?

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