Beliefnet
Letting Go with Guy Finley

We suffer because we consort with painful thoughts and feelings, thinking somehow that not wanting them makes them “go away.” But our unconscious actions betray us: first, by animating what makes us ache, and then by binding us to that relationship through our resistance to it. Here’s a simple way of saying these last few ideas: not wanting our negative states actually nourishes them! I can almost hear the question that comes next: “Wait a minute! You can’t be saying these dark thoughts and feelings are good, and that we should want what’s hurting us, are you?”

Of course not! Negative states have no right to exist in us as they presently do. And that’s just the point. We literally give them a place to live in our psychic system—feed them, as it were—by trying to rid ourselves of them in the usual ways. But there are other ways of dealing with pervasive dark states besides resisting them, suppressing them, or trying to change the conditions seen as being responsible for them. Instead of these acts of willfulness, we choose in favor of watchfulness. Rather than struggling with dark states, learning to be quietly watchful of them does two things at once: first, it separates us from being wrongly identified with our own thoughts about that troublesome state. In addition—by the light of our newly liberated attention—we catch a glimpse of a powerful insight whose light helps set us free:

If we mistakenly give any negative state its “life”—then the opposite must hold true: we can consciously withdraw that same life any time we so choose!

Here is a simple exercise to help you get started with this new kind of seeing that is the power behind freeing you. Several times each day, whenever you can remember to do it, deliberately disconnect yourself from your own thinking. Choose awareness of your thoughts over being absorbed in the sensations they produce as they carry you along to get what they want. The aim here is simple: reclaim your attention in order to be where you are, and then just quietly notice all that you can about yourself. The light of this new order of awareness empowers you to catch and release what your own unattended thoughts had been busy cooking up for you, using you as stock! Each time you remember to reclaim your attention in this manner, with it you regain your life. And here is a bright bit of encouragement to help you get started. The words that follow are those of Simone Weil, a brilliant French writer, activist, and lover of the Light:

“Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.”

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