Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Art of Letting Go

Learning to live simply is learning the art of letting go. There's irony here--to live simply, simply let go--it sounds easy until you try it. You quickly realize it's not such a simple thing at all. Not when our culture is prompting us constantly to accumulate and hoard, to fill our lives with stuff, information, and endless activity. And not when so much of our identities are wrapped up in those external things. Letting go, which should be the simplest of all tasks, can seem unbearably difficult.

What got me started on my journey towards simplicity was the inkling four or five years ago that I needed to give up the newspaper. Until then it had been a daily ritual dating back to my elementary years, and something I had never questioned. It's good to be informed, right? So, that's all there was to it. Good citizens are informed citizens. I'll never be sure why the urge to give it up awakened in me. I was wasting a full hour every morning reading the thing so maybe that's where the first hint of dissatisfaction crept in.

I remember when the urge first appeared, I experienced such a strong feeling of resistance to it. Not just resistance--when I took a good hard look I had to admit it was fear. Fear? How could I fear something so ridiculously inconsequential?

But I did. I feared it so much that I actually didn't cancel the paper, not then anyway. Only later, a year or two down the road, was I was finally ready. It had to incubate that long, the idea. I had to learn how to let go. When I was finally ready, it was absolutely painless but it wouldn't have been if I had forced the issue too soon.

I've found this to be true with everything I've subsequently surrendered. Always the fear and resistance initially, followed by a period of not taking action, just letting the idea incubate, followed finally by a very graceful act of letting go--painlessly.

I think what it boils down to gets back to my post about ego and materialism. These things that I give up aren't me, but I've so identified with them that my egoic self believes they are me. To give up these external things is very threatening to a self that believes they define its very essence. To lose the newspaper wasn't just about losing a thing, it was about losing the "informed citizen" part of my persona. And--ouch--that hurts. Or it did until the idea had gestated long enough for me to understand--informed citizen, no I'm not that.

Embracing simplicity is such a zen thing. Bit by bit you discover--no, I'm not this, no I'm not that. Eventually you let go of all the external things you've identified with and all the labels you've given yourself and guess what?--there you still are. You haven't been diminished. You aren't reduced to nothing. There you are. If anything a fuller embodiment of what it is to be human. Not identified with ego anymore. Swept clean of all that clutter. Like an empty vessel, but filled and overflowing with infinite nonstuff--the very finest stuff of all.

1 comment:

  1. i let go of my great love when he asked me too..its better to let him be happy without me than being with him and he is sad...