Life is like a lucid dream – elusive and abstract, like a Picasso where much doesn’t seem to make sense, so much so that we find ourselves in the position of trying to figure out and understand the meaning behind every incident, thought and emotion we have, which only brings us more confusion, more seeking, more desires and more holding onto the idea of wanting to control the circumstances in our lives. When we desire anything that we feel we lack, the desire to try and control events, people and circumstances becomes a Mount Everest, nestled in the center of our minds and our souls, in which we don’t truly see what is… but instead, what we wish to have and accomplish, which is to be “on top.”
We selfishly hold on to what we want and, paradoxically, hold on to what we don’t. So many say that they don’t want to suffer, but unconsciously hold on to it like a child who carries his security blanket wherever he goes. But what is letting go? What does it really mean? What are we letting go of, and what happens when we finally do?
To start, letting go means that we’re holding on to something. But what? A relationship, a job, your story, protecting the self from suffering? People hold on to everything. The result is that we lose our authenticity and our child-like qualities of enjoying every moment, of flowing with life, which points us in the direction of what we want, further expanding and revealing us to ourselves, reminding us of who we are.
Recently, I asked myself, “what am I holding on to?” I laughed out loud, because I realized that I had no idea! As humans, we LOVE to know things and to have all the answers, but when we think we have the answers or think we know, there’s no room for anything new to enter that can change our perceptions, which will ultimately transform who we are. This is the first and most vital step: asking yourself if you really know what it is that you’re holding on to, and being honest with yourself if you don’t. This is the beginning of the journey – where the answers begin to arrive.
Lao-Tzu practiced Wu-Wei, which literally means “non-action,” and from this state gave us the immortal Tao Te Ching, which is one of the greatest writings on letting go by doing nothing, without force. Here are a couple of examples he wrote regarding the freedom of allowing: “The sage experiences without abstraction, and accomplishes without action. He accepts the ebb and flow of things, nurtures them, but does not own them, and lives, but does not dwell,” and “Water overcomes the stone; without substance it requires no opening; this is the benefit of taking no action.”
What Lao-Tzu is essentially saying is that when we perceive life correctly, without placing our story on it, our lives naturally flow like water which has no desire, no needs to fulfill, has its own course, cannot be controlled, and will overcome any difficulty presented to it.
Nature is our greatest teacher in letting go and allowing life to naturally unfold. When the winds blow like a tyrant from an unknown land, a supple tree will not break, but will bend and allow, while a tree that is brittle will resist the isness of the wind and be uprooted and destroyed. When we relax, our lives become like supple trees, and no matter how hard the storms may come, we will flow with them, allowing them to take their course without breaking with brittleness and frigidity.
Watch a river. Throw a rock into it, and the river accepts it and returns to its natural course. Throw a branch into it and it will carry its weight without complaint. Throw a boulder into it and it will naturally find a way around it, and over time will carve its way through it. This is the nature of our lives without abstraction – following life’s ebb and flow. No longer forcing, but always embracing and allowing our individual rivers to travel their own unique and beautiful course.