Let go

We hear it: “Inhale the good shit, exhale the bullshit.” And we all laugh.

It’s on coffee mugs, it’s in self-help books, it bookends yoga classes. This notion that ”letting go” means releasing negativity and holding on to love and light is at best silly and at worst damaging.

As humans, we have a tendency to seek to prolong experiences of pleasure and reject experiences of discomfort. This is the cause of a great deal of suffering, and the instruction to inhale love and exhale fear – or some variation of this – can compound this already damaging tendency. Yet, “letting go” is one of the pillars of mindfulness. So, what is really meant by the statement, “Let go?” It’s actually quite simple: Take in whatever is there. Positive, negative, neutral. Experience it. Let it go. Experience the next thing.

Like most simple concepts, this practice is actually quite complicated when it comes time to employ it. How good are we, really, at living in experiences on a moment-by-moment basis, allowing them to rise and fall as they will? A better question is, “How bad are we, really?” The answer is unfortunately pretty bad. I’m about as bad as the next person at this whole letting go thing. Most days, I’d estimate I”m quite a bit worse than most.

Instead of asking myself to live with the mantra of let go, I give myself permission to aim for something more realistic. I inquire as to what it may be like to let go. I leave space for the letting go, should it wish to happen. I soften a bit around the edges, loosen the grip, and see if maybe, just this once, my mind may be open to letting go.

Sometimes, it works.