April 1, 2013

What It Means to Let Go.

Maybe it is the best thing to do, but how?

And is it always the best thing to do?

I have seen in my days many graphics with quotes about letting go. Recently, another made the Facebook rounds and numerous friends and students noted when they reposted that they understand letting go is helpful, but it is hard sometimes.

I have been discussing anger with a friend recently. I’ve been reminding her to meditate and really feel the anger in her physical body. She’s teaching me her tactic (also useful) to scream. In this process, I realized/recalled/remembered that a crucial part of feeling is to also feel when it leaves.

Anger leaves.

Sadness leaves.

Happiness leaves.

All of it leaves.

When we let go, we are not dropping it—rolling it—shoving it away.

We are watching as it is already, on its own impermanent volition, walking out the door.

Natalie Goldberg has a brand new book out. When I received my copy, I looked through it first for a reference to me. Yep, that’s right. I looked for myself in my teacher’s book. Because I knew there was a quote from Henry Rollins that I told her about and she used in the book. Not finding it, I gave up and began reading it, enjoying her stories and teachings. Then I hit the chapter on Dogen.

On page 194, there I was.

Or, more importantly, there was the insight I needed to cinch this reminder on letting go:

“The month before I’d taught in Madison, Wisconsin, and my student Miriam Hall told me something Henry Rollins, lead singer of Rollins Band, had said. This is a close paraphrase: Hating someone’s guts is like shitting in your own hand and then eating it. That is a direct teaching, I thought.”

~ Goldberg, Natalie (2013-03-19). The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language (p. 194). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.

This is what is really meant by “let go”—when you are holding on to something that has already gone, already digested, and all that is left is the leftover—the crap—that’s what we can let go of. It’s not as hard as we might think—if we understand that, in fact, it is already gone.

Perhaps we would be better served to speak of  “leaving taking” rather than letting go.

It has left, but we have not. We need to take our leave; leave the situation for a bit to see that we are all that is left. Rather, our fixation, our idea that there is still something there, that we are still there, is all that is left.

Jill Bolte Taylor, in her famous TED talk and My Stroke of Insight book, reminds us that, scientifically, just as meditation masters have said for hundreds of years, our actual emotions don’t last very long. Nothing lasts more than a minute, unless we perpetuate it.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, in another quote I recently rediscovered, says this:

“Equanimity is not being untouched by the world, but letting go of fixed ideas.”

We are touched. Let ourselves be touched—really touched. Feel your physical anger, sadness, happiness. Then, let it go—because it has already gone—and leave room for more. There’s always more of all of it. If we take our leave of our fixation, there’s more room for life to continue rolling in and through.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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Miriam Hall Apr 9, 2013 10:00am

Thank you, all. I encourage you to visit my personal blog – http://www.insidespace.blogspot.com for further expounding on this – especially in relationship to grief and feelings about loss…

Mandi Miller Apr 9, 2013 9:58am

You are awesome! Thank you for this!

Alyssa Apr 3, 2013 9:22pm

i really love this. thank you <3

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Miriam Hall

Miriam Hall teaches Nalanda Miksang Contemplative Photography, Contemplative Writing and other fun practices that combine perception and creative process as a part of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. Natalie Goldberg (of Writing Down the Bones,) says: “Miriam Hall has the heart, hands and head of writing practice. Study with her.” She can be found at her website, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and all over the world teaching and playing. You can also read more of her here, here and by visiting her website.