The poignant imagery of meeting and parting is always the theme of most romantic songs. Life’s dualities of birth and death, of clinging and separation, of friendship and animosity, of meeting and parting are always met with considerable psychological as well as physical adjustments by us, humans. One song that aptly describes the difficulty of “letting go” is Sergio Mendez’s The Trouble with Hello is Goodbye. Yet “letting go” is very much part of our human existence: and once understood to the fullest, “letting go” can also become a source of grace and insight in our life and living.
What is this “grace of letting go” that I am talking about? Firstly, allow me to quote at length from the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran’s beautiful book, The Prophet:
“And a woman spoke saying, ‘Tell us of pain’. And the Prophet said, ‘Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain… And if you could keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, then your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; And you would accept the seasons of your heart; even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your field. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief’…” (“Pain”, from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet; p.57.).
In this emotive poem “Pain”, Kahlil Gibran associated the adjustments of “letting go” with the experience of suffering, grieving and sudden separation from something or someone we hold dear. However, this process of suffering will ultimately allow us to transform ourselves into strong and mature persons.
The heart-breaking pain wrought by detachment and letting go will make us proper human beings whose hearts “may stand in the sun”. Gibran gives us a very helpful insight on how to overcome the excessive trauma of letting go. If we will only accept that life’s circumstances are nothing but changing seasons and that these seasons cannot be prevented from taking their appointed courses, then we should be able to accept change and the complications that always accompany it.
It is futile to hold back time and seasons; hence, grieving too much on past circumstances is equally non-beneficial. The way to overcome grief and loss is through equanimity and detachment; as the famous Sunni Sufi Muslim saint, Hazreti Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi says: “Winter comes and goes, thus paving the way for summer to refresh my soul.”
Another crucial aspect of this “grace of letting go” is for us to release ourselves from our dogmatic ideas, obscurantist concepts, preconceived notions and from our narrow rigidities that limit our way of looking at the world and effectively imprison our perspective from seeing a higher view of Reality. When we let go of rigidities and dogmatic belief systems that restrict our minds, we liberate ourselves so we will be able to see new frontiers and fresh direction towards our journey of self-discovery. By letting go, we open ourselves to new possibilities of thinking and doing—these are fresh and innovative ways of starting anew towards our own personal growth, self-transformation and spiritual renewal.
Having been ingrained by our cultural and environmental conditionings to hold-on to things, letting go may sound as an escapism, a weakness, and a cowardly act. Hence we have idioms like: “to the bitter end”, “with clenched teeth and fist”, “hold-on tight” etc. showing our inflexibility by clinging tenaciously to ideas, views and narrow self-absorbed feelings of attachment. We view letting go as a weakness and as a form of “giving-in”. Most of the time, it is due to our egotism, rigidities, close-mindedness, self-delusion, pride and self-righteousness that we choose to hold-on to our views and emotions even if we intuitively know that we are wrong so that others may see our supposed strength, single-mindedness and persistence. However, this rigidity narrows our viewpoint, making us one-sided; thus preventing us to see the real situation in a holistic, reasonable, expansive and balanced outlook. Too much clinging emanates from the fear of exposing our real self and hence in the name of rigidity and tenacity, we put on our “mask of invulnerability”, fearing to expose ourselves and our beliefs to the scrutiny and investigation by others.
Through letting go, we begin to master and take full control of our lives from the shackles of the past that strongly enslave us. Through detachment from the past that binds our mind, we can flow with the stages and the changes of our lives, and thus we can face with an open mind any present problems that beset us. We find ourselves stronger to face another day. Through letting go, we will have the courage to go on with life and to face our life’s circumstances with renewed zest and optimism, moment by moment. Through letting go, we gain new insights and intuition for each and every situation that come our way. As our emotions, viewpoints, beliefs and concepts flow freely and openly, we then can gain the virtue of flexibility and openness to the needs of each situation in life. When we let go, we free ourselves from superficiality, rigidity, arrogance and stubbornness; thereby allowing our own innermost person to be renewed and transformed by the new situation we are now facing.
Shakyamuni Buddha, the Enlightened One says: “Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, live like a lotus detached from the murky water of its existence. As the lotus becomes a beautiful and pure flower despite the filthy waters, even so; no matter how difficult the path of the past, you can always begin to tread the secure road of today’s very moment.” (See Commentary to the Dhammapada; p.23.)… So how about it? Something worth pondering in our upward journey to Life!