“Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.” -Dalai Lama
Letting go is an important element of Buddhist detachment or non-attachment. Anyone who has watched an episode of “Hoarders” knows the extreme suffering associated with the refusal to let go of the past and the obsession with material things. Such over-attachment interferes with enjoyment of right now. It disallows one from being fully present just as it prevents one from making room for the future. The things that really matter, love and relationships are shunned in favor of material things. Nowhere is the rampant materialism of American culture more evident. This is clearly one of the contributing factors which has made the USA the most mentally ill nation on Earth according to the World Health Organization.
In Buddhism letting go is known as non-attachment. Since all things are impermanent, non-attachment is the only logical attitude one can have towards material things, our bodies, and even life itself. Clinging to the things of this world which are in constant transition is an impossible task. This is the importance of letting go. One cannot truly hang on to anything, even loved ones. The impermanence of everything (except change, itself) is a well known scientific theorem known as the second law of thermodynamics or entropy. Fully understanding impermanence leads to gratitude for the present moment as well as detachment from the small details in favor of the larger picture. Acceptance of the way things are in the miracle of the present moment is the way to be centered and content.
Detachment reduces desires, fears, and other negative emotions. Peter Morrel writes, “If I am less desirous, more contented, less hateful, more loving, more peaceful, more contented, then I can die happy. That is the nature of non-attachment, a path worth cultivating.” Non-attachment prevents us from being slaves to our passions and helps us to consider the happiness of others. It speaks the very core of Buddhism and allows one to be a more compassionate person.
Beliefnet has the following to say, “The Buddha said we experience the peace of nirvana by letting things be as they are. Indeed, applying the Beatles’ exhortation to “Let It Be” to our lives can bring a lot of serenity and equanimity. My own personal Buddhist bumper sticker is “breathe, relax and smile.” It works for road rage and for diminishing all kinds of problems. Repeat after me: “Breathe, relax and smile.” Now that’s not so hard, is it? Of course, if it were that easy, we’d all be enlightened by now. Letting go, letting be, or embodying the Buddhist term “nonattachment” greatly reduces and even alleviates suffering. In fact, it is the goal of Buddhism. Buddha taught that the cause of suffering is craving and attachment. Therefore, letting go of our tight-fisted grasping is in our own self-interest, as it helps erode our wellspring of dissatisfaction and anxiety. For me, attachment is like holding on tightly to something that is always slipping through my fingers–it just gives me rope burn. But letting go–nonattachment–relieves the constant, painful irritation. A good example of this is not being able to fall asleep at night because you keep turning something over and over in your mind. It’s one of those times when letting go is obviously a necessary virtue, and having some kind of relaxation tool can be extraordinarily helpful. Scientific research has shown that people who are optimistic and have an ability to accept or let go of negative memories, experiences, and events tend to be healthier and live longer than people who are pessimistic and worry about or try to change things that are out of their control. Indeed, acceptance is actually transformative, and awareness is curative. Sometimes mistaken for passivity or complacency, acceptance has a powerful magic that is actually quite dynamic and creative. Have you ever noticed, for example, how accepting your mate rather than trying to change him or her ends up improving your relationship? The easiest way to work on letting go and letting be is to notice your tendency to want things to be different from what they are and to practice giving up that strong preference. The Third Chinese Patriarch of Zen [offered the] saying, “The Way is not difficult for those who have few preferences.” ———————————————————————————————–
The Buddhist Blogspot offers the following, “Like Buddha before us, letting go is gaining freedom. Once we let go of trying to control everything, life seems to flow with greater ease. It’s not unlike a twig floating down a meandering river. It doesn’t try to stop or force the current into an unrealistic upstream reversal of flow. It just lets go and enjoys the ride. Letting it take it where it will. Life is like that it seems. We try and control the journey with some imagined belief in a power we don’t have. There is no power over altering the flow of life. It will take us where it wants, so the only thing left to do is let go and learn to adapt to each bend in the river and enjoy the scenery while it lasts. It’s once we let go that we notice a world that we were missing while being so focused on changing how our life is unfolding. Suddenly we notice a sharpness, beauty and softness to life that we missed before. The trees seem to take on a new sacredness that brings us peace when before we pushed through them on our way to nowhere. It’s why the cliche of “stopping to smell the roses” persists. When we stop trying to push toward a specific expectation we start to see that life has more to offer than we had ever realized before. So, tonight, I’ve dropped the heavy backpack of the burdensome stones of expectations and am moving freely and effortlessly across the middle-path like a light and unconfined cloud. Relaxed to take whatever form the moment molds. Acceptance of being overwhelmed at times; unburdening myself of the chains of worry that enslave me and delay realignment with the peace that is an uncluttered mind. Expectations are like fairy tales and myths; they are alluring but ultimately leave us disillusioned and disappointed, which are the fore-bearers of suffering. Today, I am letting go and it couldn’t be more liberating.”