Cultivating mindfulness requires a little more than just following a set of instructions or guided meditations. In practising mindfulness, you will have to bring your whole being to the process. You can’t just assume a meditative posture and think something will happen or play a tape and think that tape will ‘do something’ for you. The attitude with which you undertake the practise of paying attention and being in the present is crucial.
These attitudes are both needed for practising mindfulness and are in turn cultivated by its practise. Each one relies on and influences the degree to which you are able to develop the others. Working on any one will rapidly lead you to the others.
In a series of small blogs, Urban Mindfulness will discuss the different attitudes that form the pillars mindfulness practise.
7 – Letting Go
You might have noticed a tendency to hold on to pleasant experiences; wishing they would last longer or that it will happen again. A vacation for example, delicious food or saying goodbye to a loved one. Similarly, you may hold on to negative experiences by spending a lot of energy keeping them at bay. Being hurt, angry or anxious are all feeling you may tend to avoid or resist.
The pattern of attachment to pleasant things and avoidance or resistance to unpleasant experiences can lead to frustration because experiences cannot be controlled, especially internal ones, and can create secondary suffering. By letting go you allow experiences to be just as they are and let go of the resistance or attachment to them.
You already practice letting go at least once a day: before going to sleep. You lie down in your bed and let go of the day. Have you ever noticed you cannot sleep because your mind is still holding on to something? If you force yourself to go to sleep (and therefore intensifying your hold on it), the problem only gets worse.
If letting go is difficult, you may try looking at the way you are holding on to something. By examining your patterns of holding on and how it feels like, you may gain insights of its opposite, letting go, when it finally happens.
You practice letting go by recognizing your patterns of attachment and aversion and observing them. Allowing them to be. Noticing judgments being made and letting go of them. Consciously opening up and allowing the experience to roam freely. Letting go often is not about doing something, but rather about stopping the doing.