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Do you ever feel overwhelmed by repetitive feelings of regret, guilt, anger, resentment, sadness or frustration? Are you feeling trapped in this constant loop of sticky thoughts, feelings, and memories?
They’re annoying, frustrating and sometimes even painful, aren’t they?
You’d rather not have to deal with them.
Because, they just slow you down, making you unavailable to enjoy life here and now and draining your energy… energy that would be better focused on actualizing your dreams and desires.
Maybe you think that if only you could let go, your life would be so much better.
What if you could learn how to let go of your past, of negative self-talk, be at peace with yourself, and be fully available to what really matters?
In this post, I’m going to share with you the most effective hack for letting go using a meditative approach to gain natural acceptance to things as they really are so you can break free from those annoying loop of sticky thoughts and feelings. This way, you can enjoy the peaceful state of mind you so deserve.
Why is it so hard to let go?
I have to say that at first, I didn’t feel the need to write this article because from my experience I realize that letting go is just a by-product of certain meditation practice (I have to refrain myself from saying “the right meditation practice…” 😁).
That was it, a by-product, a side effect.
I didn’t think it deserves a spotlight for itself.
I know that most of us have some kind of attachments to certain things in the past that we find it hard to let go but I didn’t think it too big of a deal.
But, after I did a bit of research, I was dead wrong!
What I found was a lot of people have trouble letting go.
So I decided to write an article about it, focusing on the aspects of the meditation practice that lead to the natural process of letting go.
If you’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation, I bet you get the idea of what I’m talking about; what I mean by saying that letting go is a side-effect of the practice.
The bottom line is, letting go is a skill that can be learned through a certain practice. Some people do indeed have a talent that learning this skill seems easy and natural for them. But, nevertheless, any of us can learn this skill.
In this post, I’m going to focus on certain aspects of the meditation practice that lead to natural acceptance of things as they really are. Or, in a more common term, letting go.
If you need a step-by-step guide for practicing mindfulness meditation, grab my free e-book here.
Before we continue, this short video demonstrates the skill of letting go in action with the wisdom behind it:
Now, back to the topic.
Why is it so hard to let go?
Because our mind has the tendency to cling to things.
These things are mainly:
- Desires: the things you want, you enjoy, love or crave.
- Aversions: the things you hate, loath, or reject.
All the things I mentioned earlier: thoughts, memories, feelings of regret, resentment, guilt, anger, frustration, sadness, etc. have one or both of those two components.
From the meditation standpoint, both desires and aversions are basically the same thing.
If you want something, it means that you don’t want the opposite. Or, if you hate something, it means you love the opposite.
For example, when you say you love your coffee hot, it means that you hate it if your coffee is not hot (it doesn’t necessarily mean cold). Another example, when you say you hate it when it’s raining, it means you love it when it’s not raining (it doesn’t necessarily mean hot or dry).
That’s the nature of the mind. You can see or experience or feel it clearly in your mindfulness meditation practice. Don’t believe me? Then try it yourself.
This is called attachment or clinging.
And this attachment makes you suffer.
“You can only lose what you cling to.”
“In the end, these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?”Buddha
It doesn’t matter if the attachment is to the pleasant things or unpleasant things. The effects are the same: suffering!
Of course, it’s apparent if the mind attaches to unpleasant things. In this case, it creates hatred and tensions in the mind thus making the mind go into an unpeaceful state.
But, what if the mind attaches to pleasant things? What does it matter? You may ask.
When the mind attaches to pleasant things, immediately, automatically, it wants more of them. At this point, it already creates another tension in the mind.
Furthermore, when the reality doesn’t meet that newly developed desire, the result is a disappointment. This disappointment potentially creates another hatred thus adding fuel to the already high tension, leaving the mind in a more unpeaceful state.
This brings us to the hard truth:
We are addicted to suffering and we are not even aware of it!
So, what’s the cure for all this?
The cure is, understanding!
But where does that understanding come from?
It comes from observation, with the right attitude.
Please, bear in mind that the term understanding, observation and right attitude I mentioned are in the context of mindfulness meditation practice. And what do those terms mean?
That brings us to the next section.
The most effective hack for letting go
The initial reason I practice mindfulness meditation is because I worked in a stressful, high-pacing and long-working-hour environment. Stressed-out people are everywhere I can turn my head.
So, initially, my main reason is for managing stress and anxiety.
It was on my meditative journey that I found natural acceptance and letting go is real. It’s no-nonsense at all!
When things didn’t turn out the way I want it, I didn’t react the way I used to. I feel ok with it; I didn’t feel stressed.
Additionally, I feel I no longer hold grudges over disappointing past experiences.
I don’t know why, at first.
I was curious. Then, I started to investigate. Maybe, this has something to do with my meditation practice.
So far, this is what I can share with you:
When you practice mindfulness meditation, you practice:
- Noble silence, especially in retreats or at least when you’re practicing on your own at home, during your formal sitting or walking sessions. During practice, you refrain from talking. You learn not to react to the urge to talk.
- Non-reaction. This one starts very early in the practice. When you do formal sitting for 20, 30, 45 minutes or 1 hour, pains begin to emerge almost everywhere in your body: shoulders, neck, legs, back. Some parts of your body like thighs, calves, and ankles will begin to numb. You learn not to react to them but to be aware of them, to pay attention to all of them, to observe them.
- Non-judgment. Boredom, loss of interest, complains and all the related thoughts, feelings and perceptions will certainly arise in the mind as well as past memories that carry significant emotional weight. You learn not to judge them, not to analyze them but just be aware of them and observe them thoroughly.
- Non-attachment. You train yourself not to attach to any particular object no matter how pleasant it is for you or how much you love it. Objects come and go. It’s their nature. You practice to be aware of and pay attention to this cycle of arising and passing away.
- Right attitude. This one is big enough a topic by itself that will need a separate dedicated post to elaborate. But, it can be boiled down to several points:
- You don’t try to create anything (in the mind).
- You don’t try to reject what is happening (in the mind).
- You don’t love your meditation object so you don’t cling to it (This is non-attachment in action).
- You don’t hate or reject your meditation object so you don’t try to get rid of it (This is non-judgment in action).
- Continuous mindfulness. You practice maintaining mindfulness the whole day. In retreats, it basically means from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall asleep. When you’re practicing at home, at least it means during your formal sitting or formal walking. Although, actually, you should maintain mindfulness during your daily activity too.
If you’re working on all the above aspects together consistently and persistently over a period of time, you will develop your “awareness muscle”.
With your awareness muscle strong enough, you can observe your mental and physical aspects more thoroughly.
In time, you will develop clarity and understanding.
I’ll give you a little hint.
In time, you will understand that you are not your thoughts; you are not your feelings; you are not your emotions; you are not your memories. They are only thoughts, feelings, emotions and memories respectively and they’re not yours. They are only the objects of awareness.
But, you need to experience this yourself in your practice. This is not just food for thought to satisfy your intellectual hunger.
With clarity and understanding, acceptance and letting go will come naturally. This is the way the mind works.
The more you practice, the more skillful you’ll become.
This is why mindfulness meditation practice is the most effective hack for letting go.
But, letting go is just a small by-product of the mindfulness meditation practice. With this practice, you will gain much deeper and much more than this.
Now, how to do the hack?
A meditative approach to natural acceptance
If you’re new to meditation or if you want a more detailed and step-by-step version, grab my guide here.
In this section, I’ll be brief with emphasis on the aspects related to the hack for letting go.
Basically, you can practice mindfulness meditation in two steps:
- First, you build your foundation of mindfulness using a neutral meditation object. Neutral means it carries no significant emotional weight. The best one is your breath.
- Second, you use the mindfulness or awareness muscle that has been built in step 1 to observe all the mental phenomena and physical sensations to gain clarity and understanding.
Among mindfulness meditation practitioners, they call this clarity and understanding INSIGHT.
Initially, you need to patiently spend some time on step 1 to build a solid enough foundation before you go to step 2. Usually, it will take a few days to a few weeks depending on your state of mind. So, no rush here.
If, at any point, you find yourself get drawn and losing awareness, no need to panic. Simply go back to step 1 to further strengthen your foundation.
What is a meditation object?
A meditation object is something to be aware of or where you pay your attention to, with the right attitude.
Object can be bodily sensations like itching, pain, numbness, etc. or mental phenomena like thoughts, feelings, memories, emotions, etc.
When you’re paying attention to the object, you’re doing it with the right attitude. Meaning, You don’t love the object or cling to it. And also, you don’t hate or reject the object and try to get rid of it.
You don’t try to create anything in your mind. And, also you don’t reject anything that’s happening in your mind.
Your job is just to let it be; be aware of it, continuously.
Objects will come and go. It’s their nature. They’re not your boss. They’re not your enemies.
If you position them as your boss, you’ll succumb to them and get carried away thus losing awareness.
If you position them as your enemies, they will get stronger. Have you ever heard the saying, “what you resist persists?”
Avoid using the thing you want to let go as your initial object. You’ll easily get drawn and losing awareness because of the significant emotional weight attached to it. This is why your breath is the best object for initial practice because it’s neutral.
Basically, they are sitting, walking, standing, lying down and daily activity.
Usually, lying down is not recommended for beginners because of the susceptibility to falling asleep. But, in case you’re on bed rest, then, by all means.
Daily activity is the most difficult one because the object can be challenging. Imagine doing eating meditation with your favorite food in front of you. Can you maintain awareness with the right attitude?
That’s why sitting and walking are the more popular formal postures.
In reality, we see fewer walking meditation practiced at home simply because of space concerns. Unless you have a big enough veranda or front yard.
That’s why sitting is the preferred one.
You can do it cross-legged in lotus or half-lotus position on a cushion. Or, if you’re not used to it, just use a chair but keep your spine upright in a relaxed and natural way, and don’t lean back.
Rest your hands on your thighs, palms facing downward. Or, palms facing upward, on top of each other, in front of your abdomen, whichever you feel most comfortable.
Eyes closed or half-closed, your choice.
20 minutes per session, twice daily, preferably once in the morning before any activities and once in the evening before bed. It may improve your sleep too.
Then, start with 5 minutes and increase it gradually by 1 minute every 2 or 3 days. You may go a bit faster whenever you feel comfortable. Yes, it happens as you’re gaining momentum.
Find a quiet space with minimum distractions.
Take your time to find the most relaxed position, as comfortable as possible.
Breathe normally and naturally. No need to regulate your breath.
Try to maintain awareness of your breath for 20 minutes. You can choose either the sensation of the air flowing in and out at the nostrils or the moving up and down of your abdomen. Whichever you find it easier.
If you find the mind wanders away into thoughts, feelings, memory, etc. gently and immediately bring your attention back to your breath.
Now, we come to the interesting part.
After a while, pains usually begin to build up. They can be at any part of your body: shoulders, neck, thighs, back, etc. They are now your meditation object in the form of bodily sensations. Try not to react to them. Instead, just be aware of them and then, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Some practitioners use mental notes like “pain… pain… pain…” to label the sensation and then bring the awareness back to the breath. Don’t get too specific like numbness in my left calf or aching at my neck. That will make your mind too busy to pay attention. Just use a more general one-word term like pain. This trick works wonders for some. It helps to prevent getting carried away by the pain thus maintaining awareness.
Sometimes the pains will build up and go away fast, sometimes they will stay a bit longer before they go away. And, sometimes they stay for a while. They’re your meditation object. Don’t react impulsively but be aware of them patiently with the right attitude.
A lot of the pains, aches, and other discomforts that arise during sitting meditation can be alleviated to a much less and manageable level by these practical sitting meditation preparation exercises.
This part is the first important part. All the other next parts work in a pretty much similar fashion.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything — anger, anxiety, or possessions — we cannot be free.”Thich Nhat Hanh
If you practice consistently, within a few days, you can see more clearly that the pain is not that bad. It’s your mind’s reaction that exaggerates it. You may start to see the bodily pain as is and the reaction of the mind as separate but related occurrences.
If after careful consideration, you decide that the pain is too much for the body to bear, you can adjust your posture but do it mindfully from the start when you make that intention to move your body until the finish when you’re done adjusting your posture.
See? It’ not that you’re not allowed to move. You can move when you need to. But, only after careful consideration, not as a result of an impulsive reaction.
You will keep progressing if you keep practicing. Your mind will become less and less reactive. And finally, when any bodily pain builds up, your mind will keep its calm state. This is a form of natural acceptance, a letting go. Your mind begins to learn.
Next, you’ll apply the same approach for other objects like feelings, thoughts, and memories; basically all mental phenomena.
Taking mental notes can be helpful for some people. So, try it and see if this trick works wonders for you. When a certain memory arises, label it mentally “memory… memory… memory…” Two or three times is enough. Then gently go back to your breath.
This trick helps to prevent getting carried away by the object thus maintaining awareness. It helps you see that you are not your memories. The same applies to feelings and thoughts.
After your awareness muscle becomes strong enough, mental notes are not needed. But, this is a more advanced state of practice.
So, in case you find maintaining awareness challenging, keep mental-noting.
Important note during practice
- Let go of everything
Let go of any thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, etc. and practically everything. Keep reminding yourself you’re going to pay attention to them with the right attitude. Don’t over-analyze and don’t judge them.
- Have no goal
Any goals or targets won’t do you any good. They will only hinder your progress by creating unnecessary tensions in your mind. Just keep maintaining your awareness during your practice. That will be enough.
Want to experience real results?
Make a commitment to practice consistently for 8 weeks and usually, you’ll begin to experience real results. The letting go comes easier and naturally.
From the meditation perspective, the letting go process is not too difficult. It’s only a side-effect. This is why I consider this meditative approach the most effective hack for letting go.
The benefits of the meditation practice goes far beyond just letting go and natural acceptance. But, I guess this is a topic for another article.
The most effective hack for letting go: infographic
Conclusion and recommendation
Letting go and natural acceptance is a skill you can learn. Some people do have inherent talent that makes them learn this skill faster and easier.
Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool for gaining this skill because of several aspects of the practice addressing directly at its core.
Noble silence, non-reaction, non-judgment, non-attachment, the right attitude, and continuous awareness are the aspects that work together in the practice to build the awareness muscle.
With the awareness muscle strong enough, you can observe your mental and physical aspects more thoroughly to develop clarity and understanding of things as they really are.
With clarity and understanding, acceptance and letting go will come naturally.
The clarity and understanding will only arise in due time. You cannot force them. With that being said, the letting go process is already in development since the first day of your practice.
There is only one caveat. To get real results, you need consistency and persistence at least in the beginning.
So, challenge yourself to commit to this practice consistently for 66 days. Previously, Maxwell Maltz said 21 days are needed to instill a new habit. Newer study says 66 days. Whatever. I’m sure after 21 days, it’ll get easier to continue.
Now, I’d admit, following a simple meditation guide like this can be a challenge. For this reason, if you’re dead serious about learning the skill of letting go, I highly recommend this 3-week online course called the Letting Go, Letting Be by Giovanni Dienstmann.
The course is developed and refined specifically for this purpose after years of research and experimentation.
Without spending thousands of dollars on endless therapy and coaching, you can take the course for $197 (one-time payment) or $77 (3 payments).
Included in the course:
- Short, easy-to-follow and highly practical lessons that you can access via web or iPhone app
- All the tools you need to fully let go of whatever sticky thoughts, feelings or memories are haunting you and to find yourself again
- 60 days of email support
- A supportive community of meditators
- A 30-day money-back guarantee, no guesswork, zero risk
But, here’s the kicker:
If you’re into this meditative approach and you intend to harness all the benefit the meditation practice has to offer, you will get much-much better value if you go for the main course called the Limitless Life program which is membership-based, starting at $29 per month, also with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Want to know the best part?
The Letting Go, Letting Be course is part of the Limitless Life program.
With the main course, you’ll have the opportunity to try several meditation techniques from different traditions so you can find one that suits you the best.
It’s a full-featured course with a step-by-step system, teacher dialogs, and a supportive community.
Upgrade options which include individual coaching are also available.
You can read my full review here.
UPDATE 27 Feb 2020: It gets even better!
Now, you can start your 14-day trial for just $1, then pay just $29 a month after the trial ends. I guess this offer will only be available for a limited time only. So, you need to act fast!
Before we part, watch this video titled “How to let go, forgive, and move on — once and for all!”
You will get five more practical tips for letting go in this video:
By watching this video, you’ll get a taste of Giovanni’s teaching style: clear, simple, concise and relaxed.
Do you have a simpler and more effective approach for letting go? Please, share it with us in the comment.
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Featured photo designed by Freepik
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