By Julie Redstone

In the ordinary experience of living and more so with the passage of time, the heart forms attachments to things, not only because it deems the things it holds onto to be valuable in themselves, but also because in the holding-on process, offers a sense of identity to hold onto. This sense of identity can be attached to objects, or people or, it can exist in relation to a talent or skill that one possesses that is relied upon to impress others, or, to an area of success in life that can be held in the same light.

Attachments which support our sense of identity come in many forms, both human and non-human, and they create a structure which we often carefully maintain in order to perpetuate the view of ourselves that we have grown comfortable with. Part of the acquisition of attachments is based on the unfolding quest for self-definition – for knowledge of who we are. But an even greater part is often based on fear which prevents the ‘knowledge-of-who-we-are’ from being a continually unfolding process, with new things arriving at our doorstep every day. Instead, we allow ‘who-we-are’ to coalesce around things that are already known and familiar. Fear, in this sense, substitutes the known for the unknown, and replaces fluidity with efforts at stability and permanence.

This way of being would be met with less difficulty if life or the growth of self actually worked in this way. But life is continually changing – both changing us and changing the situations around us, and we ourselves, if we allowed ourselves to grow, would find that we were perpetually becoming someone other than who we had been.

This is the problem presented by the need to let go of things, people, situations – that without them, the fear arises which says: “What will become of me without this? Who will I be?” Very often, the conscious self can neither answer the question nor take the risk of finding an answer by walking into the unknown. As a result, instead of a process of continual expansion, options in life for self-exploration are foreclosed, and we embrace the comfortably familiar.

To let go of what we have held onto involves trust – trust that we are strong enough and capable enough to meet whatever the process of change will bring, and trust that life’s opportunities and graces are sufficient so that when we let go of one thing, another comes to take its place. In the common parlance of today it is said: “when a door closes, a window opens.” In the words of yesterday it was said: “Thy will be done.”

“Thy will be done” is the prototype for letting go. It involves allowing something other and larger than our conscious selves to direct life, and places trust in the notion that if we surrender control and holding-on to things out of fear, beneficial effects will occur.

Equally importantly, the holding on that we do, based on the fear of changing and of life changing, prevents us from experiencing our life fully and ourselves as fully alive. Our choices become smaller, our vistas less expansive. And for many, this constriction of opportunity and choice becomes more and more narrow so that by the time one is elderly, it has almost disappeared into the small rituals and repetitive behaviors of each day. This narrowness is not a function of aging. It is a function of aging while allowing the choices and opportunities for growth to slip by, due to the fear of change. Though it is very common for choice to become narrowed in this way, it is not a necessity.

What we choose in relation to what life presents us with, can take us to the next step of our growth as a soul, or it can prevent growth from occurring to the full extent that it might. In any case, all choices will lead us forward, but the ones that permit letting go and the alteration that this inevitably brings, will produce the greatest amount of forward movement for the soul.

2 Responses

  1. The common practice of defining who we are by what we have is a lot like trying to hide behind yourself and believing it will help. It all ends up in a tangled mess of presumed assumptions, and what hindsight will prove to be serendipity, blind luck, divine intervention or the meaning of life. The choice is yours, but none that would hide how ridiculous it looks if you try.

  2. The Buddha said that our biggest problem is our attachments.

    Attachments are people, places, and things which include emotions.

    Few people are willing to change for the better, but many are willing to change for the worse.

    What the many need to understand is that positive change is necessary for growth without which they will stagnate and die.

    While there is physical gangrene in which blood supply to an area is cut off and living tissue dies, there is spiritual, emotional, and intellectual gangrene that causes another kind of death. When spiritual death occurs the death of the body will soon follow. As above so below.

    If you feed one you will feed the other. If you starve one you will starve the other. One cannot exist without the other for all are intricately interconnected.

    Once you let go of attachments you can soar ad infinitum, to infinity.

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