When we talk about letting go, whether it is of material stuff or mental stuff, what we are talking about is letting go of the attachment to the physical or mental object. If you haven’t read my previous blog post What is Non-Attachment? that would be a good place to start.
So letting go doesn’t mean we have to get rid of all our stuff, live on our own and never have an opinion about anything. Letting go means seeing where we have invested our sense of self in an object, a person or a thought (views, opinions, ideologies, likes, dislikes etc. are all thoughts) and being willing to look at that attachment as honestly as we can until we see through it and it can drop away.
What do I mean by seeing through it? Well, we often realise we have an attachment to something when the attachment is causing us to suffer – suffering gets our attention! Let’s say I really want an expensive pair of shoes. If I have the means to buy them then I probably won’t notice how that feeling of desire, of must-have, is actually painful. But if I can’t get those shoes and I really feel I must have them, then I will surely feel the suffering. If I am willing to transfer my attention away from how to get the shoes to the feeling inside me, and look at what I am believing, I may be able to see some version of the thought that I need these shoes in order to be happy. If I then ask myself if my future happiness truly depends on a pair of shoes I can hopefully see that this is not so. The attachment is seen through, the feeling of must-have drops away.
Sometimes this happens in a second – I only have to think why on earth am I letting myself get all het up about this? and it’s gone. Other times it takes a lot more sticking with to unravel. Sometimes the unraveling involves active questioning, other times it means sitting as still as I can with the discomfort and letting it reveal itself fully. Either way, I must be willing to look at it. I can’t force myself to drop it, can’t just turn away from it, it will still be there next time I look around, though maybe in a different form.
The root cause of all our attachments is the illusion of separation that makes us feel we need to acquire or achieve things in order to be whole. Each time we see through an attachment it takes us nearer to seeing through the whole illusion of separation and realising that there never could be any lack.