What does it mean to “just let it go”?


We talk a lot about this in yoga.

Someone annoys the hell out of you and you’re upset, then your yogi friend will tell you to “just let it go” (in the most annoying sanctimonious tone evar!). You hear “suppress all your emotions.”

You sit in meditation, your knees hurt and you can’t stop thinking about how hungry you are and then you have this brilliant (brilliant! I tell you) idea and start calculating how embarrassing it would be to get up to get a piece of paper to write it down, then your instructor tells you to “just let all your thoughts go.” You hear “suppress all your thoughts.”

A little love story has entangled you and now you worry about whether he will call (it’s only been 2 hours, so no.) or not and you decide that really you should “just let it go.” You think “suppress the desire for validation.”

Rather than suppressing, what we are really trying to do here is to not identify with our emotions, our thoughts, or our relationships. More big words, let me give you an example.

The darling from your love story gives you a rose, one with a long stem, thorns and beautiful red petals, and it is storming outside. As you walk home through the wind you grasp the rose really tightly, lest it blow away. Once you are safely ensconced at home you unfurl your hand and you see that the thorns have pricked your hands until they bled and the stem of the flower is broken. You wanted so much to bring this rose home that you clung to it with all your might. What would have happened if you had held it more lightly?

You probably would have brought it home safe and sound. Or it might have been blown away.
Neither possibility would have changed the regard that your darling feels for you. The rose is just a symbol for love, not the love itself.

The same way your emotions aren’t you, they are just a symbol of you.
The same way your thoughts aren’t you, they are just a symbol of you.
The same way your desires aren’t you, they are just a symbol of you.
Only because you identify with them do they become your identity.

No matter whether you are annoyed, or happy, whether you sit in meditation or not, you are you. That spark of youness doesn’t diminish with the external circumstances. And so we yogis practice not identifying. We feel annoyance and then hold it lightly, letting it go if it goes and feeling it as long as it is there in the knowledge that my emotions do not define me. We have a brilliant thought and hold it lightly, if it is still there after meditation we can write it down if not there will be something else. We want our darling to call and then hold that lightly, knowing that his call won’t change our worth.

You can compare it to a tree. That is rooted in it’s spot and sometimes a flock of birds come and sit in the branches, sometimes it is wet from the rain, sometimes it sheds all it’s leaves and sometimes it flowers, the external circumstances change yet always it is a tree.

We practice holding our identity lightly and letting it go. We practice being treelike.

And then a thing happens that is most extraordinary, we experience happiness bubbling up form inside us, pure and undiluted. The happy hum. The yoga text have a name for this “Ananda”, bliss. They say that this is our true nature and that the more we let go, hold the things we identify with lightly, the more we will experience the truth of our true nature.

One response to “What does it mean to “just let it go”?”

  1. Lovis says:

    Thank you Paula, beautiful written. Feel the freedom of leting go….. Love and appreciation.

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