The Practice of Letting Go

Releasing our fixed viewpoints can open our minds to a world of possibility
By Leo Babauta, www.zenhabits.net
February 21, 2019 Updated: March 19, 2019

There are a number of times when our mind clings to something tightly, and it is rarely helpful.

Some ideas will run circuits through our mind, like “I am right, the other person is wrong,” “My preference is the best way, others are wrong,” “I really don’t like this, it sucks,” or “I shouldn’t be however I am.”

In such cases, our minds are fixed in a certain viewpoint. We may judge others, complain or become fixated on what we do or don’t want.

This can lead to stress, unhappiness, anger, self-righteousness, aloofness, and more.

Caught in our own fixed thinking, we miss the beauty of the moment and its possibilities.

If you’d like to work on letting go, I would like to offer a simple practice.

The Practice of Letting Go

You can practice letting go throughout the day, because even if we don’t realize it, we’re hardening to fixed viewpoints constantly.

Here’s how to practice:

  1. Start by realizing that you’re hardened. Notice that you are stressed, upset at someone, feeling like you’re right, complaining about something, not open to other viewpoints, putting something off, or tense. These are common signs that you are holding on to a fixed viewpoint. Get good at noticing this.
  2. Notice the tension in your body. It’s a tightening from your stomach muscles, through your chest, into your throat, up to your forehead. Think of this as your central column, and it tightens up when you think you’re right, or someone else is wrong, or you really want something or don’t want something.
  3. Start to relax those tightened muscles. This is the heart of changing from holding on to letting go. Whatever is tight in your central column, relax. Try it right now. Soften. You might have to repeat this process multiple times
  4. Open your awareness beyond yourself. Open your awareness from just your own body and your self-concern, to the world around you. Become aware of the space around you, the people, objects, light, and sound. Open your awareness to the neighborhood around you and as far as your mind can reach.
  5. Become aware of openness & possibilities. With your mind opening, you can start to release those fixed viewpoints. Your mind is no longer closed. You have created space for possibilities. There is now the potential for the unknown.
  6. Open to the beauty that is before you. Now you can take in the actual moment before you. You’ve emptied your cup, and made room for seeing things as they actually are, and appreciating the beauty of other people, yourself, and the world you are within.
  7. Step forward with a not-knowing openness. From this place of an open mind, you can move forward with not-knowing. You don’t know how things should be, so find out. You don’t know if you’re right or wrong; you can explore. You don’t know the answers, you just hold the questions in your heart, and move into open possibilities.

It’s that simple. And of course, it takes a lot of practice. You can do this at any moment, but it’s helpful to have a short time of day when you set a reminder and then take a few moments to sit still and practice with whatever you’ve been clinging to.

When we practice like this, we are shifting from our habitual patterns of self-concern and close-mindedness, to an open mind that can accept not-knowing and the unlimited possibilities that could exist. From here, we can begin to see the breath-taking beauty of the world in front of us.

Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net

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