Humans hold onto everything. Have you ever wondered what happens when you let go of all that you hold?
There are two poems that I would ask you to read:
And She Was Gone
Ginger Foutley – November 2002
She chose to walk alone
Though others wondered why
Refused to look before her,
Kept eyes cast upwards,
Towards the sky.
She didn’t have companions
No need for earthly things.
Only wanted freedom,
From what she felt were
She longed to be a bird. That she might fly away.
She pitied every blade of grass
For planted they would stay.
She longed to be a flame,
That brightly danced alone.
Felt jealous of the steam
That made the air its only home.
Some say she wished too hard.
Some say she wished too long.
But we awoke one autumn day
To find that she was gone.
The trees, they say stood witness.
The sky refused to tell.
But someone who had seen it said
The story played out well.
She spread her arms out wide.
Breathed in the break of dawn.
She just let go of all she held…
And then she was gone.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792 – 1822
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
If you love something you must let it go. Have you ever wondered what this means? What about its meaning in the context of modern life? We can find joy in all that we do, and we can be free of all that burdens us, but we must let it go.
I ascertain that letting go means realizing that we can keep nothing.
Death separates us from all things the good and the bad. The good being things we we hold near and dear to ourselves: our perception of self, loved ones, material goods, and all other things that can be attributed to this waking life. However if we love something we must let it go. But why would we let go of what we love?
Because what we love causes us to suffer; the very fact that we live means suffering. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. To suffer is to realize that your emotions are results of your actions. From our birth we suffer, longing for breathe, food, warmth and shelter. This is the human condition, but that does not mean suffering is a bad thing. After all when we eat do we feel like we are suffering? No, of course not we are sated in the moment, our lives extended so that we may pursue food once again and again. This is suffering – the endless cycles created by existential circumstances or choices that we make.
As I continue to read this book on Buddhism (which ironically(?) was stolen) I am consistently inspired. It reinforces a core belief that I learned a while back “all life is suffering”, but let me reinforce though, THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. When we realize that our choices cause an increased amount of suffering outside of what we naturally suffer for. We are free to let go of what causes us pain and discomfort. We are free to be a bird, or the bright flame. We can let go of our existence, because in the end we all return to the sands.
In Ginger’s poem letting go of oneself is a choice and is not understood by the world as a whole, because it seems strange and misunderstood. The girl wants nothing more than to be free of all that burdens her mortal life. Eventually achieving this through what some would call “enlightenment” by simply letting go of it all. This contrast’s Ozymandias it is clear his intentions were to live forever through his works letting his name resonate throughout the history books. Though in the end Ozymandias, has everything taken away from him by the cruel and relentless march of time. Although he built a vast empire the sands have reclaimed all his worldly goods. What good did suffering do him in the end?
In both cases each person must let go of the entirety of their being, their life and their possessions (physical and emotional). If Ozymandias had his way he would have probably chosen to live forever, but it is not his choice the fate of all life is forced upon him, time has taken its toll claiming his life and empire. In Ginger’s poem the character makes a conscious choice in her waking life to let go of all she held. Both may find peace, but one of them found it sooner by choosing to let go.
I think that in life we can all choose to let go of our worries and struggles. We can choose happiness by letting go of that which we cannot control. We can close our eyes and let slip-away all things we know and love: family, friends, pets. But upon reopening our eyes in this waking world we are empowered to realize that it is by our choice that we allow these things into our life. We can choose to enjoy the time we have with our loved ones. We can choose to be happy in our jobs and homes. We make a choice to be resentful and miserable when life is so infinitely vast in positivity.
It is our choice. It is your choice.
So to me letting go means realizing you can take none of it with you in death, but in life the world is truly what you choose to be a part of. Let go of all you hold near and dear, and upon waking up realize it is still here and you can enjoy the totality of it. Eventually we must all let go, by choice or by demise of external factors which are far beyond our control.
We must let go.
The quote below, which is commonly attributed to the Buddha, but my research has casted doubt on that… More to come! The quote below is a striking example of why it’s important to let go; especially anger.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
As for our other emotions: love, jealousy, joy, and anything else. We must “let go” of these emotions they do not benefit us from being internalized and we must express them in a physical manner so as to expunge the energy we store inside ourselves. If we cannot express our love or dissatisfaction with ourselves and others we bottle it up, causing pain to our hearts and stomachs respectively. Think about a moment in your life in which you did not act on your hearts intent or your stomach’s willpower. It probably made you feel uncomfortable, hurt, or nauseous. Why? In that moment you decided to sequester the emotions that you felt and return them to their source rather than letting go. This is like poison for the body, we need to express ourselves in a variety of ways, and after all we are only human with a wide range of emotions and experiences. Emotions can exit the body in a number of ways, and like everything else there is a yin-and yang to it all. For example: Love is evol and to be evil is to live.
We cannot love without selfish intent and we cannot be evil unless we are alive. The two sides simply cannot exist without the other. But getting back to the main point, what does it mean to let go? Letting go of yourself and your emotions – means freeing your body, mind and spirit of the prisons you have constructed for yourself.
We are free to love our families but we must choose to do so. We cannot keep their company forever and so we must let go of their physical embodiment. Letting go of this love for others does not mean you no longer love them. Rather it means that you have accepted their departure from your life and in the living moments you find gratitude for their existence regardless of circumstance.
Truly letting go of something means realizing you cannot keep it, but in the moments when we live we get to enjoy the journey.
For example, and as sad as it may be your dog will pass away. We know this from the instant we become bonded to our pets. We love them and yet they will leave us. If we can let go of their physical embodiment before they pass then every waking moment can be spent in pure joy, because we realize that time is short and we are allowed to choose enjoyment over sorrow in the moments where both of us live. It is our choice to suffer at the hands of existential circumstances, and because we live we can choose.
That is what it means to let go. Finding solace in the fact that we all live and will die, and the time in between can be spent in peace and enjoyment.
So go forth and live well, let go that which you cannot control and upon waking up be grateful for the opportunity to live.
Poems can be found at the links below: