– By Leigh Hawkins –
Many of our struggles come from our attachments and not being able to let go. It doesn’t matter what we are holding on to; an emotion, a relationship, a story -the tighter our grip, the more we suffer. Below are some practices that may help learn to let go and experience more peace and joy. Remember, a daily practice is required if you desire a change.
Meditation is simply sitting still and trying to pay attention to the present moment. You can focus on your breath, your body, or whatever is around you at the moment. You will find your mind is constantly escaping the present moment, attaching to worries about the future, planning your schedule, or remembering something from the past. In meditation, you practice letting go of these small attachments, recognizing what your mind is doing and returning to the present moment. This will happen over and over again and every time you return to the present, you get better at it. You learn that whatever you were attached to was just a thought, a story, a dream.
With the practice of compassion, you wish for the end of your own or another’s suffering. This wish helps transform you from being consumed by your attachment, to a softening of your heart and a way to gain freedom from it. Wishing to end your own suffering makes you bigger than the story you’re telling yourself. When you wish for another’s suffering to end, you become connected to them, recognize your suffering is not separate from theirs, and you are both in this together. As you connect with others in this way, your attachments will become less important.
Just as we can wish for less suffering in ourselves and others, we can also wish for happiness. The more we are able to see ourselves not as different but as comparable to others, the more we realize we are not alone in our struggles. We all are fighting our battles, dealing with similar situations, sharing a common goal to bring more joy and happiness into our lives. Focusing more on how we are connected and not how we are separate, lightens our grip on our attachments.
At the root of things, attachment is not wanting things to be the way they are. There is something about the present moment that you don’t like. It could be the person who you are with, your present circumstance or anything that leaves you unsettled. The practice of loving-kindness, compassion, or impermanence, helps allow the moment to be as it is. It may not be the perfect situation, but with a subtle shift in your perspective, you can let go of the desire to have it a certain way. Continuing this practice of staying open and curious in the moment, you become more accepting.
Each of the above practices help to expand your mind, so that it is not so restricted, confined, or set in its ways on how things need to be. Learning how to let go of what you are avoiding will open up space to handle what life throws at you. Your attachments begin to lose their pull on you and you will be able to accept the present moment, flaws and all.
While all of the above are important, I also know it can feel overwhelming. I suggest starting with a daily meditation, focusing on the breath for a few minutes and building from there. As you get better, you can slowly start to add the others into your meditation. Every day will provide you an opportunity to use these practices, to lessen your suffering and bring you more joy.