“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything—anger, anxiety or possessions—we cannot be free” – Thich Nhat Hanh
A few months ago during one of my meditation trainings, we explored the concept of grasping. The idea is that as humans, we love to cling and hold onto our emotions, sensations, beliefs and perceptions. We hold on tightly and trick and train our brain into thinking these beliefs form our true identity, when in reality we are purely meaning-making machines. Clinging shows its face in many forms. For instance, we grasp onto emotions we experience by saying “I am sad” or “I am angry” versus “I am experiencing sadness” or “I am noticing signs of anger.” We literally want to white knuckle that emotion and make it our identity. I know in the past when I have said, “I am angry,” I am way more likely to sit and grasp onto that anger and frustration way longer than if I were to say “I am noticing some anger arising in me.” Expressing the latter sets me free from the emotion and allows me to recognize I have a choice in how I want to feel instead of letting the feeling control and consume me. I get that this verbiage doesn’t sound colloquial, but there is a real energetic mind shift that occurs when you use it. Clinging also arises from the expectations our mind creates. We might paint a picture of how a scenario was supposed to go, yet reality happens and plans turn out nothing like we imagined. Instead of going with the flow and being present with the current situation, our mind is grasping onto our failed expectations. Sound familiar?
Exploring all the ways my mind grasps onto things is fascinating! I get to recognize how my mind wants to find some sort of control, meaning and purpose out of every situation. This helps me realize that I tend to be living in the past and not in the present. That is where my meditation practice comes into play. Having a consistent practice to pause and breathe creates space for me to notice what my mind wanders to (ie. a story in the past, a feeling, anticipation of something in the future). Instead of hushing the thought or trying to shut it down, I want to welcome it in and then practice placing it off to the side. When I can separate the thought from me, I get to examine it from a different perspective and I feel so much lighter and more free. The more I get to practice this concept of letting go, the easier I am able to manage my emotions and energy during the rest of the day. I am able to be more present and focused.
This month is the perfect time to explore the thoughts you are clinging to. Let the slow pace of August create space for you to pause, breathe and gain awareness. Check out this letting go meditation on my new Centered in the City podcast. Examine what your mind clings to and learn how to ditch the unnecessary baggage. Recognize the consistent thoughts your mind wanders to, and create space so that you can recognize you are more than your thoughts. Learning to be aware of what your mind clings to, and to let go of your thoughts, will allow you to become more present and focused.
After you practice the meditation, feel free to use these journaling prompts:
What type of thoughts do you notice your mind clings to?
Where in your body do you feel those sensations?
What type of patterns or observations do you notice?