I find myself going through cycles. Cycles of getting attached to my worries, anxieties, stressors, thoughts, doubts, guilt, plans, strategies, relationships…
I’d imagine you can relate. Attaching ourselves to the things of the world is a common ingredient of the human condition.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that attachment really is the cause of our suffering. Letting go – transcendence – is the solution.
Most faiths have this in common.
“All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not. Then, when you can get little enough and naked enough and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect.”Richard Rohr
It sounds so simple, right? In Christian circles, they say just “let go and let God”. But holy shite, is it hard sometimes!
I usually get in these cycles of attachment because I “feel” that I have so much to do: So much to think about, so much to accomplish. All the tasks on my to-do list make me feel out of control. I feel that if I don’t constantly chip away at the things that need to be done or figured out, that I will drown (and there are many reasons in my past that can make me feel that way, which I won’t get into now).
So it’s hard, right? It’s hard to have all these tasks, worries, thoughts, cares, and attachments “needing” our attention, but then decide to let them go.
How does that make sense? It’s very counterintuitive.
But the mind is limited. Like a computer, we can only have so many tabs and windows open before our brain goes kaplooey.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”Jesus
Here, Jesus is talking about the Divinity within Him. To me, divinity means infinite awareness. Jesus cultivated His infinite awareness. So religiously speaking, you could meditate on the Infiniteness of Jesus, and you’d be accomplishing the same thing is merely resting in infinite awareness (as in Buddhist meditation).
Regardless, Jesus Himself went away for long chunks of time to be by Himself and pray. We should do the same. We need it. We can’t survive without it.
But as it takes time for our minds to calcify and become rigid around the things that burden us, it also takes time (and a lot of effort and focus) to let go of what burdens us.
When I found myself burdened by different cares of the world, it takes a lot of focused intention to let it all go. It does not magically disappear as soon as I would like.
Once I get to that point of overwhelming burden, where it’s causing me stress, anxiety, and even sadness, it takes time and effort to peel all those layers of burden away.
It took time to get overwhelmed. It will also take time to let go.
Really, it’s just like losing weight. Overweight people don’t get overweight overnight. It usually takes years. Same goes with our spiritual and emotional burdens.
We are tightly-wound springs
Recently I went to counseling and told my counselor I was feeling very tightly wound – Stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.
He asked me what picture comes to mind when I feel those feelings of stress and overwhelm. It took a minute, but I told him I see myself as a tightly-wound spring. A spring so tightly wound that it doesn’t actually spring. It becomes ineffective because it’s so overloaded and overworked.
That’s how we can be.
We get so worked up about the day-to-day of life that we forget to rest, to let go, to be truly at peace.
Our hearts need rest. Our souls need rest. Our minds need rest. We cannot be effective without it.
I have written more in-depth elsewhere with practical steps for achieving inner peace, but in summary:
- Little by little, let go of what burdens you
- Transcend into a state of pure awareness and non-judgment
- Then meditate on infinite love, joy, kindness, goodness, peace, and wisdom (aka God, in Christianity)
When your burdens keep trying to latch hold of you (and they will), keep letting them go. Don’t judge yourself, don’t shame yourself, don’t get frustrated with yourself. Just keeping letting those burdens go, one by one.
As your mind wanders, keep bringing your focus back to pure awareness, or God. The mind is wild! It will wander a lot at first, and that’s ok. Keep letting go of your thoughts, and bring your focus back to peaceful awareness of the moment.
Over the course of hours or days (yes it can take some time!), you will find that letting go is becoming easier. Your “batting average” of having a peaceful state will be higher. You will be more at peace than stressed. The feeling of “Oh, I need to do this or that, or think about this or that”, will eventually fade away.
Journaling & Self Talk
Whenever my mind is particularly noisy, I’ll use either journaling or self talk to quiet it down.
If I have a particular task or thought keep coming up in my mind, I’ll write it down or sometimes just add it to my to-do list. The small act of writing it down helps the mind let go of whatever it was trying to do something about. Sometimes all it takes to help the mind let go, is tell the mind “this will get done later”.
And that brings me to self talk. I find that encouraging self talk is extremely effective at helping the mind let go.
In my previous example, whenever you write something down or add it to your to-do list, tell your mind, “thank you for that thought. I can understand why that would cause you anxiety. I’ve put this on my to-do list so I can work on this later”.
In any other situation during prayer or meditation, you can thank your mind for the thoughts and ideas it gives you, or for bringing something important to your attention. Thanking your mind for what it does is a great way to calm it down.
Also, it helps to tell your mind that you understand why it would be overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed. When your mind is saying that you need to think about some family issue, financial problem, or an argument you just had with your spouse, those are important things to think about. That’s why it’s hard to let them go, because they’re so important.
But as your mind brings this issues up, you can tell your mind “thank you for bringing this to my attention. This is very important, and I can understand why you’re stressed about it. It totally makes sense that you feel this way”.
So, showing yourself love is a great way to let go of the noise.
Try it and see for yourself. Having trouble? Let me know! I’d love to help any way I can.