Today I am experiencing some difficult emotions. I feel let down, frustrated and disappointed by events I have no control over. This is a common situation for many of us every day. Faced with something annoying that we have absolutely no control over what so ever.
For me, it starts as a physical ‘niggle’. Something sitting in the pit of my stomach that just weighs me down, like a heavy, unmovable blockage. I know its there, I know why it’s there, (if i think about it) but I just allow it to fester and then it just literally and emotionally weighs me down.
I cannot change what has caused it, but it is eating away at me and taking control of me. So I start to react, start to almost feed it with the way I react. So it grows and grows and so on and so on.
Does this sound familiar? I’m sure it does and the problem is this is not just happening with one thought or reaction but probably, over the course of the day, many such ‘niggling’ thoughts pay us a visit.
So how can mindfulness help in these situations?
By learning to let go, we can take back the control of these difficult thoughts and emotions. But it is not as easy as it sounds to begin with and does take practice, but the effort is well worth the results. Letting go is the essence of mindfulness meditation. Thoughts, emotions, ideas, opinions, beliefs, emotions, sensations are all to be observed, explored and then let go. This can be a difficult part of mindful living. Imagine having to hold a glass of water for a long time. the more you hold it, the more it begins to shake as you try hard to keep it 100% still. it begins to wobble and in the end the easiest thing to do is to place it down on the table and hey presto!, the water stops moving.
The first step is to realise that you’re holding onto something so you need to notice that you’ve actually got it. imagine you are holding onto a ball, you grip it and letting it go isn’t something that you do. It’s your ball and you own it, full stop! if you let go, you stop owning it, so you resist. You may have paid for the ball or even had it for a long time. Holding is doing and you have even forgotten why you are holding it, it’s just become habit. So the first step again is to wake up and notice that you are holding it. If you don’t know its there then you can’t let it go so by noticing it and the grip you have on it, you can decide what to do with it – let it go.
Here’s a short meditation you can try right now…
- close your eyes, if you want to, or lower and focus your gaze
- notice now, the position your body is in. Do you feel any physical tension? Are you warm or cold? Start to ask yourself how you feel right now and bring any physical sensations into your awareness. You may notice something you knew was already there or maybe something new. What happens as you notice this? Does it become stronger as you become aware or do you start to release the tension?
- Begin to consider any emotions you are experiencing at the moment. Get a sense of how strong this is or how aware you are. Don’t try and let it go as forcing it out may create more tension, instead just notice that it is there and acknowledge why it is there and then gently let it run it’s course. See it for what it is and then let it fade away in its own time.
- You can even try repeating the phase, ‘Let it go, let it go’ gently to yourself
- Now realise that you are able to notice tension, notice that it’s yours and reflect on things that you can let go of
When we stop trying to hold onto things we can simply notice them for what they are and often they are separate to ourselves. The more we practice noticing and letting go – rather than letting ourselves get caught up – we can learn to live more lightly.
And as the Thai meditation master Achaan Chah put it: “If you let go a little, you will have a little happiness. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of happiness. And if you let go completely, you will be free.”
So going back to my original situation, I began to notice what was weighing me down, what I was holding onto and soon realised there was no point keeping it as I could not alter it. So I sat back, became a witness to it, observed it, and eventually realised I go let it go. Simple. Easy. You have control.