The Practice of Letting Go
Teisho by: Rev. Suirin Witham 27 Feb 05
Letting Go, a familiar Buddhist phrase, it is frequently implied in Dogen Zen, and presumed to be inherent in focusing on the moment, but is not actually taught as a discipline, a practice. In the Korean Zen tradition, it is taught as a discipline - as a meditative practice – a practice of Letting Go. Letting go of whatever you’re hanging on to: emotions, anger is the most severe. When caught up in anger, hanging on to it can be very dangerous. If we hang on too much, it can become a physical problem (making us physically ill), as well as a mental one. As a daily practice, letting go means letting go of everything – constantly, continuously. When you feel anger rising, instead of indulging in it, for the moment, which can be somewhat satisfying, and also painful…. Anger rises, open your mind as though it were a fist, and let it go. Let it drop, drop away.
We are quite fortunate to have jobs to do, which occupy a good portion of our day, allowing us to focus and be concentrated on work, something purposeful. But in moments of reverie, we may become attached to other emotions, anxiety or love, some person who is occupying your mind, when you are supposed to be working. Heh, heh, heh! Nobody knows it but you… ‘til you screw up on the paperwork. When you realize you’re not focused where you should be, open your mind like a fist – and let it go. It is whatever is distracting you; let it drop away.
Dining out, going to your favorite restaurant. You like this place because of its atmosphere, because of the tasteful presentation, the artful presentation, of the food, and the delicious aromas and flavors. And when the body is satisfied, the stomach is no longer hungry; you continue to eat because the food is just so wonderful. This is another dangerous grasping, clinging. A slice of bread and a smear of peanut butter would have cured the hunger pangs and satisfied the body. But we are indulging our senses, all our physical senses, This is not .. the best .. thing to do. It can’t hurt for a minute or two at least while we’re eating. We need to eat, right? Let’s enjoy it! But let’s not indulge the senses, the five aggregates, to the extent that we are grasping, clinging, hanging on to these sensual delights, at the expense of our Buddha Mind. When you realize that this is happening, open your mind like a fist, and let it go! Let it drop away. Perhaps the extra pounds will drop away too.
When you have let whatever it is drop away, open your mind in tanden and allow the breath to flow in. Open your mind in tanden and allow Ki energy to flow in. Open your mind in tanden and allow wisdom to flow in. Don’t cling to anything, don’t close that mental fist; allow the breath to flow out, let it go. Allow Ki to flow throughout your body bringing strength and energy. But let it go - back to the source. Allow wisdom to permeate your being and let it go. It will be there when you need it.
You’re in a meeting holding forth, but your purpose has been expressed; maybe in a conversation, and your point is made. You begin to enjoy the sound of your own voice, the unique position of imparting wisdom – to the group, or to the person that you are conversing with in a private conversation. You’re enjoying yourself immensely, but remember, wisdom grows more strongly when you’re listening, than when you’re talking. And if you love the sound of your own voice… Open your mind like a fist, and Let It Go.