Attitiude 7 – Letting Go

“If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him or her. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate.” ― C. JoyBell C.

This is last of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for Mindfulness.

so what is Letting Go?

Definition: Letting our experience be what it is.

  • Letting go is a way of letting things be, of accepting things as they are rather than striving all the time to hold onto something
  • We let things go and we just watch…
  • If we find it particularly difficult to let go of something because it has such a strong hold on our mind, we can direct our attention to what ‘holding’ feels like. Holding on is the opposite of letting go. Being willing to look at the ways we hold on shows a lot about its opposite.
  • You already know how to let go… Every night when we go to sleep we let go.

This is the last and in some cases the most difficult of the attitudes of Mindfulness. It is the one that I have the biggest difficulty with. Relationships. Family. Work. Life itself. I find letting go so hard. I used to jump in and try to cling onto something when I thought I was loosing “control; a relationship; a work situation”. Almost anything. 

For me, nothing worked to help minimise the feeling of loss. Until that is, I came to Mindfulness. It has only been through both the daily formal and also the informal practice have I come to recognise where I try to cling and in so doing, get even more caught up in the situation.

Rather, in our meditation practice, I see my thoughts, body sensations, and feelings, come and go, over and over again. With time I have become better at intentionally letting them go. God, it is hard. Sometimes it is almost a conscious effort. Others, I just feel as if I am moving thorugh the moment. 

As I continue my practice and become more comfortable with it, I see that this is not unlike life. Everything in life changes, in the outer world and in our inner world; the more clearly I see this, the easier it is to let things go. See for yourself if it causes discomfort to hold on tightly to things. Keep in mind it is also very natural to cling to the things we love and want or believe are important to our well-being, so we don’t have to force ourselves to let go.

Using trust, acceptance, non-striving, patience, beginner’s mind and non-judging can lead us to the ability to let go.

The video where Jon describes the Letting Go attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBCithP9JrM&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=7
I leave you with the following quote which really struck me.

“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soulmate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” ― Marilyn Monroe

Attitude 2 – Patience

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

This is the second of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for mindfulness. We all talk about patience, but what does it mean in the context of mindfulness?

It can be really really hard to be patient. It is really hard to wait in general. In fact, many of us get antsy or even angry at having to wait. For instance at traffic lights; in traffic queues; waiting at the supermarket; in fact almost anywhere. There are times, even, when we just wished time would go faster; when we hurry to make it feel like it does. But when we do have to wait for something, time really seems to slow down, and we can feel our emotions heat up, both in our minds and in our bodies. Of course, there are times when we wish time would, in fact, slow down to a crawl, as when we are filled with feelings of joy, relief, or even calmness. How can mindfulness help with our very human tendency to be impatient?

So what is Mindful-based Patience?

Definition: An understanding and acceptance that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.

Do we practice patience with a feeling of long suffering and endurance? Or can it be practised with a feeling of deep faith in ourselves, in life and trust in others to come through for us?

Mindfulness patience means that we have developed enough wisdom to accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time, in their own pace.

So what are some of the key tips that will help you to have more patience?

  • Don’t try to hurry things along. Everything has it’s own time. This feels obvious, but we try so hard to force things through that we forget that for many activities, there is a natural rhythm or pace to it. 
  • Practice patience with ourselves. Why rush through some moments in order to get to other ‘better’ ones? Each one is you “living your life in that moment.”
  • Be completely open to each moment as it happens, accepting its fullness, knowing that things will emerge in their own time.

I have noticed for instance in meetings, where-as in the past I would rush in with ideas, comments and suggestions; now I try to find the flow of the meeting. The pace of the conversation and allow myself to match it. Often, I do not even make comments or suggestions; but rather stay silent. This can feel counter-productive; but trust me, I feel more grounded and focused.

How do you practice patience?

Practising patience in the midst of a stressful situation is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it seems to be completely counterintuitive. At it’s heart, it really means acknowledging that you don’t have control about all the aspects of your life. Look, none of us do. This can feel very scary, and for some, this means they can become angry, anxious or depressed in response to this sense of “non-control”.

But by practicing patience at these times, by allowing yourself to “be in this moment”, knowing that this moment (and all of the other moments that you are going to experience) is not in your control and that it cannot be otherwise, you will be re-regulating your mind-body, and strengthening your inner self.

There is a technique I came across that does seem to help.

STOP!

When you find yourself in the middle of a situation; be it at work, at home, with loved ones or friends; where you feel your impatience rising, think: S-T-O-P

  • S = Stop. Stop talking. Stop shouting. Stop whatever you are doing.
  • T = Take a breath. I try to breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of seven and breathe out for a count of eight, but whatever works for you.
  • O = Open yourself up to self-compassion. Realise that you in the moment. Just this moment and it will pass. Just like every other moment you have ever had.
  • P = Pause and reflect on what the context of the situation is that is making you feel impatient. I can assure you, that it will feel a lot less by this stage.

Try practising, the “STOP” technique. This in turn, may encourage your brain to “turn down” the heat and adjust itself by having you feel less reactive to the stress.

Patience is about accepting “what is”, knowing that “what is” will change, that everything is impermanent; the bad as well as the good. It is about self-compassion, knowing how hard it is to acknowledge the limited control we all have in our world. It is about knowing that we really will feel better by being less reactive to the “issue” or to the “situation” we find ourselves in. Finally, and probably the most important aspect is, that cultivating patience for yourself will allow you to be more patient with others.

The video where Jon describes the Patience attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkW27a8m1mY&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=3

I leave you with the following quote which is really wonderful.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

How attitude helps with Mindfulness

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

I have been trying to cultivate my own Mindfulness practice now for over two years, trying to do formal as well as informal practice on a daily basis; sometimes successfully, sometimes not. At times it has felt really easy. Sometimes, it has felt almost impossible, However, what has kept me going is the concepts of bringing awareness into my daily life; being more present and connected to what is going on around me. With these, I have felt truly alive for the first time in a long time.

Mindfulness has many aspects to it that can be interesting to explore. I have experienced many including silent practices; walking and movement practices; even mindful eating and tasting. All of these lend themselves not only to the formal practice of meditation but also in how we live our lives.  Once we have learned about them, we can actually apply these concepts in our daily life. For example, what is it like for you to do something routine (such as going for a walk with what is called “a beginners mind” (I’ll explain what this means in a subsequent post)? Is it possible to approach activities and life’s events with a fresh viewpoint? Is there something new to be noticed? Sometimes our beliefs and assumptions about the way something is, prevent us from experiencing the richness of the present moment; of the life around us.

I recently came across a video from Jon Kabat-Zinn where he talks about having the right set of attitudes that support the practice of Mindfulness. He talks about the fact that Mindfulness is more than just the formal sitting meditation practice; it is an approach to life. The challenge that we all face is the way we think of ourselves as “I, me and mine”; who we think we are and who we actually are are two entirely different things. Do you constantly think about yourself rather than others?  Do you really understand who you are and what life means for you?

There appear to be seven attitudes that Jon describes (plus a couple of others at the end of the videos). They were originally described in the book Jon wrote called  Full Catastrophe Living:How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation. They are:-

Non-judging: Consists in taking the position of an impartial witness to your own experience.
Patience

Patience: Having patience demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things unfold in their own time.

Beginner’s mind: Practising mindfulness means to take the chance to see everything as if it was for the first time.

Trust: Learning to trust one’s own experience, feelings and intuition.

Non-striving: Almost everything we do is for a purpose. Meditation and Mindfulness should not be!

Acceptance: Accepting what is happening in your life; around you and to the general situation of life.

“You have to accept yourself as you are, before you can really change” (op.cit. p. 38). This attitude is about attending to one’s experience with clarity and kindness, an essential foundation of meditation practice. Whereas a formal kindness meditation is not taught within the course material, this quality is inferred to within all the course content.

Letting go: The idea of letting go, or non-attachment, is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness.

We have a journey we can travel together: I have reflected on each of these and over the coming weeks will share my thoughts, experiences and feedback on each of them via a set of blog posts dedicated to each attitude. I hope you find them enlightening and thought provoking.

If you would like to check out the video that inspired this series, that Introduces the attitudes of Mindfulness click on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kANsRoYcaAo&index=1&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D

 

I leave you with the following quote.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden