“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” – Bruce Lee
In our multifaceted, complex lives, sometimes things can be difficult. We travel for work, spending long days away from home. Our bodies become sick. We argue with loved ones. We end up jobless at a time when money is needed most. We are judged by those that don’t understand the actions we take.
Someone close to us leaves us behind.
We then cry out that these things shouldn’t happen; they should not be the way they are. We decide that things, life, and events are unjust and unfair. We label them, judging them as bad or good, instead of accepting the ways things are: neither good, neither bad, just there.
The weather is never bad, it’s just weather.
In this way of resisting what is, we add lots of negativity, anxiety, and frustration. Often times, we spend more energy criticizing how terrible things are than what what is done in the first place! How many times have we recounted to friends and family about the terrible driver that cut us off that day? The unfair cost increase in our power bill? The store ran out of bananas?
This way of carrying things around with us, past the event itself, is well recounted in a story of two monks.
Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.
But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The two monks continued to walk for many days and this deed wore away at the younger monk. Finally, within sight of their temple, the younger scolded the older, berating him for breaking his vows.
Once the younger monk was done criticizing the other monk, the older monk replied “I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her for days.”
Like the monks in the story, life often presents to us difficult situations that can be responded to in a myriad of ways. Whatever your choice on how to approach such difficulty, it is always beneficial to let things go afterwards, instead of carrying within us the negative judgments of “should have been” and “if only”. Carrying judgments and thoughts around with us can sometimes be far worst and more tiresome than the events themselves.
Below is a simple process to help you re-align with your self, and let go of the judgments and anxiety we create.
1. Be aware. This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of letting go: noticing that you are holding on to something. This can only come about with practice. We recommend some meditations, such as the Square breathing, to help you become more aware of your self and the thoughts that cycle through your mind.
2. Change your environment. You have recognized that you are holding on to something, and are judging and replaying the events in your mind. STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING! If you are in your car, pull over when it is reasonable to do so, and walk around for a moment. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are walking, sit down. This allows you to bring physical space between yourself and the emotion.
3. Accept the judgment. Now is the time, in your new physical space, to fully accept your judgment, what you are holding on to. Feel it to your core and breathe deeply while you do. Experience the way things are and how they make you feel, be it angry, jealous, frustrated, or exhausted. Experience the emotion fully, do not hide from it; it is a part of you. As you breath into your tension, do so with the intention of expansion in your body. Oftentimes reoccurring thoughts are coupled with subtle tensions within the body and by allowing the breath to expand the body into more of the new physical space, deep tensions can be released.
4. Consider the root of the action. Accepting of you anger, understanding the emotion, now is the time to consider where the action came from. Why is the store out of bananas? Perhaps the purchaser was too busy and made a mistake. Why did your friend become short-tempered for no reason? Perhaps there are other things in their life which caused them to lash outwards. Why did that person cut you off? Perhaps they are simply poor drivers, or perhaps they are unaware that their actions could bring others harm. Whatever the event that resulted in your “unpleasant” emotion, consider its root.
5. Breathe deeply, and release. Focus back on your breath and release the emotion you built around the event. With a better understanding of what may have caused an event, you are now in the position to realize it is not necessarily an event aimed at creating discomfort in your life and you can let go of the judgment you have around it.
As someone who is aware of their own actions and their effects on others, you have the special opportunity to have compassion for others and understand that their actions, though perhaps resulting in negatives for others, are simply what they think shall bring them the most happiness. It does not mean you let others treat you poorly, but rather, it gives you the mental space to understand why others act the way they do and let go of the emotions you have around the results.
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