One of the most difficult challenges in life at any age is the question of when to stay the course and when to let go of a person, thing, or situation. This question applies to issues as large as when to let go of life and as small as when to let go of a sentimental item someone gave to you. Some people are better at letting go than others and some are better at certain types of letting go. For example, we may be good at letting go of things but not at letting go of unfulfilling or toxic relationships. Or we may have a hard time letting go of anything, even old bank statements from 1995!
Buddhist philosophy emphasizes that everything in life is impermanent, and when you think about it, it is really true. Natural forces eventually change every landscape; no living being escapes the cycle of birth, aging, and death; even trees that live hundreds of years eventually die. Children grow up and leave home, spouses leave or die, items we love deteriorate over time—even our bodies are continuously changing. Most of us wish for some kind of permanence or constancy in our lives—a love that never changes, children that will always be little and sweet, to stay young and beautiful.
But the harder we cling to things that change, the more miserable we are. Letting go of the child to embrace the teenager or the adult, letting go of things and relationships that are irretrievably “broken”, even letting go of anger, hurt and resentments toward other people allow us to keep living in the present rather than living in the past or in a world of emotional pain over something that is no longer part of our life. A few questions to consider:
• Are you able to let go of people, things, and situations when they change or need to be changed? How good (or bad) are you at doing this?
• What is easier for you to let go of and what is more difficult (or virtually impossible!) for you to let go of?
• Have you gotten better at being able to let go as you get older? Or has it become more difficult to let go of certain things?
• What do you wish you could let go of now? If you could let go of it, how would your life be different? What impact would letting go of that have on you?