The Art of Letting GoWhen the mind discovers that you are no longer afraid of its content, it will leave you alone.
There I was again — lying in bed paralyzed by emotion. Constant noise clamored for the attention of my awareness like an uninvited circus.
Calliope music screeched a cacophony of self-criticism as lions roared and circled below me, eagerly awaiting my plunge from the high wire after losing my delicate balance between safety and self-destruction.
What could I have done to deserve this?
I lay there, unable to move physically, but tortured by a violent mental fight that raged within me. My mind wrestled with intricate contortions in an attempt to keep its balance when what it really needed was stillness.
My consciousness kept trying to put out fire with fire, to silence thought with more thought. But these were only flames of a different color.
A Heavy Burden
I first attempted suicide when I was 16. Now, at 26, raising a family and knowing what I would be leaving behind, it didn’t seem practical anymore. But what kind of life was this that I had no control over?
How might I be what I wanted to be if at any moment I could be overtaken by this petrifying pandemonium? I screamed silently, from within. This burden is too heavy! I could only cry in frustration and pain.
And then — suddenly — I saw the uselessness of my efforts to escape what was happening at this moment. I was struck by the realization that every attempt to break the hold of this depression had ended in exhausted defeat.
I hung my head in disappointment and disbelief that I found myself back where I was now — drowning in guilt, shame and all things fearful.
What could I do? Nothing had helped. No books, no medication, no amount of talking about it had ever offered any real solution. Every “fix” was really nothing more than an attempt to cover up a symptom … a way of hiding that was more socially acceptable than the depression.
My world was simply crumbling. Any attempt to improve my life was like trying to build a tower of dry leaves in the middle of a freeway. Any addition to my story, my quest to become something, was made impossible by the turbulence of the conditions surrounding me. Always, I was left with nothing.
Moment of Surrender
And so, at some point, I just gave up. I remember that time very clearly. I lay there empty, realizing that my dreams for tomorrow and my hope for a changed self were not things I had been guaranteed in this life.
I gave up on the expectation that one day I might become more lovable, more accepted and respected by those I saw as better than me. I simply gave up on the whole imaginary future I had created in my mind.
And at the moment of surrender, I asked myself a question that I had never asked before:
“What if it’s supposed to be this way?”
What if this experience wasn’t something that I was supposed to escape?
Social conditioning had taught me that negative emotions should be dismissed and uncomfortable experiences must be overcome. The socially responsible thing to do was to get busy becoming something more — someone better.
Because if you allowed yourself to be twisted into knots by thoughts of condemnation, how could you contribute to society and keep it going on its quest to nowhere?
What I could not escape was the knowledge that this experience of depression was … Reality. Regardless of the stories in my mind of a brighter future and a better version of myself, this despair was real, and it was happening now.
Hope and Possibility
My perspective changed immediately when I shifted my focus from a world that I was imagining in the future to the world that I was actually living in at the moment.
The world that exists now, even though seemingly problematic according to my conditioned mind, is the only authentic reality there is. So the question of “What if it’s supposed to be this way?” was a question that allowed me to rest, even though I knew the question had no definitive answer.
The question itself created a space of openness and the hope of possibility that I didn’t have to run away from what was happening.
I lay there in bed now with the perspective of the observer — the one who watches rather than the one who fights.
In this space, I noticed the most curious of things — the tension of struggling to maintain my balance dissipated. The weight of the sadness — while still heavy— decreased and was no longer unbearable. How could this be?
A chuckle bubbled up from my soul. It was as if life had just been waiting for me to stop fighting it, so that it might show me why it was here and why I was in it.
I was open now. I was done fighting. And in this new space of total acceptance, a profound truth revealed itself: What was crippling me was not the burden of depression, but rather the grueling effort of trying to balance on a tightrope that existed in my mind— a precarious world that existed in an imaginary tomorrow.
Arguing With What’s Real
The pressure that gave rise to the depression was caused by my incessant arguing with reality. I was convinced that my reality should not be allowed to be real because it wasn’t acceptable as it was.
The exhaustion was caused by trying to prop up a self that wasn’t real either. The parade of thoughts that promised to lead me to that self only led me to believe that who I was right now wasn’t good enough. The flash and sparkle I had conjured up in my mind made my reality seem unworthy of experiencing.
Now as I watch from the sidelines, I see how silly this quest to become something more has been. I observe rather than participate. I’m only a spectator not a performer. I watch as my mind scrambles to make me something I am not.
However … it hasn’t worked.
The chase is only mental movement. The perception that I am lacking something is a problem that only exists in my mind.
I see more and more clearly that even getting what my mind thinks I need doesn’t make me more of anything. I am still the self that I have always been.
I wondered: If I could let go of the need for a new reality that continuously propelled me towards tomorrow, could I possible find peace today?
So I stopped fighting with the self that exists right now.
And the peace I’ve been longing for has come from the acceptance of who I am in this moment. The love that I have craved so sincerely is love for what I am right now. Nothing I can do tomorrow will make me more or less loved by life.
That was the lesson: I don’t have to change myself, or become better than I am or better than someone else, in order to deserve to love myself. I don’t have to be thinner, or smarter, or more successful than my neighbor. I don’t have to pretend to be happy when I am sad.
I don’t have to be anything other what I am, right now.
For what I am right now simply is. The noise in my mind is just that … noise. There is no need to fear it and no reason to conform to it. It only becomes a problem when I wrestle with it, argue with it, fight it. All that does is give it permission to define me and the power to oppress me.
Letting Go of Ego
Thoughts cannot harm me unless I let them.
Many of them are brought on a wind that comes from outside me — from a confused culture that constantly compares what reality is with what it imagines it could be.
When we give up the quest to be who or what our mind imagines for us, we lose interest in the mental chatter, and a quietness arises.
We learn to accept the possibility that we are exactly who we are supposed to be rather than continuously struggling to get to some future fictitious version of ourself. That’s just an idea that exists in the mind. That’s only the ego. We need to let it go.
Clinging to an imagined version of the future can bring nothing but anxiety and discontent now.
Maybe this, then, is the point— not the unending struggle to become something better, but the discovery that what we are in this very moment is already enough.
We needn’t be ruled by an egocentric agenda endlessly struggling to manifest its impossible idea of a perfect tomorrow.
We need to realize that each of us is a miracle that is happening right here, right now. Whatever we imagine our future self to be is little more than an illusion.
Thinking Simple Now is loving the you that you are, and letting go of the you that you are not.