Life on earth includes suffering, that’s obvious. We have relationship problems, we lose a loved one, experience the separation of death, we experience loneliness, illness, accidents, we are haunted by guilt, experiemce phobias and fears and unfulfilled desires. We experience this distress because we would like things to be different from what they are. In short, it’s the resistance to that which causes suffering. To be certain about what I mean, when I say “suffering”, I mean everything in one’s life that “doesn’t work”. To see immediate changes in our lives, we should begin with stopping the resistance to what is.
Gravity exists, and that’s what is. Our mate is quiet or nervous, and that’s what is. We can change our life in trying to change what is, but there’s not so much to do about it. Instead, it would be better to concentrate all our efforts upon that which we can change.
A Christian prayer says the same thing: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” (Serenity Prayer)
But we can perceive that resistance in almost all fields of human life: people want things to change; they want everything they dislike to change.
I am not preaching of passive acceptance of what is: this is not the case. In fact, there are things which we have the potential to change right now, so we have to do everything in our power to change them; there are other things we can’t change immediately, so we have to work through time to make them change; and, there are things that we can- not change, so here is the recipe: ”it is as it is” works and has to be applied. We have to recognize such kinds of things and stop wasting our efforts with trying to change what we cannot change.
And, one of the things that cannot be changed is other people. When we try to change someone, we force him to repress his basic human right: freedom of being as he is (independently from “as he is”). We can’t and haven’t the right to make people be as we want them to be. This kind of repression is not only illegitimate, but also, in long term, impossible, because the forced change will not last, it would result in a new eruption of dissatisfaction. So, waiting for one day when things with our mate, beloved or friends will result differently from as they are right now (and will be different as we want them to be), is certainly ill-advised – we resist what is. The only thing we can really and surely change is ourselves, if we want to. And this is the field where we might be focussed if we want every kind of positive and productive change. Concerning dissatisfactions, we can’t change outer things as we want, but we have the choice in how we respond to what happens. We have all the right to be as we are without changing ideas or behaviours to satisfy someone else- this is our right, so we have to understand that this is also the other’s right, independently if this “other” is our friend, mate, father or someone else close to us. We can help him to change according to his needs if he wants and accepts our help, but nothing more. Applying the Buddhist, Taoist and Zen art of “Letting go” means exactly this: everything is what it is, as it is- and we have to accept this statement, at least with persons or various situations such as weather conditions (it is a very absurd thing that we complain about this, but almost all of us do this- it’s too hot, too rainy, too cold…).
Now, maybe, we would better understand the popular Zen aphorism:
Sitting peacefully doing nothing
and the grass grows all by itself.
Recognizing these situations in various fields of our life is the first fundamental task if we want to apply the concept of letting go in our daily life. The second fundamental step, is…. leting go.