Abandon Only What Is Not Yours

Shaila Catherine

Reading by Liz Helgesen (Download file)

Awakin FeatureThe wise understand the importance of letting go -- even letting go of the things we strive for and attain. Meditative training is more about letting go than it is about attaining levels of absorption. Spiritual life invites you to relinquish all that binds you, whether that is your cherished fantasies, destructive attitudes, assumptions, views, or treasured roles, beliefs, and ideals.

“If you don’t want to suffer, don’t cling” could summarize the main thrust of all the Buddha’s instructions. But if you can’t follow that simple instruction completely and need (as so of many us do) more complex approaches to help you or keep you busy until you finally tire of clinging, an extensive array of meditation tools have been devised by generations of practitioners.

And yet, if at any point you are unsure what to do in this practice, just let go.

It is not necessarily one more task to perform. It is, simply, what occurs when you are not clinging: a direct expression of wisdom arising in a moment of experience. Simple wisdom tells us, "When you are being dragged, let go of the leash." When you feel the pain of grasping and understand the holding on as the cause of your suffering, the solution becomes obvious.

Some people fear that letting go could diminish the quality of their lives, health, abilities, achievements, or personal property. To this, the Buddha said, "Whatever is not yours, abandon it; when you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness." This invites a profound reflection on what one can authentically claim as one’s own. As we discern the impermanent, conditioned character of all material and mental processes, we eliminate perceptions, sensory experience, and material things as fields for possession. On the surface it seems like we are asked to give up everything, but simultaneously comes the realization that there is actually nothing possessed and consequently nothing that can actually be given up. The great abandonment is to let go of the concept of ownership.

Letting go in meditation is the relinquishment that involves no loss. Recognizing impermanence leads to the realization of the pure and ungraspable nature of things. Knowing this basic fact of things, one has nothing to fear. And the extraordinary delight that arises with realization surpasses all temporary pleasures, softening any residual fear that may want to grasp again what can never actually be possessed.

Shaila Catherine is a meditation teacher, with particular expertise in deep states of absorption. Excerpt above is from her book, Focused and Fearless.

Seed questions for reflection: What does 'relinquishment that involves no loss' mean to you? Can you share a personal story of a time you let go of the leash? What helps you recognize the impermanence of things in your daily life?

Add Your Reflection:

7 Previous Reflections:

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    On Sep 2, 2019 Barbara wrote:
    Please give examples of form that involves no loss. Please give us steps and ways to do this. I can easily give away living space furniture at times and clothes I no longer need, but I do like having things that please me, make me comfortable, allow me to meet in community. So how do we relinquish the form of things that we need to thrive and live with others, work with others? Thank you, Barbara

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    On Aug 29, 2019 Aarya Pandya wrote:
    I am just 17 years old, and i am supposed to work hard for building a future that will help me be independent and provide me with a good standard of living. I am often feared on how will i do it, because i have to constantly be in that realm of achieving and wanting more and more to claim a post/degree! This stresses me very much. How do i give out, and let go of the greed for my future? Please do reply.

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    On Aug 27, 2019 Sunil, Bangalore wrote:
    It's detachment from the Maya, the illusory and impermanent world.The moment I think my children are infact the children of God and not mine, I am relieved with a feeling of liberation. The reality that 'Uncertainty is the only certainty in life' makes the daily life easier and friendly.

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    On Aug 27, 2019 Lesli Hill wrote:
    I’ve read every essay on this site over the past five years. They inspire me to take time to reflect on how I am sitting in the world. I suffered for ten years because of a failed medical implant. I had excruciating physical pain but that pales in comparison to my emotional suffering. A year ago medical doctors at Mayo were able to bring and end to that physical pain. Yet, I struggle with the emotional impact of that experience. As I read today’s post I realized that we are biologically equipped for physical survival but not alwaysequipped to be a survivor. They are vastly different constructs. One occurs naturally, the other requires intentional self reflection,forgiveness and a profound letting go I must let go of the suffering that defined me for a decade to be free of the fear of more suffering right around the corner. Thank you for this post.

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    On Aug 27, 2019 Lakshmi wrote:
    Letting go of the hurtful incidents is a major tumbling block in attaining peace. When we feel that we’ve overcome The wrongs done to us, suddenly we are overwhelmed by the emotions of sadness,anger,”why me” etc. out of the blue we are attacked. Can you please explain this phenomenon? I’d also like to know how to do let go meditation.

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    On Aug 24, 2019 David Doane wrote:
    Not only is it an illusion that I possess things, it is an illusion that there are things to possess. So, for me to relinquish what I really don't have and really doesn't exist is relinquishment that involves no loss. In the apparent world, I behave as though I possess things, but in reality I don't possess anything. I live in the apparent but am not of it. I don't know when I stopped being of the apparent, that is, let go of the leash -- I know it was a long time ago, and it's an awareness that has become more clear over the years. What helps me recognize the impermanence of things in my daily life is implied in the question itself, that is, "things in my daily life" are impermanent, as are all things, be they apparent for a moment, a day, a lifetime, or a millenium. Awareness of impermanence is deeply ingrained in me, and the awareness is comforting.

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    On Aug 23, 2019 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    We all have different kinds of suffering. I have sufferedand all the people I know have suffered. This is first Noble Truth. The Second Noble Truth is making an inquiry about the cause of suffering. The Third Noble Truth is to seek the way of ending the suffering. And the Fourth Noble Truth is to follow that way consistently. I love these words of wisdom expressed by Gautama Buddha. I have learned that I have caused my suffering by holding on the craving that causes suffering to me and to people close o me. When I let go of the leash that I myself have created i become free from my self created suffering. Following this path of letting go involves no loss. It frees me from my suffering and that is big gain. The Buddha's words of wisdom, "If you do not want to suffer don't cling." and"Whatever is not yours, abandon it; when you have abandoned it, that will lead you to your welfare and happiness." These words of wisdom have helped me to awake and be aware of ... [View Full Comment] We all have different kinds of suffering. I have sufferedand all the people I know have suffered. This is first Noble Truth. The Second Noble Truth is making an inquiry about the cause of suffering. The Third Noble Truth is to seek the way of ending the suffering. And the Fourth Noble Truth is to follow that way consistently. I love these words of wisdom expressed by Gautama Buddha. I have learned that I have caused my suffering by holding on the craving that causes suffering to me and to people close o me. When I let go of the leash that I myself have created i become free from my self created suffering. Following this path of letting go involves no loss. It frees me from my suffering and that is big gain.

    The Buddha's words of wisdom, "If you do not want to suffer don't cling." and"Whatever is not yours, abandon it; when you have abandoned it, that will lead you to your welfare and happiness." These words of wisdom have helped me to awake and be aware of what thoughts are go through my mind. As the Buddha has said "What we become what we think." Remaining awake and aware of what goes in my mind and letting go of suffering -causing thoughts helps me to walk on the Dharma path, the path leading to wellness, happiness, and peace.

    I have learned that acquiring information from books, podcasts and even teachers is not enough for me in my spiritual journey. I need to remain connected and engaged with the lessons I have learned and I am still learning and practicing and applying it everyday in my life. This is a gift and I am very grateful for receiving this gift every week that keeps me awakened.

    Namaste!
    JagdishP. Dave[Hide Full Comment]

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