In the ordinary experience of living and more so with the passage of time, the heart forms attachments to things, not only because it deems the things it holds onto to be valuable in themselves, but also because in the holding-on process, it acquires a sense of identity as the one who exists in relation to what is being held onto. This sense of identity can be attached to objects, (in which case hoarding can become a possibility), or people (in which case bonds of dependency or co-dependency can easily arise), or, it can exist in relation to a talent or skill that one possesses that is relied upon to impress others, or, to an area of success in life that can be held in the same light.
“Thy will be done” is the prototype for letting go. It involves allowing something other and larger than our conscious selves to direct life.
Attachments which support a sense of identity come in many forms, both human and non-human, and they create a structure which we often carefully maintain in order to perpetuate the view of ourselves that we have grown comfortable with. Part of the acquisition of attachments is based on the unfolding quest for self-definition — for knowledge of who we are. But an even greater part is often based on fear which prevents the ‘knowledge-of-who-we-are’ from being a continually unfolding process, with new things arriving at our doorstep every day. Instead, we allow ‘who-we-are’ to coalesce around things that are already known and familiar. Fear, in this sense, substitutes the known for the unknown, and replaces fluidity with efforts at stability and permanence.
This way of being would be met with less difficulty if life or the growth of self actually worked in this way. But life is continually changing — both changing usand changing the situations around us, and we ourselves, if we allowed ourselves to grow, would find that we were perpetually becoming someone other than who we had been.
This is the problem presented by the need to let go of things, people, situations — that without them, the fear arises which says: “What will become of me without this? Who will I be?” Very often, the conscious self can neither answer the question nor take the risk of finding an answer by walking into the unknown. As a result, instead of a process of continual expansion, options in life for self-exploration are foreclosed, and we embrace the comfortably familiar.
To let go of what we have held onto involves trust — trust that we are strong enough and capable enough to meet whatever the process of change will bring, and trust that life’s opportunities and graces are sufficient so that when we let go of one thing, another comes to take its place. In the common parlance of today it is said: “when a door closes, a window opens.” In the words of yesterday it was said: “Thy will be done.”
“Thy will be done” is the prototype for letting go. It involves allowing something other and larger than our conscious selves to direct life, and places trust in the notion that if we surrender control and holding-on to things out of fear, beneficial effects will occur.
Equally importantly, the holding on that we do, based on the fear of changing and of life changing, prevents us from experiencing our life fully and ourselves as fully alive. Our choices become smaller, our vistas less expansive. And for many, this constriction of opportunity and choice becomes more and more narrow so that by the time one is elderly, it has almost disappeared into the small rituals and repetitive behaviors of each day. This narrowness is not a function of aging. It is a function of aging while allowing the choices and opportunities for growth to slip by, due to the fear of change. Though it is very common for choice to become narrowed in this way, it is not a necessity.
What we choose in relation to what life presents us with, can take us to the next step of our growth as a soul, or it can prevent growth from occurring to the full extent that it might. In any case, all choices will lead us forward, but the ones that permit letting go and the alteration that this inevitably brings, will produce the greatest amount of forward movement for the soul.