There are many opportunities to reduce suffering
According to Buddha, “attachment is the source of all suffering.” If that’s true, all we need to do to reduce suffering is to detach and let go. Simple enough, yes? Well, no, not for everyone, and not in every situation. However, you can learn to let go of the things, thoughts, and people that don’t serve you for more ease and peace.
Letting go of stuff
For the last month, we have been moving into a new house (hence my absence). There’s nothing like moving to give you opportunities to work with letting go of stuff. In my case, I had boxes of miscellaneous and memorabilia that have been in storage and haven’t seen the light of day in three years (or much longer). Additionally, I have stuff that came from my mom’s house, the one she lived in for over 50 years. Moving to the new place, I decided that I would only keep what fit in the new house – no more storage units. At the most, we had four, I’m embarrassed to say. As of today, I’m proud to report, they are all empty. The stuff is here and the sorting and letting go have begun.
I have held on to things I don’t even remember receiving. I have lots of kid’s things that they don’t remember, and quite a few things that either, “might be valuable someday,” or “might come in handy, someday.” I also have things that I paid good money for and if it has useful life left, I should use it until it’s no longer functional, right?
Well, if I’m not using it and it has life left, perhaps someone else can use it. This is a pattern of mine that I have discovered with some reflection. I have been conditioned to keep things that could be used out of a scarcity mindset. A scarcity mindset is one that says, there is not enough, and is the result of having been poor, or lacking in resources.
Separate the item from the meaning
In order for me to let go of some of these things I really had to consider what letting go of them would mean. Would I miss it? Is it going to stay in a box for the next 10 years until I look at it again? Do I have something similar? Why do I want it? In other words, what is the attachment I have to this thing? What does it represent? A pleasant memory like a happier time, or something enjoyable? What do I think I will lose if I let it go?
I have to remind myself – these are things with no inherent value other than what I give them. What I am hanging on to are inanimate objects that represent a moment in time, a strongly held belief, or a desire. In the case of my kids’ things, they remind me of when they were little and how quickly time is passing. If I have the belief that this thing is valuable, or might come in handy (when I haven’t used it in years), then I’m likely to be attached to it, as well as if this thing is something pleasing it somehow makes me feel good. I’m recapturing that feeling by hanging on to it.
Interpreting the action of letting go
Another great question to ask yourself is, “what am I getting from this?” Well, for me in the long run, what I’m getting is an attic full of stuff that will sit in boxes forever unless I decide to let it go. How we interpret letting go is important. Does putting my kids’ old homework from second grade into the recycle pile mean that wasn’t important to me and by association, that they weren’t important to me? No. It simply means I don’t need to hang on to this piece of paper that my child wrote on 25 years ago to prove my love for them. Or, how about, “my mom will be offended if I give this thing away that she gave me 20 years ago for my first wedding?” Honestly, how she feels about it is not important. It’s yours to do with as you please. And, if someone else sees value in it, so be it.
Increase Happiness – Give to others
A practice that can be used in conjunction with letting go is to give. If we can take the view that to give to someone who might appreciate it, that action will be good for us. The practice of giving has actually been shown to increase levels of happiness more than receiving something. Giving doesn’t have to involve money or things. A great deal of giving that is appreciated by others is the gift of time, or of presence.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – Letting go of thoughts.