Letting go is one of the seven interdependent fundamental attitudes of mindfulness that are consciously cultivated during practice, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book Full Catastrophe Living. Sometimes called renunciation, it is the opposite of grasping and clinging to what we want. Instead we learn to let go of desires and aversions – the urge to control uncontrollable external and internal circumstances – in order to allow experience to be as it is in the moment.
In this process of opening to what is, we are able to see things more clearly. We begin to experience thoughts as mental phenomena that come and go. We become familiar with our habits and the way thoughts, feelings, body sensations and urges to action are interconnected. This allows us to observe inner experiences with less attachment and more objectivity. This greater objectivity helps us choose the most skillful response. Meditation is a helpful way to practice this attitude. We sit quietly and patiently observing our internal experiences, allowing them to unfold in their own time without interference.
When we stop holding onto things and instead allow experience to arise and pass on its own, we free up energy to attend to how things really are. We make space to consider wisely rather than getting caught up and acting purely out of emotion or blind habit. In this way, letting go is not giving in or giving up, it is letting be.
Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go. – Hermann Hesse