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Letting go

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

One of the most important things taught in both yoga and Buddhism is how to change your mental processes in order to alleviate emotional discomfort and embrace change.

The four noble truths taught by the Buddha helped people free themselves from the patterns of thinking and behaving that perpetuate their suffering.

  1. The first noble truth: In life, there is suffering (Dukkha), because of the impermanent nature of things.

  2. The second noble truth: Suffering is due to attachments (Samudaya in Buddhism, Raga in Yoga) and expectations, to grasping and clinging.

  3. The third noble truth: It’s possible to end suffering (Nirodha) by giving up attachments (clinging) and expectations (grasping).

  4. The fourth noble truth: The way to end suffering due to clinging and grasping is through balance and living in the present (Magga).

So, if we can let go of our need to be right, our need to know exactly how things will turn out, we can learn to find an equanimity and balance with our lives.

That said, it’s not about letting it all go and not taking any action whatsoever. Sometimes we turn the wheel, and sometimes life turns it. Most people are wrestling with life to keep hold of the wheel the whole time. We need to find the balance of taking the wheel when it’s our turn and giving ourselves up to the ride when it’s not.

This quote from Brad Warner’s book on Dogen Zenji’s writings on Zen Buddhism, “How Not to be a Jerk” helped me to come to terms with the fact that sometimes I need to drive my life forward and sometimes I need to go with it:

“When the Universe turns you, you are at the mercy of whatever events you are embroiled in. You have no free will. When you turn the Universe, you are taking actions as an individual and influencing what happens next. You have free will. The individual and the universal are two aspects of the same thing. The back and forth of the Universe turning you and you turning the Universe is the natural way. Keeping both sides in balance is better than either trying to force your will on the Universe or just rolling over and letting things happen.” – Brad Warner based on the writings of Dogen Zenji

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