Mindfulness as letting-go

by Rosalie Dores on 9th November 2015

Recently, sitting in meditation I had an insight. It seems quite simple, obvious as I write it now, hidden in plain view, as it were. The insight was that in meditating I am practicing the art of letting-go. Each time that I let go of a stream of thought, and patiently guide my attention back to my experience of the breath moving at the belly, I am in fact letting-go of stories about my life. Stories about the past, stories about the future, stories about the very moment I am in – for moments I can let go of that. This letting-go offers the possibility for me to rest, quite literally to be collected in the moment, body, mind and heart,  agitation and restlessness reduced.

Letting-go has been a theme in my life this year. At the beginning of the year I made the conscious intention to refrain from buying any books. I am a complete book worm, have always been, from the moment I could string a line of letters into a word, I was hooked. Being a life-student, I continue to love books; philosophy, religion, eco-politics, relationship books, cook books, Yoga books and aaah poetry, and so it goes on. I have piles of unread books, there is a word for this, it’s Japanese:

tsundoku (n) buying books and not reading them; letting books pile up unread on shelves, floors or nightstands

As I sit here writing, tsundoku is part of the context of my living room, books stand in piles on my floor, with beautiful inviting covers and titles, waiting to be read. This year however, those piles of books have not increased in size. This has been quite an experience for me, I have heard, and read, about many great new books this year and restrained myself from buying them. This letting-go has been beneficial in many ways. I have experienced a palpable sense of relief as the pressure, and guilt, of growing book piles has released. I feel excited about the books I have.

There is something empowering about nipping a ‘habit’ in the bud, of being able to let-go, of being able to say “enough.” There is something dis-empowering about always following an urge, a habit. I recognise that there is a kind of restlessness, agitation behind the tendency to buy books, a sense that things the way they are, is not enough, that I somehow need more. The belief that the new books will contribute, add something to my life, and they possibly will, and yet the reality is, the books remain unread, there is only so much time in a day! It occurs to me that in letting-go, there is the possibility of practicing contentment, of releasing the need for more… What might this practice of letting-go of the need for more, offer in our own lives, and in the bigger picture, how might it benefit our planet as we release the habit of over- consuming, in whatever way that might be.