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Letting Go of Nothing


Peter Russell

"Its just letting go," the wise one said.
"If you want to be at peace,
if you want to feel the love of God in your heart,
if you want to savor the present moment,
then just let go of all the constraints you have put upon yourself."

"That's all there is to it."

"Simple, isn't it?"

But oh how difficult it is.

Years of personal experience,
combined with centuries of cultural learning,
have taught us the importance of holding on.

We hold on to our desires
We hold on to what we think we need.
We hold on to what promises us happiness.

We hold on to our possessions.
We hold on to our image of who we are
We hold on to our ideas of what is right.

We hold on to our theories.
We hold on to our beliefs.
We hold on to our attitudes.
We hold on to our judgments.

We hold on to the past
We hold on to the future.
We hold on to our grievances.
We hold on to our fears.
We hold on to our loves
We hold on to our lovers.

We hold on to money.

We hold on to our thoughts.
We hold on to our illusions.

We hold on to our gods.
We hold on to our bodies.
We hold on to our lives.

But why do we hold on?

Maybe we believe that our safety lies in holding on,
That losing our grip could spell disaster,
Or we may believe that holding on is the way to salvation.
But do we really know it is safer to hold on?
Would letting go really be so bad?
Do we really gain from holding on?

It is the role of the teacher to show us that such security is illusory.
That holding on only holds us back.
That our salvation lies in letting go.

Our holding on is a constraint we've placed upon ourselves.
It is an attitude, a way of thinking.
And our thinking - unlike the weather or the movements of the planets -
is one thing we have complete control over.

The task of the teacher is to show us that we can change our minds, and that it is safe to do so.


Spacer We are like a person holding on to a piece of rope.

Spacer He holds on for dear life, knowing that if he were to let go he would fall to his death. His parents, his teachers, and many others have told him this is so; and when he looks around he can see everyone else doing the same.

Spacer Nothing would induce him to let go.

Spacer Along comes a wise person. She knows that holding on is unnecessary, that the security it offers is illusory, and only holds you where you are. So she looks for a way to dispel his illusions and help him to be free.

Spacer She talks of real security, of deeper joy, of true happiness, of peace of mind. She tells him that he can taste this if he will just release one finger from the rope.

Spacer "One finger," thinks the man; "that"s not too much to risk for a taste of bliss."

Spacer So he agrees to take this first initiation.

Spacer And he does taste greater joy, happiness, and peace of mind.

Spacer But not enough to bring lasting fulfillment.

Spacer "Even greater joy, happiness and peace can be yours," she tells him, "if you will just release a second finger."

Spacer "This," he tells himself, "is going to be more difficult. Can I do it? Will it be safe? Do I have the courage?"

Spacer He hesitates, then, flexing his finger, feels how it would be to let go a little more . . . and takes the risk.

Spacer He is relieved to find he does not fall; instead he discovers greater happiness and inner peace.

Spacer But could more be possible?

Spacer "Trust me," she says. "Have I failed you so far? I know your fears, I know what your mind is telling you -- that this is crazy, that it goes against everything you have ever learnt -- but please, trust me. Look at me, am I not free? I promise you will be safe, and you will know even greater happiness and contentment."

Spacer "Do I really want happiness and inner peace so much," he wonders, "that I am prepared to risk all that I hold dear? In principle, yes; but can I be sure that I will be safe, that I will not fall?"

Spacer With a little coaxing he begins to look at his fears, to consider their basis, and to explore what it is he really wants. Slowly he feels his fingers soften and relax. He knows he can do it. And he knows he must do it. It is only a matter of time until he releases his grip.

Spacer And as he does an even greater sense of peace flows through him.

Spacer He is now hanging by one finger. Reason tells him he should have fallen a finger or two ago, but he hasn"t.

Spacer "Is there something wrong with holding on itself?" he asks himself. "Have I been wrong all the time?"

Spacer "This one is up to you," she says. "I can help you no further. Just remember that all your fears are groundless."

Spacer Trusting his quiet inner voice, he gradually releases the last finger.

Spacer And nothing happens.

Spacer He stays exactly where he is.

Spacer Then he realizes why. He has been standing on the ground all along.

Spacer And as he looks at the ground, knowing he need never hold on again, he finds true peace of mind.

Spacer Peter Russell
Peter Russell

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