Charlie Ambler

The Art of Mindfully Letting Go

As most recently espoused by the cake-brandishing Tina Fey, the art of letting go is an important aspect of our mental health. But that doesn’t mean you don’t care; in fact, it means the opposite.


“The world is won by those who let it go.” —Lao Tzu

Humans are adaptable creatures. Put a human somewhere and he will get used to that place. He will use that place as his point of reference. When he has a lot, he will get used to having a lot. When he has a little, he will get used to having a little. If he refuses to reflect on his circumstances, he will likely become lost in them. He will feel unhappy as a celebrity or a millionaire while his unassuming house cleaner or taxi driver might go about life perfectly content.

The ego is what convinces you that you are what you seek. It’s especially convincing when you’ve achieved what you seek and believe it to define you. Meditation asks you to check yourself. You close your eyes so you can no longer see bank statements, scenery, the intoxicating beauty of the material world. You sit in silence where no humans speak so that you are left to confront your own thoughts. You focus on your breathing to avoid focusing too intently on any one thought and floating away. You use the breath as your anchor.

In essence, meditation is the reverse of seeking. It is looking inward rather than looking outward. When you look outward, you find more things to cling to. When you look inward, you find more things to let go of. You recognize just how many of your attachments are futile and unnecessary, if not downright harmful. You keep letting go until you reach the essence, which is what you’ve been looking for all along.

The ego is what convinces you that you are what you seek. Meditation asks you to check yourself.

You can be honest with yourself. Perhaps what you seek is consuming you. Maybe what began as a romance has devolved into an obsession. What started with modesty and humility has degenerated into greed and arrogance. You may feel trapped in this way of thinking, clinging to this and that thing, person, or ideal.

We’ve all felt trapped at some point. The lesson of this self-perpetuating cycle of entrapment is that you hold the key to your own escape. In fact, you’re the only one with the key. Imagine a prisoner who wears his own door key on a necklace, day in and day out, never noticing it because he’s never even bothered to look. He’s been too busy glaring through the bars, imagining his escape. This is how we all live, to varying extents— held back by fear, mindlessness, judgment, and self-scrutiny.

Meditation is the slow and steady process of looking down and noticing the key. It is recognizing that yes, you are powerful— you have complete control over yourself. In letting go of various attachments and fixations, you cultivate this strength. The man with well-functioning legs needs no crutches. Almost everyone has this inner strength and can realize it, but instead chooses to go through life buried in crutches of various types. Meditation lets you exist completely as you are, with no aids or adornments. Instead of identifying with the external world, you find all you need within yourself and you extend this peaceful lack of neediness to others.

A 240-page collection of my writings is available here.


Related posts