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Letting Go

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“Some of us think holding on makes us strong;
but sometimes it is letting go.”

– Hermann Hesse

After talking with a client the other day, I was thinking about the challenges she was facing in letting go of a part of her life that wasn’t working any more. She found it very difficult even though her attachment to that part of her life was recent and also a source of frustration.


There are plenty of reasons why we develop attachments to places, things and people and some of these are healthy and useful to a happy life. But sometimes attachments can bind us to unhappiness which is one reason why enlightened masters teach the importance of developing an attitude of detachment in order to transcend the ups and downs, pleasures and pain, and loss and gain that is a part of every life.

Those masters teach that healthy detachment can be a source of strength, mental peace and emotional equilibrium. Master Eckhart says that “he who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment.” The idea that detachment is a source of strength can perhaps sound strange to a consumer culture that measures success in how well our desires and attachments are satisfied by acquiring. In the past I’ve introduced the idea of the power of detachment to business clients. Many of them have reported back to me the liberation, energy and mental clarity that is created by a willingness to walk away from a coveted deal or an unworkable partnership.

Buddhist thinking and Vedantic thinking attributes our pain and suffering in proportionate measure to the degree of our attachment to the pleasures of temporal life. Their idea is that we can escape what they call the wheel of samsara, or the ever repetitive striving, lifetime after lifetime, of trying to attain perfect happiness in an imperfect world. In the eyes of those sages the world is illusion, in the least because it’s temporary, and we should not be in thrall to its allurements. But how is it possible to break through the illusion of what we experience as an all too real world? In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna tells his friend Arjuna to “cut the bonds of illusion with firm determination and the ‘weapon’ of detachment.”

What we can understand from this is
that achieving genuine detachment
doesn’t come easily.

If it did then its by-product, enlightenment, would also come easily. No, detachment is something we need to cultivate and in this sense it’s like any art that requires practice and patience.

Practicing detachment, in the sage sense, does not however mean aloofness or indifference to the world or the sufferings of others. Detachment doesn’t mean a loss of compassion, rather detachment is the removal of obstacles that hinder the genuine expression of selfless love, which teachers the world over say is the only true, pure and lasting thing.

I remember when I first went to India to study with my master, I encountered sadhus or holy men and women intentionally undertaking all variety of austerities, often by embracing absolute poverty, owning maybe just a blanket and bowl to eat and wash from. My master told me that “detachment like this is the wealth of the wise.” Sadhus are rare souls that we can not imitate. But we can be inspired by their example and try to cultivate by degrees, detachment as part of a healthy way to live.

Cultivating detachment is healthy because, like it or not, life has a way of asking or even demanding it from us. If we are not one of those souls who can leave the world entirely, we should at least know the trick of when it is the right time to let go and move on to the next thing. If knowing how to let go is an art, knowing when to let go is an art practiced masterfully.

jyotish-250x250Like many wisdom traditions, Vedic astrology teaches us through its symbolism, the art and timing of letting go. It tells us that there are specific times in each of our lives, where letting go will make our lives easier and where holding on will only make them worse. Not only does it teach that detachment is important, but it tells us with some precision when each individual might be asked to leave something behind. It prepares us for this by describing the changing themes, qualities and periods of time in the cycles of our lives. This gives us context and perspective which strengthens us by broadening our view of what is happening to us during periods of change. And it helps us see the bigger picture and creates the understanding that new growth can only come when the old growth is cut away. Learning how to work with such change allows us to transform, deepen and better our sense of self and purpose in the world.

We all need to know how and when to let go. When we do, we can be more free in spirit and more light hearted. Maybe even more generous with each other. Like Hesse says in the quote at the start of this blog, letting go can make us stronger.

I hope my client will find the resolve to let go of what is complicating her life. If she can, like so many of us, she can go on to start a new and exciting next phase of her life.

I invite you to contact me if you would like to learn more about the specific cycles of change and growth in your life, their themes and their possibilities. Learning about your Vedic chart can give you the perspective you need to cultivate detachment and mastery of the art of knowing when to let go.


“By letting it go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try the world is beyond the winning.”


― Lao-Tzu

“Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be obtained only by someone who is detached.”


― Simone Weil


I invite you to contact me if you would like to learn more about the specific cycles of change and growth in your life, their themes and their possibilities. Learning about your Vedic chart can give you the perspective you need to cultivate detachment and mastery of the art of knowing when to let go.
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