Letting go: Attachment and ego
MANILA, Philippines - Letting go is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do in the world today, when it is easier to believe that "more is better."
"I have a car and I want a second car" is how most ambitious yuppies nowadays would probably think, as if they can get another social upgrade based on the latest count of cars they drive (or the gadgets they own).
But on an emotional level, to let go of people who have wronged us can prove to be even more difficult.
The way of the wise shown to us in most spiritual traditions is the deeper truth that "less is more." This translates to the reality that the more I am able to let go of my self-created attachments (whether physical or emotional), the better I can run and live my life.
The less of ego I have, the more peace of mind I can experience — no matter what happens.
British life coach and management consultant Mike George cites the ancient Chinese Taoist mystical text called Tao Te Ching to teach us the path of least resistance. Its writer Lao Tzu poetically wrote about certain paradoxical truths in life that can teach modern people the wisdom of forgiving and letting go.
As one of Lao Tzu's lyrical lines would profoundly put it: "To yield is to conquer, to grasp is to lose." The resilient bamboo that bends with the wind that we see illustrated in minimalist Chinese prints is symbolic of a person who adjusts to the currents of change, compared to the oak tree that resists and breaks in two.
When we are hardened by our old ways and habits of being and doing, we cannot let go and accommodate even the slightest adversity in life.
George points this inability to bend to an almost compulsive addiction to the wrong ideas and things. "We often spend too much of our time concentrating our energies in order to gain something: more possessions, more territory, more understanding."
In his book "Discover Inner Peace: A Guide to Spiritual Being," George talks about attachment as the key block that does not allow people's hearts to let go, much less to forgive.
George defines attachment as the "condition from which we suffer when we are incapable of acceptance. In our lack of belief in ourselves, we cling to material possessions as substitutes for self-worth; we become fixed in our habits, especially those that give us pleasure; we react emotionally when life does not go as planned, or when ego sees opportunities for inflating itself."
And just like any modern malaise that is deeply rooted in ego, our "attachments encumber the spirit: what the ego designs as anchors become shackles, though we are not aware of them as such."
George explains further how needy attachment makes us, though we ourselves can remain blind to this very weakness. That is, until we make a firm resolve to listen to the silent echoes of our spirit. Only then do we realize that forgiveness is the only way to let the light of love in, to do its work of banishing the darkness of stubbornness, resentment, and even anger, which we have allowed to fester inside.
"Forgiveness is the natural state of the spirit, an aspect of spiritual health, a petal on the flower of love. Resentment is an illness of the spirit, which sabotages our peace of mind," George offers.
For in truth, as the popular saying goes, what goes around comes around. In the game of life, the simple equation behind the law of sow and reap is an absolute reality: Anger begets anger; love only begets love.
And even for the deepest atrocities done to us, the only resolution is still the light of forgiveness.
"Anyone who wishes us harm is emitting a powerful and misdirected energy, which is rooted in their own pain and anger. They are in fact wishing harm upon themselves. When we forgive, we send out healing, loving energy and lift their negative feelings a little, casting a ray of light into their hearts. That ray reflects back to us and we become stronger."
In the end, even though our good intentions to forgive and let go is not readily accepted, we are still assured of a very positive result. "No gift of positive energy will be totally declined by the recipient: some of the energy will always be used, adding to the world's sum of goodness."
Listen to Mike George talk about stress here:
First published in The Point, Center for Spiritual Learning Newsletter, March 2009
Rina Angela Corpus is an assistant professor of Art Studies at the College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines. She survived Sandy while on special detail in New York in October 2012. She practices the healing arts of shibashi-chigong and Raja Yoga meditation. Her poems have been featured in Mad Swirl, Philippine Collegian, Philippines Free Press, and Tayo Literary Magazine.