Working to Let Go

Ajahn Ñāṇiko • April 2013

The work period is a good time for learning about how to let go. During these periods the mind is constantly thinking, I have to do this and I have to do that and this needs to get done before I do that. But when the mind lets go, it’s malleable and as the Buddha said, “fit for work.” If we only meditate and don’t challenge the mind with difficult and unpredictable situations, then the chances are the mind won’t learn how to let go. What really trains us in how to let go are the uncertain situations we are faced with. We might tell ourselves, Okay, today no matter what I do, no matter what anybody says to me, whether it’s someone I don’t like or someone I do, I’m going to let go no matter what. And then, sure enough, as soon as we make that resolution, someone or something will come along and test us in a way we didn’t think we would be tested, and we’re unable to let go.

It’s not only about letting go, it’s also about choosing the appropriate response. We are training ourselves to respond judiciously and to let go within the bounds of a suitable response. By doing this we learn to maintain internal and external harmony.

If we learn how to let go during or after activity, the mind will not be stressed, and our default mental condition will be one of quietude. Then the mind will also be quiet when it does not need to work. When the mind needs to think or figure something out, it will do that and then go quiet again.

We do not need to stress out over external things which may seem important but in reality are insignificant. The external world is a mere trifle compared to our internal development. The work period, or any time we are doing something, is for seeking that internal development, for seeking the Dhamma, and for letting go.