Zen and 38 Special


“Just Hold On Loosely, but don’t let go
If you cling to tightly,
you’re gonna lose control”

~ D. Barnes, J. Carlisi, J. Peterik

Do you have that song stuck in your head now? Thank you 38 Special!

When we meditate we observe the breath. The breath starts, hits a peak and then ends.

You could say it looks like this:

Try it.

Inhale. Exhale. Take your time. Really observe the breath.

See?

There’s a little pause … so small …but it’s there.

Inhale  (break) Exhale

The breath starts and then ends.

You can’t hold onto any one breath, can you? No, of course not. We can understand that easily. One of the big lessons in this simple practice of sitting and watching the breath is  that our breath is a kind of model for everything else we experience in life. Everything comes and goes, starts and stops. Nothing lasts forever.

So in the same way that we naturally understand that we would never even try to hold on to any one breath no matter how good it was, like that big whiff of jasmine aroma floating in the air on your morning walk, or the smell of really good coffee when you grind it – (we don’t say, “Wow, that breath? That was the really good one. I’m going to hold onto that one!”) We let it go because that’s the next appropriate thing to do. Because that’s the nature of the breath. It ends and we’re okay with that. We let it go and it doesn’t cause us any difficulty. No sense of loss.

If we want to eliminate a lot of suffering, frustration, anger, sadness, a whole host of “negative” emotions we need to realize that all things have this nature. All things begin, exist for a time and then go away.

If we can hold on to experience loosely, we won’t lose control because we’ll see we never had it in the first place. We can just be present in the moment, aware, and flexible emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

If you want to reduce a whole big heap of stress. Practice letting go all day.

What can you let go of today?

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Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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