The Mindfulness Blog

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Let It Go

My four-year-old grandson is a big fan of Disney's Frozen, and he can belt out a tremendous version of the song, "Let It Go" for which I have to say I'm a real sucker-- it's not just him, and the music or the lyrics, but the wisdom of the sentiment.

Holding on to people, places or things inevitably results in suffering that rivals and often exceeds the joy that those people, places or things bring, in the first place. It's a lesson we all learn in the Living 101 classroom-- and it's a bitter pill to swallow.

The wonderful thing is that my grandson (who is still too young to learn all of the lessons of Living 101) really can, and does, let it go. He moves from moment to moment-- engagement to engagement-- without attachment to anything that may have preceded, and without any thought of what may come in the future. And, as far as I can tell, he's genuinely happy-- or sad, or frustrated, or angry.

Whatever the emotion being felt, or the thought being thought, children seem to be genuinely in the moment. Which has led me to reexamine the notion of mindfulness. What is it? My lawyer-brain needs to know. And how, when, or why do we lose it? Why do we have to work so hard to get it back? Do we really need to get it back? My right brain says it doesn't really matter, but my left brain keeps asking questions.

What, exactly, is mindfulness? For me, it's a natural ability we're all born with, and it's something we can all access, if we choose to do so and are willing to do a bit of work (for me, the work is meditation). Mindfulness has been described as a state of awareness, but I think of it more as a state of engagement--something active, not passive.

Mindfulness is engaging (with people, places or things) with immediacy (that is to say, without distraction) and with purpose (that is to say, with intention). Finally, mindfulness is engaging without regard for cause in the past, or outcome in the future (that is to say, neutrally or without judgment) and without attaching significance or meaning to a particular encounter (again, neutrally, and without attachment). As Ram Dass put it, so simply and so eloquently, "Be Here Now".

For me, mindfulness is part of the human condition. It's child-like, not child-ish. And the best part is that we learn to let it go. That's not to say we don't care-- we will always notice our thoughts, emotions or moods, and in that fundamental way, we will always care. But when we're mindful, we don't personalize things, and make it all about us.

Like Jon Kabat-Zinn is famously quoted as having said, we can't stop the waves, but we can learn to surf. Put another way, we can learn to "let it go"!


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