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Let It Go: What to hold on to...what to release?

"We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality."

  • Thich Nhat Hanh


This is one of the hardest things for human beings to do. Our survivalist monkey-minds keep us trapped in a hoarding mentality...I must accumulate, have to gather more in order stay alive. While this served our ancestors well, and has its practical applications in certain situations, by and large there is little need for such a mentality in developed parts of the world. Yet it persists. Evolutionary memory is a crazy thing.

Our struggles are compounded, then, when we take this hoarding mindset into our internal lives. I am certainly guilty of this. As my wife is so fond of saying, "You just want to know everything about everything!" She's not wrong, and I've had to develop a system of examination to decide what knowledge to retain and what to let go, lest my poor brain shut down due to information overload.

One of my favorite quotes from Aristotle has helped me greatly in this process:

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it."

I consume ideas like food. More often than food, actually. And many of them wildly contradict each other, which is often the point where people stop searching because things get messy and confusing. But I would challenge you to return to the accumulation of vast knowledge, for the very purpose of release. Let me explain.

When we are children (if in a healthy household), we learn we can trust our families and our teachers, but strangers are dangerous. As we grow, that black-and-white viewpoint takes on shades of grey, opening us to the nuance of human relationships. Yes, in general you should be able to trust those closest to you, but sometimes this is not true. So we learn. And yes, getting into a unmarked van with blacked out windows is a bad idea at any age, but most strangers are just people like us. We learn.

We learned one thing as kids that gave us a foundation. Then we learned another thing as we grew. The second thing allowed us to release the first thing from being absolute truth, and integrated itself into our already-held beliefs to create an entirely new, unique view.

This is what Thich Nhat Hanh is describing. Continuing to learn about the world...nurturing that curiosity that lives in all of us, for the express purpose of finding what resonates and letting go of what doesn't. We have to stop clinging so tightly to what we think we know. It chokes out the Divine, and reduces us to cogs in a wheel with little effect on the world around us.

Let go of what no longer serves you. Let go of your fear, your doubt.

Search out things and beings that spark your soul to life, and let those teachings permeate, transmute, and grow your spiritual journey.

All love, fellow travelers.


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