How to Make Your Mind Let Go

“The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go”

Atiśa Dīpankara Śrījñāna

Letting go of things both metaphysical and physical is one of the hardest, but most fulfilling achievements of a human life. Meditation helps a person practice what it takes to let go. It focuses your thoughts away from the millions of swirling ideas and feelings passing through your head.

Think about when you sit in quiet stillness and close your eyes. Your mind is very active. It does not linger on one thought very long. Images, sounds, memories, emotions, sensations all seem to pop up and vanish as quickly as they materialize. The goal of meditation is to let go metaphysically. You are practicing the ability to accept each moment with awareness and without expectation, as these expectations lead to suffering. The goal is to experience each moment fully.

The reason that meditation is such a necessary training exercise is the same reason that we write first drafts of essays and show them to friends and editors: it’s a safe space to try new things. We don’t have to worry about the weight of our new routines and ways of thinking completely obliterating our credibility or ruining our lives. Practice is the key to success, after all.

All of our difficulties would be alleviated if we possessed thoughts that didn’t need to attach itself to expectations.

Granted, this is no easy feat and even the most self-actualized of us all find difficulty in maintaining this separation, but the self-awareness and want to live this way is an achievement in and of itself. It allows you to strip away at least some of your preconceptions, and those are important bricks to lay to improve your life.

Here are a few tips to help get you started on the path to easing your attachments:

Begin by recognizing each time you obsess or repeatedly derive value or comfort from an object, person, or behavior. Take note of it in a journal or in your phone.

Along with each noted experience, write down how these feelings affect your day. Do they make you anxious, angry, or put other negative thoughts in your head? Do they cause you to behave or speak differently? Write down every granular detail, to the best of your ability. This will help you identify patterns and root causes.

Practice daily meditation 15 minutes a day, when it is convenient for you. I find my best time to meditate is after a long day of work. It helps me stay calmer in my personal, night time hours. Some other people feel it is best in the morning. Do what works best for you.

Monthly, go through physical objects like clothing, decorations, toys, etc. in your living space and get comfortable with the idea of getting rid of them. Sell or give away objects that you don’t use at least once a week.

Take a look at the relationships in your life. Those that do not bring you joy, comfort, and peace, consider employing my method of removing toxic people from your life ethically. The more positive individuals and energies you surround yourself with, the easier it will be to rely on yourself and not the approval of toxic people. This will help shed some expectations and self-doubt.

Take the time to understand the perspectives of others. You shouldn’t be bound by their perspective, but you should acknowledge, understand, and appreciate it. Understand how these attachments affect all humans and realize that not everyone is on the same path to shedding these attachments. Help them in any way you can. This expansion of perspective allows you to step outside your preconceptions and compulsions and understand with an open mind the way that people interact, their needs, their wants, and how their attachments and yours lead to suffering.

Notice, accept, and appreciate every moment, in the moment. Recognize your exact place on the planet at this time will never happen again. See the beauty and recognize the bewildering intrigue of life. Realize there’s no time for suffering and spend your energy only on curiosity, understanding, creative thought, compassion, love, and wonder. 

Yes, letting go of all attachments may seem idealistic and impossible, but that’s only because you’re not living this way day to day. The more you try to live life free of clinging, the more you will see it is the only way to live.

I still have a long way to go myself as far as attachment. I cling to validation and objects way more than I should. I cling to memories. I cling to other peoples’ opinions of me. I cling to vanity and smugness and arrogance.

Recognizing these shackles is the first step, now get out there and start breaking the chains.

3 Things That Make Me Incredibly Happy and Why

It’s easy to go through a normal week of routine and wallow in the pain of the moment. With so many minor pieces of your day and week that don’t go exactly as planned, it’s common for people to internalize and catastrophize small obstacles.

Instead of telling someone or yourself to minimize the seriousness of the struggle, instead focus that energy on remembering things that did go your way. Find aspects of your life experience to be grateful for. Be thankful for the myriad of good things and details that far outweigh the bad.

Like I’ve done below, grab a piece of paper and jot down 3 things that make you incredibly happy and the exact reasons why they elicit that kind of response from you. This exercise will go a long way in helping you realize that there are things in life to be happy about and the reasons they make you happy can teach you additional strategies for finding your happiness elsewhere by employing similar methodology or recognizing common threads. 

80s/90s Pop Culture

In times of trouble, I always find myself retreating back to the last sane moment I ever knew. I am grateful that my childhood was full of happiness and toys and sprite-based video games and parents who loved me. Because of this, when I’m feeling stressed, anxious, hopeless, or lost in a sea of negativity, I turn to 80s/90s pop culture to fill the emotional void.

In recent years, nostalgia has been a big business. Why would a flailing company or movie studio not lean on rebooting, re-releasing, or re-packaging their existing properties when they know there is a market of 30-40 year olds who will buy it up with grins on their faces?

I’ve just always held a torch for this era of pop culture and it spans many different mediums from the late 80s into the mid-late 90s. Whether it be advertisements, discontinued snack foods, movies, television shows, toys, music, video games, clothing, board games, or sports equipment, there’s a place in my heart for that whole aural ambience and aesthetic.

As you may or may not know, I’m “sort of” a collector of these kinds of material things and memories. I say “sort of” because I’m far to OCD and minimalistic to actually be a “collector” of anything. I’m not a completionist in that regard. I have having stacks of things. I hate clutter. I’m all about the aesthetic appeal in a controlled, manageable dose that makes me happy.

That’s what this whole post is about, things that make me happy. These trinkets on my desk, music on my Spotify, movies on my Amazon Prime, posters on my wall, and cartridges in my Super Nintendo make me genuinely happy and remind me of childhood times that were simple, happy, and care-free. Looking at, touching, and hearing all of these pieces of memory inspire me creatively and make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. That always seems to be the feeling that I’m chasing and it’s nice to have a few material objects that help get me there.

Driving down the Road in Autumn with the Heat On, Music Blasting, and the Windows Open

Even though fall is the most fleeting season of all, it’s also the most romantic. The smell in the air and the cool crispness of the breeze are extremely nostalgic and familiar to my senses. Football and Hockey return. A road winding into the distance surrounded by dramatically-colored leaves is a common sight. My weekends are filled with pumpkin patches, hot cider with bourbon, and lots of ginger snaps.

My favorite part of the fall season, however, is a very personal experience. Living out somewhere between truly rural and kind of suburban southeastern Pennsylvania, wooded roads are all around. There’s nothing like a cold, late October night, a great album, the windows rolled down and the heat blasting while you twist and turn down a dark road in your car.

There’s something about that experience that floods my head with so many layers of memories, inspiration, and outright joy. It is an experience unique to temperate deciduous regions of earth, but it’s a quiet moment that every living person should experience at least once.

Solo Hikes with Headphones On

Much like the above event, hiking by yourself is extremely personal. You’re breathing heavy and you’re sweating as the music pumps in your ears. You look around and catch a glimpse of a random bird, squirrel, chipmunk, even a wild turkey or deer on rare occasions. You walk up hills and alongside creeks. You stop to take a look at a family of ducks sliding through a pond. All is at peace and all is at one.

Not only are solo hikes great exercise and great for your mental wellbeing, they give you time to think and appreciate the minute details of life. All the trees and plants and animals are existing in this space with you and the serenity of the moment is a shared experience.

I don’t think I look forward to any type of exercise more than I do hiking alone.

You Can’t Be Liked by Everyone

It’s human nature to need to be wanted, praised, thought about, and validated by everyone. Unfortunately, this sentiment is an impossible expectation that leads to multitudes of frustration, sadness, and insecurity.

Anecdotally, it’s not hard to believe that I, a perpetually overweight and formerly extremely overweight guy who has struggled long-term with clinical depression, have a deep and continual awareness of insecurity. I was the guy writing poems and telling every girl who gave me a second glance or a pity smile that I was into her.

All of us have talents, passions, and unique aspects of our personality and physical form that are worthy of admiration from onlookers, but after every compliment we get, our focus immediately shifts to obsessing about each person who isn’t fond of, drawn to, understanding toward, or envious of us. How do we, as humans, deal with this kind of pressure? We serve the interests of others and forever walk on seas of eggshells in the hopes of universal acceptance as social creatures.

This loss of self starts with personality mirroring, fake laughs, and forced smiles and leads to lying about our hobbies, feigning our likes/dislikes, betraying who we are, forgetting what we believe, and even going as far as succumbing to complete loss of identity by matching our clothes and behavior exclusively to the expectations of others.

This practice of devoting oneself to pleasing others is unhealthy and emotionally disastrous, though, and I speak from lifelong experience.

I’ve always had a constant and nagging part of me that seeks continual attention and praise lavished upon my person. I want your incessant Snapchat messages, DMs on Instagram, texts that you’re thinking about me, calls, stops by my desk. I don’t as much need praise or compliments as I do the social validation of being thought about and included.

Typically, the quest for validation is due to lingering self-doubt. I don’t particularly doubt myself, my worth, my abilities, or my intelligence, but socially I want to be envied and included and wanted by everyone I meet. I want people to crave my company. I want them to think about me every day. It’s the most vain, pointless form of validation thirst.

By allowing the need for external validation to craft your ways of thinking and acting, you never really take the time to get to know yourself. Your 24/7 obsession with cramming yourself into a mold forged by other people cuts off your ability to explore perspectives, activities, lifestyles, hobbies, beliefs, careers, love interests, and pursuits that could be necessary keys to your personal satisfaction, happiness, and sense of purpose.

It’s not worth trading your wishes, dreams, or wildest ambitions for the sake of avoiding judgment. Appeasement is the death of self.

It’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more we worry about pleasing people in platonic and romantic relationships, the more likely the relationships are to fail miserably.

Your internal desperation has an outward appearance and most people avoid easy conquests, clingers, and the baggage of overly needy friends/lovers. This neediness has jeopardized and ultimately ruined more platonic and romantic relationships in my life than I care to admit. I wasn’t being me. I was obsessing over the comfort of endlessly being told that things are perfect and everything I said or did was well-received. In doing so, I lost people I cared about by being so unstable and possessive.

Just like the fact that we’ll all be dead someday, humankind needs to accept that, despite our forced utterances and actions of appeasement, there will always be people who dislike, are apathetic toward, or hate us and this is fundamentally okay.

When have you ever heard of a genius inventor, philosopher, scientist, writer, artist, or public figure who achieved great things and was also simultaneously adored by everyone? It has never happened.

People who hate you to your core or don’t care about you are much better used as motivation, ignored noise, or welcomed obstacles that lead to personal growth instead of justification for self-abuse.

Just like when I was at my fattest, the niceness of not being instantly liked is that the people you are closest to are true friends and lovers. They’re not just there because you’re a physically attractive, affable, fake, “yes” person.

The more you embrace your inner unique freak, the more you get to understand, appreciate, and accept yourself. Self-validation is one of the hardest, but also one of the most rewarding pursuits in human life. Love yourself first, always, and the rest tends to fall into place.

However, this is not to say that everyone is perfect and should be devoid of criticism. If you’re racist, sexist, homophobic, rude, entitled, unchanging, stupid, a Trump voter, or any other example of an unflattering adjective of a person, you should accept some criticism for these faults. The key is to be honest with yourself. If a criticism is valid, accept the reality and try to change for the better. If criticism received is examined and you find it false, dismiss it as noise and don’t let it shake up your world or cause you to hurt yourself emotionally.

The best ways to achieve this state of consciousness are simple in definition but exceedingly complex and difficult in execution.

The keys to self-validation are:

  1. Be true to yourself and your convictions.
  2. Be honest with yourself and others.
  3. Communicate frequently and openly.
  4. Take personal responsibility.
  5. Never give up on growing.
  6. Take social risks for the purposes of self-discovery.
  7. Own all positive aspects of yourself as equally as you own your faults and imperfections.

In the end, paying any mind to the instilled guilt, judgment, appreciation, or validation of others will never be as satisfying as following your own feelings.