Let be the past, Let be the future, I shall teach you Dhamma – Mn79
If you let go a little you a will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace. – Ajahn Chah
“The Past is shadows and dust, the Future is shifting and uncertain, there is only this moment
I wanted to discuss another little meditation technique I’ve come to use myself that has worked quite well in terms of setting my mind right for the meditation ahead. This is actually a creation of my own which I believe is based off of a teaching of Ajahn Brahm that I can’t seem to remember much about. This is about letting go of all the things(past, present, and future) that our monkey mind wants to obsess about constantly so that you can more easily gain concentration in your meditation.
This is a temporary letting go, not a total one. It is suitable for all meditators, and is a very important step in the meditation process. I can tell you from experience that you will not get far in your meditation if you drag the world with you into it, although learning to let go is a gradual process, so don’t fret if it takes time. Let’s go directly to the technique then discuss some aspects of it after.
After you’ve done the normal preliminaries, sitting down, setting up posture, bringing mindfulness to the fore and starting to follow your meditation object, you can tell yourself:
- “Let go of the Past, let be the Past”
- “Let go of the Future, let be the Future”
- “Let go of Responsibilities…”
- “Let go of Work… ”
- “Let go of Family…”
- “Let go of Friends…”
- “Let go of _______”
As always you can make it your own. You can use your own wording and add in anything else that may assail your mind that you’d like to let go of. It’s been my experience that as I go through this list I feel gradually and slowly like a burden is being put down, like atlas putting down the globe. There will be plenty of time after meditation to pick up the world again and carry it on our shoulders, but for now we can practice without the world invading our every waking thought moment. There is a gradual peace that arises and concentration comes easier.
You may actually find this exercise to be anxiety and fear producing, this is a natural reaction to thinking about letting go of what and whom we are attached to. You can remind yourself that this is a temporary letting go, like taking a vacation. If that doesn’t work however and you have the strength to stay with it(if not that’s ok, I didn’t at first), then you have the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness through the four frames of reference. You will then be looking deeply at what anxiety and fear does to your mind and body. You should attempt to observe objectively, like someone would sit down and watch a t.v, a total observer who has no direct interaction with what they are observing. This also is a skill that develops as you practice it, so don’t lose heart if it is hard.
“There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings… mind… mind-objects in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world._
Observe what the thoughts of letting go do to your mind state(emotional state) and to mind-objects(thoughts) themselves. Observe the base feeling of the state, and what it does to your body, including your breath. This is valuable direct personal experience that will be of great benefit to the practice. This will also tend to calm you down and lead to concentration and you can move forward with observing your meditation object from there.
So that is yet another simple technique that I’ve found benefit in. It’s been my experience as a meditator that over the years you create many such techniques as you work with your practice. Some stay with you , some you grow out of, some you forget, even as you create new ones. I share this one in hopes that it may be of some benefit to others.
“Let not a person revive the past Or on the future build his hopes; For the past has been left behind And the future has not been reached. Instead with insight let him see Each presently arisen state; Let him know that and be sure of it, Invincibly, unshakably.
Today the effort must be made; Tomorrow Death may come. who knows? No bargain with Mortality Can keep him and his hordes away, But one who dwells thus ardently, Relentlessly, by day, by night – It is he, the Peaceful Sage has said, Who has had a single excellent night. – MN 131