The concept of letting go is slowly creeping into the every day vernacular of the 21st century. It is a natural response to the over stressed, over scheduled and consumer driven society we live in. If you aren’t familiar with the song “Let It Go” from the recent Disney film, Frozen, then you are definitely not a parent or grandparent of a youngster under the age of 12. What I love about the song, besides the fact that my adorable 3-year-old grandchild can belt out the tune verbatim, is that it is teaching a very important practice.
A more spiritual equivalent -- detachment, also expressed as non-attachment, is a state in which a person overcomes his or her attachment to desire for things, people or concepts of the world and thus attains a heightened perspective. Many world religions have doctrines that teach this idea of letting go, including Zen Buddhism, which speaks specifically to non-attachment of our thoughts. Certainly most world religions support the concept of detaching from worldly possessions and ideas.
While I am not about to become a monk and retreat from my life, I am interested in the idea of detachment. In the secular world, letting go is a concept that teaches us that holding on too tightly to anything can result in an inability to grow and change. Even holding on to physical objects can thwart our ability to leave space for something more relevant and useful. This past month I helped an old friend liquidate a storage unit “stuffed with stuff” from the Mesa, AZ home she had lived in for over 30 years. She had retired from teaching at ASU and had decided to move to Bali, Indonesia. It was certainly over due as she had been paying on this storage unit for over 10 years, mostly because every time she thought about what to do with it, she would crawl into the world of denial and write the check for yet another month. When she finally decided that the storage unit and all her beloved objects were not going to magically disappear or arrive at her doorstep she made a decision to let them go -- but not without a struggle. I witnessed the stages of grief as she begrudgingly let go of “her life in AZ” one agonizing step at a time. For me it was a valuable lesson on how and why we hang on to things that no longer serve us –the physical and the metaphysical.
You may not think of letting go as being related to creativity or art but I assure you it is inexorably connected to artful living. Julie Burstein’s Ted Talk articulates many aspects of how letting go is essential to the creative process.
At the LA Art Book fair, this past weekend, my friend Kate said to me, “ fondle and release” as I lusted after a particularly beautiful book that I neither needed nor could afford. This expression is my new mantra. I would put it on a t-shirt and wear it every day but it could get me in some trouble, if you know what I mean…