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May all find the teacher within to guide oneself towards unconditional love and peace

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why is it so hard to let go?

A student asked me this question after the class with tears in the eyes.

"Why is it so hard to let go?"

I replied, "Ignorance..."

"Why are we ignorant?"

I replied, "Not knowing the truth of things due to the absence of wisdom..."

"Why???"

I replied, "It's because we are being controlled by the mind which is full of impurities, craving and aversion..."

"Why???"

I replied, "It's because we are attached strongly to the mind and are identified with the ego..."

"Why???"

I replied, "Being ignorant...not knowing who we really are and not knowing what is real and unreal."

* * * * * * * * * * *

For somebody who had never tasted what is saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, sourness or spiciness, none can describe to them how are these tastes taste like. They have to taste them by themselves, only then they will know what the tastes really are.

In the absence of wisdom, we are ignorant about the truth of things and we will be attached strongly to everything that come in contact with the perception of the mind. And thus it is very difficult for us to let go of all the names and forms with different good and bad qualities that the mind perceives through the senses of what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think.

We attached strongly to the good and bad feelings, positive and negative thoughts, pleasant and unpleasant sensations, and all the impurities (ignorance) in the mind such like ill-will, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, frustration, irritation, anxiety, depression, fear, worry, excitement, agitation, aggressiveness, passion, and etc.

We also attached strongly to the likes and dislikes, craving and aversion that come from the egoistic impure self. We are constantly being affected or influenced by all these impurities in the mind and couldn't help ourselves due to strong identification with the mind under the function of the intellect and the ego. We feel so difficult to let go of any so called "negative" and "bad" emotions and feelings. But we didn't think that attached to "positive" and "good" emotions and feelings will also give us frustration and suffering.

The truth is, if we want to be truly free from suffering or unhappiness, not only that we don't attach to "negative" and "bad" feelings and let them go without generate aversion and reaction, but also we cannot attach to "positive" and "good" feelings and let them go either, without generate craving and reaction.

It's because by attaching to "positive" and "good" feelings will make us want to retain these good feelings and we will crave for more of these similar type of feelings, when these feelings had passed away or disappeared. This will create dissatisfaction, frustration, unhappiness, fear and worry in us. We don't want these good feelings to change or fade away (which is impossible because everything are subject to impermanence), and we want to continue to possess those good feelings, don't want to lose them.

True happiness is beyond these impermanent "positive" and "good" feelings. Go beyond these momentary pleasant feelings. Stop craving for these "positive" and "good" feelings. Enjoy and appreciate these "positive" and "good" feelings while they appear in the mind, but without attachment, without clinging and craving, and let them go when they change and fade away from the mind.

Such like, good and calm feelings that come from doing yoga practice (asana practice, pranayama, chanting and meditation), are still subject to impermanence. We cannot attached to them. If we attached to them, we will be craving for these momentary pleasant feelings and sensations in the body and mind from doing yoga practice. And if we don't get the same pleasant feelings and sensations after the yoga practice, or if we don't get to do some yoga practice due to we are busy doing some other things in life, or if we couldn't perform yoga practice due to certain physical illness, injuries or limitation, we will be so frustrated and will crave for these pleasant feelings and sensations that derive from doing yoga practice.

All these craving for pleasant feelings and sensations are nothing wrong. As well as aversion towards unpleasant feelings and sensations is nothing wrong either. It is something very normal that is happening in all minds under the influence of the ego. The only disadvantage is, we will fall into unhappiness, frustration, disappointment, dissatisfaction, anxiety, fear and worry continuously as long as we are still being influenced by the likes and dislikes, wants and don't wants, craving and aversion from the ego.

Yoga asana practice, pranayama, chanting and meditation are there to render the mind calm and clear from impurities, so that wisdom will arise within us. And with the presence of wisdom, ignorance will disappear and we will know the truth of ourselves, life existence and everything else. By knowing the truth, we are able to accept the reality as it is without craving and aversion, and are able to let go of all the qualities of good and bad from different names and forms. Remain undisturbed, and at peace.

The purpose or meanings of all our yoga practice doesn't stop at attaining pleasant and peaceful feelings and sensations, and state of calmness that come from doing yoga practice. These pleasant feelings and sensations, and state of calmness are just the by products of the yoga practice. Go beyond these by products without attachment, clinging and craving towards these by products, and attain true and lasting happiness by realizing the wisdom in us, by realizing who we really are and the truth of everything.

The intellect is there to analyze the qualities of all the names and forms. The ego is there to assert like and dislike, want and don't want.

When the mind comes in contact with the objects that the ego doesn't like and doesn't want, the mind and the body will experience negative thoughts, bad feelings and unpleasant sensations. And the mind will generate aversion towards this unpleasant state of mind.

When the mind comes in contact with the objects that the ego likes and wants, the mind and the body will experience positive thoughts, good feelings and pleasant sensations. And the mind will generate craving towards this pleasant state of mind. All these reactions of craving and aversion in the mind are happening unceasingly.

If we attached to the mind and identified with the ego, we will be constantly being in a state of disturbance, not at peace. Sometimes we feel good and some other time we feel bad. Sometimes we feel happy and some other time we feel unhappy. We are lost in the craving and aversion in our own mind.

This is something very normal happens to everybody. Just like we cannot control the mind only to have positive thoughts, good feelings, or to control the body only to have pleasant sensations, and not having negative thoughts, bad feelings in the mind and unpleasant sensations in the body.

When the mind or the ego feels good and happy, it will naturally crave for more of the similar pleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations, and it will want to retain that pleasant state of mind. When this craving is not being gratified, and when the pleasant state of mind is being disturbed or disappeared, the mind or the ego will be so frustrated and unhappy.

When the mind or the ego feels bad and unhappy, it will naturally having aversion or reject the similar unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations, and it will want to get rid of that unpleasant state of mind. When this desire of not want to have unpleasant state of mind is not being gratified, and when the unpleasant state of mind is still there, the mind or the ego will be so frustrated and unhappy. Aversion is the desire of not want to have. It is one form of craving.

Either the pleasant state of mind or the unpleasant state of mind, both will generate craving and aversion that will cause the frustration and dissatisfaction to arise in the mind. We will fall into excitement and depression back and forth unceasingly.

We will be feeling restlessness, helplessness and meaninglessness. We think we have gone crazy or are having mood swing from good to bad and from bad to good, unceasingly. It is so tiring and depressing.

Both excitement and depression are not something bad. It is something very normal that is happening in every being who has a mind and the ego. It's just that when we don't know what is really happening, and are identified with the mind or the ego, we will being influenced by the states of the mind to react constantly, through thoughts, actions and speech, which will create other consequences that will bring continuous chain reaction of good and bad karma deriving from all our thoughts, actions and speech that are causing the cycle of birth and death (life existence to reap the existing accumulated karma) to take place, never ending.

If we are not attached to the mind and are not identified with the ego, we will be free from being controlled by the states of the mind, the likes and dislikes, the wants and don't wants, the craving and aversion, the good and bad feelings. We will be free from generate reactions. All our actions are out of selflessness and compassion, not being influenced by the selfish ego of want and don't want. The selfless actions are free from the binding good and bad karma.

This is the way out from the cycle of emotional turbulences or suffering. Yoga and meditation can help us to know or understand the mind and learn how to not being attached to the mind or not being disturbed, affected and influenced by the activities in the mind.

Yoga and meditation are not separated. They are not different things. Yoga is meditation. Meditation is yoga. Without meditation, there is no yoga. Without yoga, there is no meditation.

Yoga and meditation is a purification process to thin out the ego and to eliminate impurities or ignorance. They are there to render the mind calm and still, and free from impurities, so that wisdom will arise. Wisdom will remove all the doubts and ignorance in us.

It is stopping the chain reaction of karma through purifying the impurities in the mind (thinning out the veil of ignorance) so that we can have a glimpse of the wisdom within us which will allow us to develop further divine qualities that will help us to eventually not attached to the body and the mind, and not being attached to all the qualities of good and bad derive from all the different names and forms.

Divine qualities like morality, chastity, faith, self-control, self-independence, self-discipline, concentration, humility, simplicity, gratitude, thankfulness, appreciation, generosity, openness, truthfulness, straightforwardness, patience, perseverance, determination, will-power, courage, positive thinking, cheerfulness, forgiveness, tolerance, forbearance, adjustment, acceptance, adaptation, accommodation, equanimity, loving kindness, indiscrimination, non-judging, non-comparing, non-competing, non-expecting, intention-less and etc. Eventually all these divine qualities will lead us to non-attachment, fearlessness, worry-less, selflessness, oneness, non-separateness, purity, compassion and wisdom. This will lead us to self-realization or enlightenment or liberation, and be free from suffering.

While purifying the impurities or ignorance in the mind through developing divine qualities, we also practice letting go of the craving and aversion of likes and dislikes that come from the ego or the mind. At the beginning, we might be over-powered by the strong desires in the mind to have craving and aversion towards the things that the ego likes and doesn't like. But as we develop stronger will-power, we can over-power the craving and aversion, and eventually be free from craving and aversion.

When the mind is free from craving and aversion, when we are able to observe the mind as it is, being at the present moment from moment to moment, it will come to a state of calmness and stillness, neither elevated nor depressed. With this calmness and stillness of the mind, with the pure mind, we will see the truth of things and are able to accept the truth as it is and let go, not attach to any names and forms that we perceive in the mind through the senses of what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think (past memories, future imaginations and anticipations which create fear and worry, craving and aversion in us).

When the mind is clear, calm and still, it acts as a mirror for us to reflect on the true self and to know our true self.

The true self is beyond all the pleasant and unpleasant experiences, beyond all the happy and unhappy perceptions, beyond all the positive and negative energy, and beyond all the craving and aversion. It is beyond all states of the mind (agitation, depression and calmness), and are free from all the good and bad qualities of different names and forms.

When we say, "It is so difficult to let go of feelings and not attach to the mind." This is because we are identified with the mind strongly.

When the mind is in happy state, we will think that we are happy and say, "I am happy."

When the mind is in unhappy state, we will think that we are unhappy and say, "I am unhappy."

But the truth is we are not the mind and the mind is not us, and it doesn't belong to us. It is not in our power to control how the mind wants to feel and wants to think. We are the observer or witness that is observing or witnessing what the mind is experiencing at the present moment now. We know or are aware of how the mind feels and thinks, but we are not the mind, and we are not being disturbed by whatever the mind feels and thinks (good or bad, positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant, likes and dislikes, wants and don't wants).

Stop identifying with the mind and rise above the ego. We will be free from all the happy and unhappy feelings, craving and aversion, and be at peace all the time.

Be patient. Be persistent. Be persevere. Be kind to ourselves and others. Be forgiving and accommodating. Be cheerful and uplifting. Accept ourselves as we are at the present moment now. Keep practicing non-attachment and letting go until we attain self-realization. Never give up.

Be happy and be free.

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Know thyself. There is no existence of 'I'. Everything is impermanent. Be free, be peaceful, be happy.

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Pantai Cenang, Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
My husband and I run ongoing yoga retreats in Langkawi Malaysia. We teach traditional Hatha Yoga - a combination of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation, that has given benefit to millions of practitioners over thousands of years. Our yoga studio is situated in Langkawi. We also run yoga retreats in Europe and India.

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