Mastery of the world is achieved by letting things take their natural course. You can not master the world by changing the natural way.
Why do we need to know about the power of letting go?
Our generation is currently in a state of continuous strivings, of which the highest virtue seems to be “control.” It can be seen in various places, from homes to workspaces. There is supervision everywhere to have control over people or on self as well. We live in nothing but a control obsessed society. But many years ago from China, a nation known for its technological advancement with prominent control obsession, a philosophy called Taoism emerged.
Taoists believe by a correct understanding of how the universe works; you can approach life more intelligently, much efficiently, and go with the flow, rather than swimming against it. They look at the act of letting go as a strength that is based on sophistication rather than force rather than as a form of weakness.
The main Taoist scripture, the Tao Te Ching, was written by a sage named Lao Tzu. The interpretations of this text are countless. One way of seeing it is as a guide for a ruler as he compares governing a nation with frying a small fish and emphasizes on the ruling by not ruling. As too much poking spoils the meat, a ruler tightening his grip on his people results in all kinds of adverse effects. With an overly patronizing government, people become distrustful towards each other, and if it is excessively intrusive, they will become rebellious.
But when a leader acts with integrity and is humble, people are granted the space to evolve naturally, and they become whole.
It is well understood that Lao Tzu insists on a passive form of governance that is also applicable to self-governance. The power of letting go lies in letting nature do the work, which can be applied to any level.
The following are four ways of to understand the power of letting go, which Taoism shows us:
Art of non-doing
It is the Wu Wei concept of Taoism, which is understood as effort action, flow state or non-doing, and knowing when to act and when not. When we critically examine ourselves, we notice the need for control predominates in many areas of life, ranging from a need to control our partners to a need to control our future. We need to understand that control is not always a bad thing, and to survive, we need to exercise our influence on the environment to some extent.
Self-control, precisely, can lead us in a positive path. But too much of it does not get us anywhere either. The natural influences that lie at the basis of our daily lives seem to be systematically underrated by us. Everything cannot be controlled, and many things actually happen when we stop holding them like a tree can be planted, watered, and fertilized by adding some fertilizers. Still, any more intervention will lead to damage because nature gets interrupted from doing its job.
Another example is after a fight, the anger naturally erodes. Once trust is breached, you cannot enforce restoration: it has to grow back naturally.
To sum it down, the difference between controlling and allowing is brought in by the act of letting go.
Art of embracing the change
According to the Taoists, life unfolds in a constant movement between opposites: between yin and yang, which is high and low, or light and dark. The transformations of life and its flow are inevitable, and so the most efficient way of dealing with it is moving along the wave of existence. Yet we see a lot of people cling to their circumstances.
It is as good as holding on tightly to a branch or rock, being afraid to let go, because they want complete control over their position, in the metaphor of the river stream, a consequence of which is a rigid lifestyle. They can see their life passing them by, including many opportunities for positive change, and they also miss out on a lot of joy.
Lao Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, “The living are soft and yielding; the dead are rigid and stiff. Living plants are flexible and tender; the dead are brittle and dry.” In fact, many swim against the stream and are the biggest energy wasters of them all. They happen to find virtue and honor in taking an extremely non-agreeable stand in life. But what they do not realize is that exercising a constant resistance to how the universe reveals is not a very efficient way to live, and most likely can make them worn-out and miserable.
Simply put, one must learn to follow their strength than to waste energy, repairing their weakness.
Embracing change also be applied to uselessness and usefulness. As a Taoist philosopher, Zhuangzi told about a merchant that tried to sell shirts to a clan whose members were covered in tattoos and always showed them off by walking around shirtless; he observed that usefulness depends on the circumstances. Unlike most of us, shirts are useless to them. Usefulness and uselessness are not to be treated with rigidity as they are relative.
Art of NOT focusing on outcomes
Taoists pointed out the adverse effects we face on focusing on future outcomes. It makes us anxious. The more we fuel our present endeavors for an uncontrollable result, the less we value the present moment, the only thing we have.
To generalize it, the more we value something external, the worse we happen to perform in the present. Zhuangzi talks about how an archer loses his ability to shoot when he focuses too much on the prize. In any of the cases, the skill of the archer will remain unchanged, but when he is under the influence of anxiety or solicitude and looks on the external prize as most important that he shoots as if he is blinded.
It does not mean that showing a desire for external things is wrong; it is just more important to value and appreciate what we have, i.e., the present as when our mind wanders in the future, it paralyzes in the present. It can also be simplified as focusing and immersing in the task at hand and stop worrying about the future.
Art of letting go of unnecessary or excess
Who does not want to be at the top not because it is the best place to be but because we have come to a collective decision that low status is horrible and high status is preferable. But we also know that the tallest trees catch the most wind, so when you are the top, it takes tremendous efforts to stay there as everyone is willing to take your position.
The other side of it, we should know, is that if we deliberately seek the absolute bottom, we become ascetics. Although in a way with a strong attachment to deprivation. The question that we need to ask ourselves is, what do we truly need? Zhuangzi observed in birds and animals like the mouse that they want only plentiful and not excess. It is to prevent possessions from becoming our prison. Epicurus recognized that the basic necessities for life are easy to attain and that a moderate life is a key to happiness.
“Those who use moderation are already on the path to the Tao,” said Lao Tzu. It is when we stop striving that nature gets space to unfold. Instead of becoming rigid and brittle, it is easier trusting the universe and admitting that it’s ever-changing lies the opportunity to grow loose and supple.
The power of letting go centers that we swim along the stream, without grasping for rocks and branches, and that we cut the loose dead weight so that we can travel through life with the least effort.
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