I wrote this on my Facebook a while back, and decided to share it here:
Most of us know that holding on to things can cause a great deal of pain. Not wanting to let the things that bother us go, not wanting to let go of material things, is a cause of a great deal of pain and heartache. Our attachments to things and our attachment to people are the most fundamental causes of suffering. Money is a great example. Not wanting to spend money, or getting upset when we have to spend money, is a major cause of stress and discomfort. Wanting to have money just for the sake of money, and willing to do almost anything for money, in the end only brings more pain. So what do we do about our attachments? How do we let things go? We do not. Letting something go still shows attachment in a very subtle way. Why? Because if something is bothering us and we have to consciously say, “I must let this go” then we are still attached. That is not to say that consciously letting things go is bad. No, it is very good, as long as one does not think that by doing so they are no longer attached. Consciously letting something go is training. It is a practice to become free from attachments, but it is not being free yet.
Let us take a look at the breath. The breath is the most vital thing needed for our survival. It is more fundamental than food or water. From the breath we live, from the breath we move, and yet in this act of breathing that many of us take for granted the method of letting go of attachment lies. Take in a deep breath. Let your body be filled by the nourishing power of the breath. Now before you exhale, remind yourself, “If I do not let this breath go even though this breath is so vital and important to me, if I do not let it go, eventually I can die.” Exhale.? Let it all go. Now remind yourself, “If I do not take in the next breath, even though holding on to the previous one can eventually kill me, if I do not take in another one, eventually I can die.” Inhale. Even something as vital for our survival as the breath can become deadly if we hold on to it. And it can become just as deadly if we let it all go.
Many people who recognize that holding on to things is a problem go about dealing with it by letting everything go. They think that if holding on to things was the problem, then letting things go is the solution. But, if you let everything go, you will have just as much suffering as you would have if you hold on to everything. So what do we do? We should become like the breath. It takes what it needs and lets the rest go. It lets go just what is needed and takes in just what it needs. In and out, out and in. Perfectly simple yet it is in this simplicity that forms the foundations of our lives.
How do you know if you are freed from attachment? When you become the breath. When you can take in and let go of things without being disturbed by them. Inhale and exhale.